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Brentwood, Central Islip communities oppose charter school

Nearly all of the speakers at a packed Brentwood South Middle School auditorium Monday night said they opposed a proposed charter school that could open in 2017.

Their grounds for rejecting the Long Island Children’s Academy, which seeks approval from officials in Albany, include a range of ills: it will rob the cash-strapped Brentwood and Central Islip districts of funds; the performance of charter schools is mixed, at best; a selection system that uses a lottery offers false hope.

“This should be a sound, loud cry to SUNY that we do not want this charter school,” said Helen Moss, president of the Brentwood school board — whose members, prompted by Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), all said they opposed the new school.

Some 250 people showed up at the event, a community forum designed to gauge public appetite for what would be Long Island’s sixth charter school, and nearly 20 people spoke. Currently, there are two charter schools in Suffolk and three in Nassau.

Officials in Albany will evaluate the community response in deliberating whether to approve the school.

The lone voice in favor of the Long Island Children’s Academy, which would open in 2017 with 168 students in kindergarten through second grade and expand to 528 students through sixth grade, belonged to Malasia Thompson, who submitted the application late last year to found the institution she says will provide students with a viable option.

“There are community members who would like an opportunity and a choice,” she said.

But most of the other speakers, including administrators of the Brentwood and Central Islip districts, said such a school is a bad option for students.

Stacy O’Connor, assistant director for finance and operations, said in a presentation that the school would drain Brentwood of up to $15.7 million over five years if as few as 84 students from the district attended the new school.

William Moss, president of the Islip Town chapter of the NAACP, said the organization has long opposed charter schools on principle, saying they are tools of institutional discrimination.

“It will ruin the already delicate financial fabric that Brentwood and probably Central Islip are dealing with,” he said.

Thirty-three-year Brentwood resident Patricia Liotta said she and her husband raised two children in the district, one of whom attended a private high school.

She said the family struggled to pay for the private school — and that was the only way she would have allowed it, reasoning charter schools take money away from other community members since they divert a certain amount of money from a public school district to fund a child’s education in the privately run charter school.

“That’s your responsibility to bear,” she said, referring to the cost of an alternative to the public school education. “Not the burden of the district’s taxpayers.”

Brentwood Council PTSA President Camille Serrano said flatly, speaking directly to Thompson, “The Brentwood school district does not need a charter school at this point.”

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