Crown Heights Parents Call For Boycott at P.S. 161

February 2, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

CROWN HEIGHTS — Parents at P.S. 161 (“The Crown”) in Crown Heights are calling for a one-day school boycott for this Monday to protest the city’s plan to phase out the school’s middle school grades, leaving just the elementary school.

P.S. 161’s PTA President Demetrius Lawrence told the Brooklyn Eagle that the plan to close the middle school just doesn’t make sense. “We just got a new principal who has implemented a new program; there’s a new school leadership team in place, and a new superintendent.”

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Principal Michael Johnson started at P.S. 161 this past September.

Over the past few years the school’s performance has declined. P.S. 161 earned a D grade on its most recent Progress Report (also known as school “report card”). On the 2009-2010 reports card, P.S. 161 scored a C; while in 2008-2009 the school earned an A.

On the Inside Schools website, parents asked, “Why should he suffer for the mistakes of the administrators?”

“Give the principal a chance,” Lawrence said. “We need two or three years to turn around. I’m not advocating for failing schools, but we’re on the right course to succeed.”

Since most parents have to work Monday, P.S. 161’s PTA has partnered with a local church — Full Gospel Assembly — that will take in the children for the day. Many P.S. 161 teachers will provide work for children to complete during the boycott.

Councilwoman Letitia James says that the loss of the middle school would impede P.S. 161’s progress.

“I do not generally support students missing school,” she said in a statement. “But I support this tremendous show of civil disobedience on behalf of P.S. 161’s parents. If the Department of Education will not listen to the objections of elected officials and community leaders, perhaps they will recognize these actions as a firm position against the closing and truncating of our schools.”

James said that the Principal Johnson, “has adopted a more productive environment since his appointment in Fall 2011 — achieving 95 percent student attendance — and implementing a competitive curriculum to better align the students with city and state education requirements.”

The Mayor’s Policy of Education Panel (PEP) will vote on the truncation of P.S. 161 on Feb. 9.

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