A teacher at the acclaimed Success Academy charter chain in New York City publicly complained about Eva Moskowitz’s silence after the murder of George Floyd.

Alex Zimmerman of Chalkbeat reported:

Four days after the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, a Brooklyn Success Academy teacher emailed her network’s CEO, one of the nation’s most prominent charter school leaders, asking why she hadn’t said anything publicly.

“I am deeply hurt and shocked by your lack of words on the topic that affects so many of your employees, children and families in communities that you serve,” first-year Success Academy Flatbush teacher Fabiola St Hilaire wrote to Eva Moskowitz. “All of your black employees are paying attention to your silence.”

Moskowitz responded about an hour later, thanking St Hilaire for reaching out but also brushing her aside. “I actually opined on this subject early this am. Please take a look,” Moskowitz wrote, referring to a tweet sent the same morning. “I hope you can understand that running remote learning in the middle of a world economic shutdown has kept me focused on [Success Academy’s] immediate needs.”

Upset by the response, St Hilaire posted the email exchange on social media, thrusting New York City’s largest charter network into a wider debate about institutional racism. Some current and former employees were angry that Moskowitz seemed to dismiss the concerns of an educator of color as well as the broader movement to reckon with structural racism in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing.

Eva Moskowitz quickly backtracked when she saw the reaction among her staff to her silence and her brusque dismissal of St Hilaire’s criticism. Moskowitz was interviewed by Donald Trump as a contender for his Secretary of Education. She supported his selection of Betsy DeVos.

The exchange between Moskowitz and a first-year teacher set off a debate about institutional racism in Success Academy and its harsh no-excuses methods. Those draconian disciplinary methods were defended by Robert Pondiscio of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who is white, and by Moskowitz, who is also white. Black children need harsh discipline, they argued.