Thursday, February 26, 2009

District 3 (Upper West Side) Meeting and Comments

See Leonie Haimson below this

From Bijou Miller, Co-President of District 3 President Council

For those of you who did not make the joint Pres. Council/CEC meeting
at PS 241, I wanted to post this because, in my opinion, what
happened tonight was the DOE at its worst- In point of fact, I
thought I had seen its worst, until tonight.

There was a joint Presidents' Council/CEC meeting tonight. Our Pres.
Council meeting began at 6 P.M. Upon arriving, I noticed that there
was a huge crowd already in the auditorium. I assumed that it was
people getting there early for the 6:30 CEC meeting, which had a very
long agenda. Instead, to my surprise, I discovered a rally being
held for the Harlem Success Academy- I later found out that
this "hearing" was being held under the auspices of the Charter
School Institute of the State University of New York. I also found
out that someone had bused in a busload of children who were given
caps blazoned with the Harlem Success Academy logo. If this was a
hearing to get community feedback, it certainly had a very biased

I was told that PS 241 parents had not been told about this hearing
and apparently, if you wanted to speak, you had to somehow contact
the "Hearing Registration Officer" on the day of the hearing BEFORE
it started (the window of opportunity was from 5 to 5:30p.m.)

I did not attend this "hearing" as I had to conduct our own meeting
but from what I gleaned, I do not think the State University got the
response they had expected.

In fact, many parents were angry and outraged and that anger and
outrage carried over into the CEC meeting (which was delayed for
forty five minutes because of this hearing).

At the CEC meeting, parents from 241 and other schools were
understandably upset. The upshot is this: There was no consultation
with the CEC about putting a new school into PS 241. For some
reason, the DOE decided that the District Leadership Team was the
group to take input from the community and help decide what new
schools would be chosen. The process, if you can call it that, was
rushed. DLT meetings are usually in the late afternoon, which is
inconvenient for many parents- 241 parents were still reeling from
finding out that their school was being phased out so I do not think
they even had the DLT on their radar- And why should they? No one,
including myself, a DLT member, ever thought that the DLT would be
involved. Heck, most parents don't even know what a DLT is.

At any rate, when parents did come to the meetings (there were really
only three and we also had to get feedback about MS 44), the response
was very anti-charter. John White, the Office of Portfolio
Development, who is running this show,(and who was at this hearing
tonight), stated that the feeling was that 241 families would not put
their kids into another public school-that the DOE felt a charter
would attract more families. Let me also say that the DLT was told
there were at least two viable options for 241, one a charter and one
a public. The DLT was never ever given any information on the public
option. We asked for info but he put it off or changed the subject
at least twice. It was quite obvious that a charter was the DOE's
choice and that Harlem Success was the specific choice. At the second
meeting, White had even invited Harlem Success parents to come
and "testify" about how great their school was. So the deck was
definitely stacked. Nonetheless, at the third meeting, there was
still parent and DLT input asking that we be given public school
options to consider.

One other point- At the last meeting, White said that whatever the
charter school might be, they would be required to hold their initial
lottery for only 241 zoned families. In addition, he stated that the
241 parents would have first priority at other area public schools-
five in all. They are PS 149 Sojourner Truth
P.S. 76 Phillip Randolph
P.S. 165 Robert E. Simon
P.S. 180 Hugo Newman
P.S. 185 John M. Langston
So, the zoned families of 241 would have first choice at six schools-
So there are zoning issues that need to be addressed and it is quite
possible that a lawsuit is in the making- The CEC should have been
consulted about the fact that, when PS 241 is phased out, there will
no longer be a zoned public school in that building (yes, charter
schools are public schools but they are not zoned because they will
take from throughout the district...) . Additionally, the DOE is for
all intents and purposes, dissolving the zone lines for PS 241
families- they now have a zone that includes five other public
schools- That is a zoning issue that should have been presented to
the CEC.

But there is one more thing- It was implied that the charter school
would be a new charter or a new branch of an existing charter.
Tonight, we found out from those who attended the rally, that in
fact, the branch of Harlem Success that is moving into 241 is already
established and so they are moving in their own already settled
population- How are they going to absorb the PS 241 kids that are in
first and second grade?

I think that every District 3 parent should be outraged about this.
It is a classic bait and switch with parents being told one (or two
or three) different scenarios and then being presented with the one
they feared the most. PS 241 parents are a small body and there are
many working parents who do not have the time or means to organize
and protest this situation. The Charter School Institute is asking
for any testimony that was not heard tonight be emailed or faxed to
them BY MARCH 10th (It must be received no later than noon.)SEnd your
written testimony to charters@suny. edu or fax it to 518 427-6510. In
your written testimony, please identify in a brief fashion, the
subject of your testimony (that is their words, not mine).

In addition, please contact your elected officials, especially Danny
O'Donnell and Bill Perkins. And of course, any connections to the
press is great.

Bijou Miller, Co-President of District 3 President Council

Leonie comments
I agree with Bijou that this is one of the most outrageous things that the DOE has ever tried to do -- and they have done alot.

To close a zoned school w/out the CEC's approval -- essentially eliminating the zone -- and putting a charter school in its place is blatantly illegal: state law and chancellor's regs require that all changes in zoning must be approved by the CEC.

People should be aware that in state law, to convert a regular public school to a charter takes a vote of the parent body. This simply skips that entire step.

If this is goes forward it is an extremely dangerous precedent. It would essentially allow the DOE to unilaterally close any zoned school in the entire city and put a charter school in its place -- to privatize our entire public school system. Don't think they won't try.

Eva Moskowitz is extremely wired and already has a chain of charter schools that she is intent on expanding. She uses the parents at her schools as her own political tools. She had them all call Juan Gonzalez today to protest his column and tied up his phone lines from 3-5 PM.

Privatizing the system and turning the best schools into charters, which then excluded the neediest students, is what they did in New Orleans but it took a nearly unprecedented national disaster to do it. here we only have Hurricane Bloomberg/Klein .

It is also not extremely unlikely that they can give the parents at PS 141 priority over the parents who are zoned for the particular schools below. This is a line they are offering to shut up 141 parents but I doubt its legal. This would also be in a sense redrawing zoning lines, to give preference to 141 parents to the parents who already live within the attendance zones.

This should not be allowed to stand.

Leonie Haimson

1 comment:

The Perimeter Primate said...

Hi Norm,

Please forward this note to Leonie and Bijou:

I am so very sorry to hear that this is being done to your schools. It so happens that the billionaires have a stranglehold on the public school system in Oakland, CA, too. I've just posted my observations on The Perimeter Primate. Please take a look.

This stuff is totally scary.

I've sent word to Richard Rothstein to ask him if there is anything we can do.