Willkie to be Honored by Great Oaks Foundation for Pro Bono Contributions Including Landmark Appellate Victory

September 29, 2015

Firm recognized for various successes obtained on behalf of Great Oaks, which launches and supports a network of acclaimed charter schools in urban areas. 

On October 22, Willkie will be honored by the Great Oaks Foundation, which launches and supports a network of charter schools in urban areas, for its “critical counsel on real estate matters including a landmark victory in New York and extensive work in Newark, Bridgeport and Wilmington.”  Great Oak’s mission is to prepare students for college success through “high-dosage tutoring.” The schools contribute to the vitality of the urban neighborhoods where they are located by “attracting and creating social, human and investment capital.”

In 2015, Willkie successfully represented the Great Oaks Charter School-New York City in its effort to compel the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to provide rental assistance for Great Oaks’ expanding enrollment.  In June 2014, pursuant to a new statute, Great Oaks requested co-location for its incoming 2014-2015 seventh grade class, as well as the grades to be admitted thereafter, in a public school building.  In December, the DOE responded that it did not have appropriate space in a DOE building and therefore could not extend an offer of co-located space.  Represented by Willkie litigators, Great Oaks became the first expanding charter school to challenge the DOE’s denial of access under the law, arguing that the DOE’s failure to provide access to facilities or, in the alternative, rental assistance violated the law and was arbitrary and capricious.  In one of his last official acts before stepping down from his post, NY State Educational Commissioner John King Jr. ruled on Great Oaks’ appeal, finding in favor of Great Oaks, and ordered the DOE to pay Great Oaks—for each remaining year of its charter term, commencing with the 2014-2015 school year—rental assistance based on student enrollment in any newly added grade level(s) for which it has been approved to provide instruction. Read Willkie’s January 2015 announcement.

The firm’s Real Estate Department has handled several significant matters for Great Oaks, including negotiating its lease on the acclaimed Teachers Village project, a $150 million mixed-use development project.

The appellate victory was handled by partner Richard Mancino and associate Christopher McNamara.  Real Estate matters for Great Oaks were handled  by partner David Drewes and associates Jennifer Schanes, Jennifer DiNicola, Melissa Fischetti, Elizabeth Case and Natalie Whitaker.