This past spring, a black teacher, a success academy named Fabulous Saint Hilaire publicly criticized the CEO for not taking a stand after the murder of George Floyd or acknowledging the effect police violence was having on the families and communities. Success serves after that. More staff, families and alumni raised alarms about success, calling some of its practices racist and abusive. It's discipline policies the way white staff and leadership speak to kids and parents of color. In response, the CEO apologized, and Success has released a plan that commits to mandatory bias and sensitivity training for staff. The plan says they will create an equity team and review their culture, their relationships with staff and families and kids with quote, an attention and sensitivity to race. I read this plan and thought, Uh huh. There is a school that's already doing many of these things right in the same building, right upstairs. It's September 2019. I'm back at S s. It's been four years since the French gala and the drama with the P t. A. Rob, the dad who fundraise is he's not here anymore. His son finished middle school. I me is still here Her daughter is a junior in high school, and a new crop of sixth graders and their families are settling into the auditorium E The school is no longer called S I s The School for International Studies. It's now BHS the Boerum Hill School for International Studies. They changed the name again. BHS has a new principal. Nicole lands Lotto. She gets up on stage and the staff Cheers, Miss Lancelot A welcomes the new families to BHS. Any school is a microcosm of the world and we're blessed with beautiful diversity. Miss Lancelot lists the ways the school reflects the world race, ethnicity, language, gender. We are extraordinarily diverse community and it's a beautiful thing and we fight for it and we work on it. Mrs. Lanza Leto says BHS is going for true equity. She says the word equity three times in this welcome speech, Miss Lands Lotto is white, chatty, well liked with black hair that styled straight up the hair is really Miss Lancelot is defining feature picture boy band pompadour. She's worked here most of her professional career. Three year white families arrived. It s a S. Miss Lancelot. A was the assistant principal she won't say anything bad about that year. It was a learning experience. It's a process. Her predecessor, Miss Juman, talks about it the same way. Remember principles, diplomatic. They're careful not to place blame. But both of them said after that year, it was clear they needed to intervene. One of the first things Miss Lands Lado Dida's principle was request special permission to reserve 40% of the seats for kids who get free and reduced price lunch. The majority of kids who get free and reduced price lunch Our kids of color and Miss Lancelot Oh, didn't want the school to flip. She didn't want black and brown kids to get pushed out. Three assistant principal told me they wanted to make sure the school did not become colonized. Something's here have changed. They got rid of the foundation the Brooklyn World Project Rob and the other white parents had created. They scrapped some of the French programming, hired more teachers and staff of color, and one of the most striking changes I notice. Spend 10 minutes of the school and you can't not notice miss lands. Ileto is talking directly and constantly about race and equity she told me. Everyone here needs to be on alert for racist habits and ideas. They need to aggressively address thumb whenever they pop up in the cafeteria, in the classroom. All there's a conversation happening in the school, around the smart classes in the non smart classes. Let's talk about it. Where is that coming from? So I think it's really about being a beast. I think it's about everything we do, coming back to it. Coming back toe equity. I could not get over how much time and energy the school puts into ensuring equity, not equality equity. It's almost like the obsessive focus success puts on. Making sure everything is the same is exactly matched by the obsessive focus BHS puts on recognizing. Everyone is not the same. Beach has formed an equity committee of staff and students. A few years ago, they looked for bias in the curriculum and the signs on their walls and the books on their shelves. They analyzed achievement data discipline data where they could clearly see that the school punished black boys more harshly than other students. So they revamped their entire approach to discipline, created a restorative justice department. They applied for grants to help pay for this, to train their teachers on implicit bias and then train them again. They brought in experts. And here's some things that I look for in transition. So how to kids engaged with each other is a verbal engagement. That non verbal engagement. Last fall, I watched to equity consultants Cornelius and cast minor show a group of BHS teachers how to observe racial dynamics in their school. Things involved teachers walking around in a huddle with clipboards, taking diligent notes as kids walk through the hallways. One fun lens to look at, and I'm just kind of like naming things, though I often asked what boys doing what girls doing, what are black students doing what they're like Students of color doing Mr Miner is full of fun things that teachers should look for. Here's another fun thing to Dio just because we're out here. Um, I do kind of like Dr Buys in the hallway where I walked by classroom windows and I look in, they all take turns peering through the small window of a classroom door. They take more notes later. The teachers meet as a group and one teacher Stacey and Man's well explains for observations from a math class and then in the math classroom that we were in something that stood out to me. So there was two white males white female blackmail and I'm walking around and blackmail. He was finished, and he finished early, waiting for his peers to do the think right fair share. And when the timer went off, the girl, the white girl he was sitting next to, he looked to her. But she looked to the two white boys and they formed the pair. So it was like now she had to work with him. But she was sort of looking for the other two boys for validation for what this boy was saying. So, like my teacher self is like, okay, does this child not participate in class? And she doesn't trust that he knows what he's doing? Or is it because she doesn't see him because he's a black boy? And she figures he's not capable? The teachers talked about this moment in depth, what it might mean, what messages the kids were picking up in their school, about race, about who's important, who's bad
Success Academy is the city's largest charter school network, 47 schools elementary, middle and one high school. They get public funding. Like all charter schools, Success Academy also gets private funding. The state overseas charters like success, but it isn't run by the state or the city. It's run by a private organization, and success is a choice school. That means families opt in to success. The CEO, A woman named Eva Moskowitz, opened her 1st 40 something schools in largely working class black and brown neighborhoods where she imagined families would want a new school option. Then, about a decade ago, Moskowitz decided she wanted to open an integrated school, a new success academy that was racially integrated and economically diverse. She needed a school building where integration was possible, where, perhaps half a century earlier, Ah group of white families pushed for a strategically located fringe school building between two racially segregated neighborhoods. And this is how success academy wound up here in the Old S to 93 building. Because of yet another plan, Thio integrate Onley. This time it worked. White parents opted in the way families at this success academy. It's called Success Academy Cobble Hill tend to come from advantage just like the white parents upstairs at S s their upper middle class and rich doctors and lawyers, corporate accountants, people who walk into most public schools with a lot of power. But the influence I had seen white parents wheeled upstairs at S I s That didn't seem to be the case downstairs. I found that confusing. Do the P t. A. Um, we have a parent council, so it's very similar to a P. T. A. This is a Lissa Bishop. The principle of success Couple Hill, a parent council, is not that similar to a P. T A, though, because in the very next sentence, Principal Bishop told me that the parent council is not allowed to raise money. This, I assumed, was probably difficult for parents who are accustomed to fundraising for their kids schools. Have you had parents who want to raise money like who come to you and I'm like, I want toe, You know, I want this thing to happen and I want to raise the money for it. Not not anything like that. I have had parents come to me and say like I wanna do a coat drive they want to donate. You know we do that stuff throughout the entire year, but it's never I've never had anyone approach me about donating money. Really? No. Parents have been like, I want to do a fundraiser for X, and you have to be like That's not a thing that we dio I've never had that Principal Bishop looks over at the PR person who's come from success headquarters to supervise this interview. The PR person shakes her head. No, parents don't raise money. And what if somebody did want to raise money for the school apparent? Wanted to raise money? Yeah, we don't. Yeah, we don't. We don't raise money. Principal Bishop looks over to the PR person again. As if to say, um, I not being clear with this chick. Why isn't she getting it? But I seem to be unable to stop myself from listing all the things I've seen. White advantage parents demand in public schools. If parents were like, we want this to be a dual language French school, and we can help fund it e mean we don't have our curriculum is network based. I mean, we're given curriculum we don't have a language curriculum in our elementary schools or if parents were like we want there to be less math or different kind of math or we want there to be, uh, a film program or whatever. Like any of those things parents are like we want. Yeah, I mean, this is our model it czar model across all of our schools. No change is the CEO of Success Academy. Eva Moskowitz followed up later to tell me If parents want to give money, they can, but it will be distributed evenly across all of our schools. We can't have our Cobble Hill families getting more than our families in Harlem. Here's what he started to understand about how success academy was limiting the power of white parents. Success was limiting the power of white parents by limiting the power of all parents. E met a dad named trivia sharp outside the building one day. Ah, black guy who grew up in Brooklyn. His son Ethan, is that success. We actually get graded. You get great, get created as the parents. We get a email saying this is what your progress to say, you know, but you get a grade like ABC. Like it's ah, uh, get like, a meeting expectations or not Like, you know, upstairs s I s had tripped over itself to meet the demands of new white parents. Downstairs, all parents at Success Academy are being greeted even day to day. The success principle and teachers make sure to remind parents when they're falling down on the job, So we run a little late. Why, Ethan Late? It's your fault. Wisely. Uh, what happened? I think one day I was late and she checks and said, I'm Ethan is not here yet. Any reason why on I felt like I wasn't a parent at that. Like, you know, that's their time. But it keeps you on your toes and you felt like you weren't the parent. I wasn't a parent. I wasn't a parent. I felt like I was just dropping skid off to his parents.