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Parents slam DOE school-closure list

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 4/21/2012, 10:07 p.m.

"How do you leave our children without educational support?" demanded irate parent Monique Small at an emergency PTA meeting of Satellite III in Bed-Stuy.

Small is a parent of a student at one of the 19 schools on the latest DOE hit list for school closure, and parents citywide are fighting mad that the DOE is trying to phase out their schools.

"I have always been opposed to all closures," said Bed-Stuy Councilman Al Vann. "I feel that the DOE has not done enough to support the schools. Rather than giving them the technical assistance and support they need, they are closing these schools and opening new ones, which is very expensive."

Benjamin Green, president of the president's council of the district's Parent Teachers Association, warned parents at the PTA meetings he attended this week that Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with 18 months of his term left, "is determined to find space for 50 new middle schools and 55 new charters," and once they begin occupying public school property, they're in. And Bloomberg's "got to get them in now."

"The charter schools have a pipeline straight to the [schools] chancellor," said Green. He implored parents to get in the trenches and fight for their schools.

Brooklyn parents are charging that Bloomberg, who grabbed mayoral control of New York City's 1,100 public schools in 2002, is more concerned with serving the financial interests of his hedge fund friends and pushing their charter school agenda than the fundamental education of millions of students.

"This isn't about education, this is about real estate," said Small, saying that even though her child is about to graduate, she will still fight to keep "Satellite III-a great school-open because it cares about the children. It is a family here."

"Gentrification is changing our neighborhoods. Not only do the new white neighbors want our brownstones and the new condos that are springing up, they want the schools next door to them," said Wilmon Cousar, the parent of a child in a New York City school. The former teacher continued, "These parents are tired of paying the exorbitant school fees, so they look at the public school up the block, and they decide that they will work the system to get it. Their argument that all these schools are struggling and that's why Bloomberg is closing them just seems convoluted."

While Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott did not respond to email and phone call requests for comment, he advised Frank Thomas, DOE spokesman, to speak with the paper.

"We don't look at it from a real estate position. We look at replacing struggling schools with new schools," said Thomas.

By Wednesday, Vann had attended the PTA meetings of three schools scheduled for closure in his district: Academy of Business and Community Development (Brooklyn), Frederick Douglass Academy and Satellite III.

"No matter how valid the concerns are that the community expresses or the UFT expresses, the DOE has made the decision to close these schools," Vann told the AmNews. "Parents and the community must express their outrage, because the DOE needs to know that we are not pleased. There needs to be powerful community involvement."