School District 21 plagued with co-location drama

September 26, 2013 Denise Romano
Share this:

Members of the greater District 21 educational community are calling a public hearing for the application to co-locate a charter school at I.S. 96 a “sham” since notice for the hearing had been sent out just days before and no representatives for the charter school, Success Academy, or the State University of New York (SUNY) were present.

The hearing took place on Tuesday, September 24 at 6 p.m. at I.S. 228. Notice was sent out at 5:16 p.m. on Thursday, September 19, a religious holiday.

The CEC sent a letter to the Department of Education’s Division of Portfolio planning, requesting that the hearing be rescheduled to a later date. The only date provided was Thursday, September 26, also a religious holiday.

Unlike Coney Island Prep, which the DOE has proposed expanding into I.S. 281, Joseph Cavallaro, this Success Academy application is being handled by SUNY, not the DOE.

According to law, charter schools are not required to give advance notice of public hearings to the public, which outraged parents and staff alike.

“How could you do this? How can you backdoor the parents?” demanded John Talmadge, a parent from I.S. 281. “We have no rights as parents? Why shouldn’t we have a time frame? You want to take teachers away that our children love.”

Talmadge – the only parent present at the hearing – noted that the hearing conflicted with an orientation going on at Cavallaro; this paper learned that there was also a PTA meeting at I.S. 96.

“You guys really didn’t want us to be here,” Talmadge said. “There aren’t any parents that could make it. It’s very inconvenient.”

“We have never been as disrespected as we have tonight,” contended Judy Gerowitz, United Federation of Teachers representative for District 21. “This is a sham. Why are you here now after the co-location has been announced? Do you often hold meetings and announce them later?

“You have gall to attempt to ingratiate yourself into this community with parents, students and teachers using skewed data,” Gerowitz went on, noting that Success’s application contends that District 21 consistently scored lower on state tests than the rest of the city, which is not the case.

“District 21 continually ranked among the five highest districts in New York City,” she said.

Gerowitz noted that Success Academy is cancelling classes on October 8 for a pro-charter school demonstration.  “This is a neglect of state-mandated student instructional time,” she contended.

Assemblymember Bill Colton gave a fiery testimony.

“This hearing is a nullity,” he charged. “We have been thwarted by unreasonable interpretations of the law by DOE. I will look into putting an amendment to the law to make it mandatory to let people know ahead of time.

“This either shows incompetence or indifference and I think it’s indifference,” Colton concluded.

Mark Treyger, a teacher at New Utrecht High School and the Democratic nominee for City Council in the area, said that it was “a sad day for public education in this city.

“This isn’t a meeting. We are talking to ourselves here,” Treyger said. “This is a soliloquy.”

Harry Hartfield, a DOE spokesperson, told this paper that the agency “inherited a broken school system” when Michael Bloomberg became mayor.

“Since then, we’ve delivered historic highs in graduation rates, lowered drop-out rates by half, and given parents more school options than ever before,” Hartfield said. “A once-broken system has been transformed with new, high performing schools – and those additional options have delivered extraordinary outcomes for children. Our strategy has worked, and with this new school [Success Charter Academy] that progress will continue.”

Comments on the co-location application will be accepted until Monday, September 30 at midnight. They can be sent to [email protected] or called into 212-374-0208.

A hearing and rally on the co-location itself will be held at I.S. 96, 99 Avenue P, on Monday, September 30 at 5:30 p.m.

But that’s not all.

CEC 21 members passed a resolution at their September 18 general meeting opposing the co-location of a charter school at John Dewey and are poised to fight the expansion of Coney Island Prep to Cavallaro. The community previously fought unsuccessfully to keep Coney Island Prep out of I.S. 303.

In addition, if approved, there will also be a multi-sited District 75 special education school serving students in grades nine through twelve in an inclusion program at Dewey.

A public hearing on the Dewey co-location is scheduled for Wednesday, October 23 at 6 p.m. at Dewey, 50 Avenue X. Testimony can be provided to the above email or phone number.

The Cavallaro/Coney Island Prep co-location public hearing is scheduled for Monday, October 21 at 6 p.m. at Cavallaro, located at 8787 24th Avenue. Testimony can be provided to the above email or phone number.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment