An Open Letter about the Proposed Co-Location of Coney Island Prep at Cavallaro

October 25, 2013 Editorial Staff
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BY MARIA AND JOHN TALMADGE

The co-location of Coney Island Prep with Joseph B Cavallaro, I.S. 281 is a huge mistake. My husband and I are former PTA co-presidents of Cavallaro.

Cavallaro staff and students have and continue to work hard to make our school the A school it is. We are a family at Cavallaro who truly care for one another. It is our home away from home, and Coney Island Prep invading our home is a crime.

We need the room to continue to flourish and meet all of our children’s needs. This certainly cannot be accomplished with Coney Island Prep taking our much needed space.

We attended the public hearing held at Cavallaro on October 21 to show our continued support of the school. We listened to State Senator Diane Savino, Assemblymember Bill Colton, and Councilmembers Domenic Recchia and Vincent Gentile, just to mention a few politicians present, all of whom oppose the co-location of Coney Island Prep with Cavallaro.

Many of our students, both past and present, voiced their opinions and fears of overcrowding in the hallways, cramped classrooms, music, dance, art classes and after-school programs being taken away.

Adding 300 children ages four through eight to a school that already houses 1,200 children ages 10 through 14 is certainly a safety issue. Doesn’t Coney Island Prep care about the safety of their children?  We most definitely do.

In the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, Cavallaro opened its doors to P.S. 188, which had their school severely damaged by flooding. We gave up part of our gym, auditorium and many classes located on the first floor of the building.

We did this as a gesture of human kindness to a neighboring school that had nowhere to go. We also collected and distributed clothes, food and other necessary items to families in need in our community during the awful days followingSandy.

The Cavallaro family made sacrifices and scheduling was rearranged to accommodate P.S. 188 until their building was safe enough for them to return. It was a TEMPORARY solution during a DISASTER. Co-locating Coney Island Prep with Cavallaro would be PERMANENT.  THIS IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!

Parents of the children who attend Coney Island Prep spoke at the hearing. They wanted us to understand how their children had been failing in public schools, and how Coney Island Prep has raised their scores and how well they are doing now.

They told us how wonderful they were and we should welcome them because they want to be our neighbor and enjoy the building with us….that we would grow to love them.

Cavallaro parents, teachers and students listened to what they had to say. Imagine our surprise, as supporters of Cavallaro began to speak, one by one Coney Island Prep parents left.  NOT ONE PARENT stayed to listen to what we had to say.

This was brought to the attention of Jacob Mnookin, executive director of Coney Island Prep. He just looked up and smirked. While, my husband John was asking why Coney Island Prep teachers were non-union teachers and why they didn’t follow the same rules that our teachers must follow, Mr. Mnookin was checking his phone and texting.

He did this to just about everyone. How disrespectful of Mr. Mnookin and Coney Island Prep parents! Does this not speak volumes about their character and how they negated their entire message??

Why was enrollment down for the sixth grade in three middle schools where co-location was proposed? Why does Coney Island Prep hire non-union teachers? Why are their teachers not put through background checks like our teachers? Why doesn’t Coney Island Prep rent a building and put ALL their students in ONE place? We had many questions but received very few answers.

Sincerely,

Maria and John Talmadge


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