Mother of Girl Berated in Video Assails Success Academy’s Response
By KATE TAYLOR FEB. 25, 2016 NYTimes
Nadya Miranda, 23, is the mother of a student whose treatment by an angry teacher at Success Academy in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, was surreptitiously videotaped. Ms. Miranda has withdrawn her daughter from the school. the video.
A safe haven for her daughter: a Success Academy charter school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, where she hoped her daughter would get a good education and be put on a path to college.
Then she saw the video.
The video, which was recorded surreptitiously by an assistant teacher in the fall of 2014, captured a first-grade teacher at the school scolding Ms. Miranda’s daughter for being unable to explain to the class how she solved a math problem. The teacher ripped the girl’s paper in half, ordered her to leave the circle to sit in what she called “the calm-down chair,” and said that she was angry and disappointed.
When the video was published by The New York Times this month, Success Academy held a defiant news conference. The network’s founder, Eva S. Moskowitz, defended the teacher, Charlotte Dial, saying that she had apologized “in real time” to her students, and accused The Times of bias. A teacher suggested that the newspaper did not believe that black and Hispanic children could be academically successful. Two parents stood up to say that they did not need .
A Momentary Lapse or Abusive Teaching?
In 2014, an assistant teacher at Success Academy Cobble Hill secretly filmed her colleague, Charlotte Dial, scolding one of her students after the young girl failed to answer a question correctly. The children’s faces have been blurred and their names obscured to protect their privacy.
Ms. Miranda, however, tells a different story.
In two lengthy interviews, she said that she did not know what was happening in her daughter’s classroom before she saw the video. She said that she was so upset by what she saw — and by the network’s rush to rally around Ms. Dial, while showing little concern for her daughter or other students — that she took the girl out of the school in late January.
Ms. Miranda said that while Ms. Dial had apologized to her, the teacher had never apologized to her daughter. She said that a public relations specialist for Success drafted an email for her, asking The Times not to publish the video, and that at a meeting Ms. Moskowitz held at the school on Jan. 20, Ms. Moskowitz asked the parents to support Ms. Dial and to defend the school to the paper. Ms. Miranda said that when she stood up, identified herself and objected that Ms. Moskowitz was asking parents to support the teacher without even showing them the video, Ms. Moskowitz cut her off.
“She’s like, ‘You had enough to say, you had enough to say,’ and she tried to talk over me,” Ms. Miranda said. “So I just really got frustrated, and I just walked out, and the parents that were concerned followed me, and the parents who were against me and for the teacher” stayed in the auditorium.
Ms. Miranda took her daughter home that morning and did not bring her back to the school. The next week, after confirming that there was a seat in the regular public school where her younger son is in prekindergarten, she withdrew her daughter and placed her in that school.
Success Academy declined to comment on the specifics of Ms. Miranda’s account, though in an emailed statement, Stefan Friedman, a spokesman, said the network was “sorry Ms. Miranda chose to withdraw her daughter.”
Ms. Dial did not respond to requests for comment.
Ms. Miranda, 23, said she sent her daughter to Success Academy because she wanted her to get a better education than she had and to aspire to college. Ms. Miranda was raised mostly by her mother, who spoke only Spanish and was disabled by diabetes and heart disease by the time Ms. Miranda was 13. She became pregnant in ninth grade and dropped out of school, later earning her high school equivalency diploma. She has worked as a home health aide and earns money now by babysitting for friends’ children. She and her children are currently living in a family shelter.
Her daughter attended Public School 10, the Magnet School of Math, Science and Design Technology in Brooklyn, for kindergarten, but Ms. Miranda was unimpressed with the work.
“I felt that she was doing more drawing than actually learning,” she said.
She entered the lottery for Success Academy, drawn by the network’s reputation for academic rigor, and won a seat. But when the school gave her daughter a placement test, administrators said she had to repeat kindergarten.
Her daughter was placed in Ms. Dial’s class for kindergarten and then stayed with the teacher for first grade. Ms. Miranda said her daughter had done well in math, but struggled with reading and writing and, over time, became discouraged.
“She used to tell me: ‘I’m never going to get it. I just don’t know. I’m not as smart as the other kids,’” Ms. Miranda said. “I would hear that from her, and I’d be like, ‘Where are you getting this from?’”
When she saw the video, Ms. Miranda said, she understood her daughter’s dejection.
“It makes me feel bad as a parent — like, what am I going to do to build her confidence all over again?” she said.
In an interview and at the news conference, Ms. Moskowitz dismissed the video as an anomaly, but Ms. Miranda’s daughter, now 8, said that Ms. Dial frequently yelled at students for infractions like not folding their hands. She said that she did not remember the specific incident captured on the video, but that she was afraid to ask questions in Ms. Dial’s class, because asking Ms. Dial to explain something a second time would lead to a punishment. She said Ms. Dial had on other occasions ripped up children’s papers when she thought they were copying others’ work.
She said she did not complain to her mother, because “I was scared of Ms. Dial.”
Ms. Miranda said she learned about the video when she arrived to pick her daughter up from school on Jan. 13 and was told to get her from the principal’s office. The principal, Kerri Nicholls, told Ms. Miranda that The Times was asking about a video of an incident between her daughter and Ms. Dial, but that she did not know what it showed. The next day, at a meeting with Ms. Nicholls, Ms. Dial and Ann Powell, the network’s executive vice president for public affairs, Ms. Miranda watched the video. She said that Ms. Dial cried and apologized to her, saying that she had had a bad day.
Upset after viewing the video, Ms. Miranda said she did not want it published, to protect her daughter’s privacy. Ms. Powell suggested she send an email to The Times. When Ms. Miranda said she did not know what to write, Ms. Powell drafted the email for her and told her to send it from her email address because it would be more powerful coming from her.
On Jan. 20, after the schoolwide meeting with the parents, Ms. Miranda sent another email to The Times saying that she was not happy with how the school was handling the incident and asking to be contacted. She did not speak with a reporter until last week.
Ms. Miranda said Ms. Moskowitz did not try to contact her until after the meeting on the 20th, and at that point, she felt it was too late. What most distressed her, Ms. Miranda said, was that the network and even many of the parents united behind Ms. Dial and did not seem to care about how her behavior affected children.
After the video became public, Ms. Moskowitz sent an email to parents at the network’s schools asking “for your compassion and understanding in judging this video and Ms. Dial.”
Despite having publicly described the incident captured on video as an isolated one, Ms. Moskowitz said in her email to parents that the network was “taking steps to ensure this does not happen again.” Ms. Moskowitz said those steps included retraining “teachers on our approach and the importance of setting high expectations and demanding that scholars give their best effort, but always in the context of deeply respecting children,” and “refining our introductory training to include more sessions on self-awareness, stress management, and the ability to manage up and ask for the help.” She said that from now on Success would provide training on those issues three times a year.
Seeking to hold someone accountable for what happened to her daughter, Ms. Miranda went into a Department of Education building in Brooklyn to ask about filing a complaint, but was told that Success was independent from the school district. She said that Ms. Nicholls, the principal, had given her information about how to reach Success’s board of trustees, and that she had sent a letter, but she was not optimistic that she would get a response.
Ms. Miranda said she felt betrayed by the school that she had hoped would give her daughter a better life.
“I trust you guys with my daughter, and now I feel like I can’t trust you,” she said.