“As taxpayers, we expect the New York City DOE to put the children first,” stated the PTA for Cambria Heights Academy, which is asking New York City’s Department of Education (DOE) not to cram children into a building by approving a proposed co-location with M.S. Q72.
There will be hundreds of parents, students and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) members rallying outside the DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9 at Brooklyn Technical High School. There, the PEP will determine the fate of 23 public schools that have been slated for closure. The UFT and its president, Michael Mulgrew, invited the general public to attend the demonstration.
“Please don’t close my school! This school is like my second home and it means everything to me. If I have a problem at home, the teachers help me solve it. I love this school so much.” These are the words of 14-year-old Charene Noel, who implored a panel at a joint hearing for Satellite III, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s DOE has slated for phaseout and co-location of a yet another new middle school.
Maxwell High School, I.S. 298, Academy of Business and Community Development are among the 25 schools that the PEP will vote on this Thursday.
Parents, clergy, advocates and members of the UFT will assemble at Brooklyn Tech and march to P.S. 20, 225 Adelphi St., for a “People’s Panel for Public Education.” The People’s Panel will hear from the schools the DOE plans to close.
“Bloomberg is a failure,” said Council Member Charles Barron. “We must end mayoral control of schools. That’s why Bloomberg is known by ‘Mayor 13%’ because only 13 percent of Black and Latino students are prepared for college. The public school system has suffered under Bloomberg. His closing public schools to open charter schools is just his way of privatizing our public schools.”
“The charter schools are the private schools for the minority community,” Bloomberg told the Amsterdam News in a one-on-one interview with this reporter, back in October 2006. Asked then why private schools could not be the private schools for what he called “minority’ students, Bloomberg replied. “Not everyone can get into Stuyvesant or Bronx Science.”
With just over a year and change left on his third term, the mayor is pushing ahead to create 50 more charters in public school spaces.
Barron is among many activists and observers noting that drastic budget cuts, revolving doors of staff and general citywide instability perpetrated by Bloomberg’s DOE have created an environment like a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby the same players can now come in and say “Ah ha-the schools are failing. Lets change them up.”
Olayemi Odesanya, 13, is graduating to go to high school in September, yet the eighth grader is passionate about trying to save her current school, Satellite III. “Because I am leaving Satellite III, I should just focus on going to high school, but I feel that they should not have chosen to phase out Satellite III.
“Yes, they did have a D grade this last time, but that was after Bs and Cs. Can you blame the kids? Can you blame us for the result of having three different principals in 10 months and having to learn how to work in three different ways? Well, I don’t think so. Instead of shutting us down, how about helping fix a situation that they caused?”
“I am a student at Satellite III. I have been there for two years, going on three,” said Noel, an immigrant from Grenada. “Those years were very challenging for me. I learned so many things that I had never learnt before. If it were not for this school, my grades would not be so good. I got 3s and sometimes 4s in each class. I think that the idea of this school closing is a bad idea. This school helped me become a better person. I remember the first time I came to the United States, I did not know anything about America, but when I came to this school, they taught me a lot of things. When we took the state test and everyone was doubting themselves, Ms. Dasilva told us to have faith in ourselves and we can do anything if we just try.”
Scenes replicated citywide have activists demanding that the DOE reconsider or even shelve their phaseout, co-location and closure plans. Advocates for M.S. Q72. and Cambria Heights Academy are among them.
“We have a new high school in Queens District 29 [Cambria Heights Academy] that the DOE wants to co-locate with a middle school in Queens District 28,” stated the PTA of Cambria Heights Academy. “The parents of Middle School Q72 are concerned about class size, that it will increase if this co-location takes place.
Parents are also concerned about middle school lunch being served at 9 a.m. There are examples already in District 29 that show that to place a high school in a middle school has a negative impact on both schools.”
Prior to a Citywide Council of High Schools meeting at the Tweed Courthouse on Wednesday, parents and activists in support of Cambria Heights Academy and M.S. 72 held a press conference on the steps of the courthouse, where the DOE’s headquarters is housed.
“The parents and community of District 29 deserve to keep a quality high school that is providing valuable resources to their children,” said the PTA. “The parents of M.S. 72 deserve and have a right to send their children to a middle school that can maintain class size and meet the needs of their children. The placing of CHA in M.S. 72 will cause a negative impact on the education of both M.S. 72 and Cambria Heights Academy students.”
“Please don’t close my school,” declared Noel. “We need it and everyone else does too.”
Schools Chancellor will no doubt be harangued for the DOE’s curious policy of closing down a school only to reopen another one in its place. “How does that make any sense? Tell the parents the truth!” one irate parent shouted at DOE reps at a meeting at the Academy For Business and Community Development. Thursday’s meeting is slated to be a rough and ready one.
The rallies and chanting will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9 at Brooklyn Tech High School, 29 Fort Greene Place, at DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn. For more information, visit www.uft.org.