Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jackie Johnson on Sucees Charter Invasion of Brooklyn

Evidently, I'm a Public School Advocate

The Saga Continues...

I didn’t blog about that hearing two weeks ago, I know. I couldn’t. It was such a miserable experience; all I wanted to do was forget. I couldn’t – and still can’t – believe this is happening in this country, this city; our own community.
There was a panel at the front of the room, on the floor in front of the auditorium’s stage. It was made up of local politicians, teachers and educators, all there to speak about Success Academy Charter's application to co-locate in the K-293 building at Court and Baltic (The building already houses two middle and high schools, and a district 75 school for Autistic children.) On the far left sat Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, and two associates. It was a “hearing.” They were there to hear, but they did not listen. Throughout the four hours of testimony from the panel and community members, they spoke with one another, told jokes, shared gum, and tapped on their I-phones.
Local politicians got up to testify that this was a losing proposal. No one in the community had contacted them to offer support. In fact, they had only received emails in opposition to the charter. The community doesn’t want it. Joan Millman re-iterated her proposal for an early childhood center (Pre-K and K,) which would only take up six classrooms and would provide a real service for the community.
The charter, in their application, stated that their purpose was to serve the needy, yet they have only directed their advertisements at the wealthy and middle class families of Bococa. How many glossy pamphlets for Success Academy have you received in your mailbox lately? How many do you think have been received by families living in nearby public housing? Exactly. Further, they have appealed directly to us that their purpose is to alleviate overcrowding at PS 29 and PS 58; hardly underprivileged school populations. In the “private parties” hosted by Eva Moscowitz, parents have been quietly assured that Success will not bus.
In fact, by opening Success Charter in the K293 building, the present populations will lose about twenty classrooms, if not more. The needy, “at-risk” students who already go to school there, and who have been thriving under recent improvements, will now be unthinkably overcrowded. Teacher after teacher testified as to how this could not work. Their students, and their school, were being set up to fail.
But I was most especially impressed by the students themselves who got up to appeal to the small group of parents clustered on one side of the auditorium who supported the charter. These students spoke so beautifully and with such maturity about their school experience and what they stood to lose.
“You talk about your kids and their education, but what about me?” One student said, speaking directly to a parent zoned for PS 261. “I’m a student too.”
“I think you’re just trying to kick us out,” another concluded. He’s right.
Marc Sternberg confirmed that, at the end of five years, the charter would apply for more classrooms. They were there to stay. He ended the meeting with a short speech, describing how, in his view, this could work. He remained convinced that parents who wanted the best for their children would make every effort to get their children there from Sunset Park or Red Hook. Even a panel member who was pro-charter and had himself founded co-located charters in New York City scoffed at this.
“I’m from Sunset,” he said. “Those parents aren’t bringing their kids to school in Bococa, okay?”
It doesn’t matter. That’s not the agenda. The agenda is to crush the teachers union, to replace all the public schools with charters, and the poor and the needy can be damned. Who are the people that can do this to children? Do they have children themselves? Yes, they do. They are people like Mayor Bloomberg and Eva Moscowitz, and how they function and what makes them tick is a mystery to me. It is sickening, and difficult to think about and even more difficult to write about, and that is why it has taken me so long to write this piece.
But I felt I had to write it before this Wednesday, at the very least. That is when the PEP (Panel for Educational Policy) meeting is to take place. The charter application is expected to pass. That is because Mayor Bloomberg controls eight out of thirteen votes, so it’s really just a formality.
You know, I used to support Mayor Bloomberg. Once I invited him to an environmental rally and he had his personal assistant call me to tell me how much he wished he could be there, but had an unbreakable previous engagement. I know he’s overstepped a little bit in other areas…but overall, I thought he was smart and I liked the guy. Now, I think that if New Yorkers really understood what he is doing to this city’s neediest children, they would find a way to vote him out of office tomorrow.

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