Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Victory at PS 84K: Tweed Backs Down

THANK YOU!

Please share with all of the people with whom you shared the earlier email to thank them. The support of the people on your e-mailing list was overwhelming, and the DOE officials acknowledged that “their phone was ringing of the hook all day.” They called it off. I had forgotten how many good friends I had. And, thanks for those, like Luis Reyes, who immediately defended the integrity of the movement when someone questioned it – as well as Mickey, Luis Garden, Angelo Falcon and Lillian.
-Jaime Estades

We just had a meeting with James Quail, Superintendent of District 14, John White, Chief Operating Officer of the DOE’s Office of New Schools and Portfolio Development, and Olivia Ellis, Director of School Support for DOE’s Office of Parent Engagement. John White began the meeting by stating that “there is not going to be a new school sited within P.S. 84 next year.” He went on to state that this decision does not mean that the Department of Education is giving up its belief that parents need to have more educational options within District 14, but that it is clear that there is not community support for placing the proposed elementary school within the existing PS84 elementary school’s building.

When White stated that he understood that PS 84 wanted “to protect the space within the school,” he was told by the parents that “we are not trying to protect the space, we are trying to protect our children.” He promised that there will be no new school sited within PS84 within 2008-09, but he would not promise that there would not be a separate program or school in 2009-10. We consider this a temporary victory. Olivia Ellis stated that because PS 84 is such a unique situation, with issues such as gentrification, such a proposal cannot be viable at this point, while alluding to Superintendent Quail’s agreement with the “gentrifiers”.

After being promised that there will be no school within PS 84, the PTA decided to declare a victory in halting any plans of a new school as planned by the “gentrifiers” and the Klein administration for the academic year 2008-09, taking into consideration that there will be a new mayoral administration which hopefully will be more sensitive to the educational needs of minority students not only in Williamsburg, but in New York City as a whole. The PTA emphatically requested that Superintendent Quail and Mr. White come to the school or provide a written apology to all of the parents of PS 84, particularly the 350 parents who met with Quail on January 24 when he described to them the plan for a new elementary school within PS 84. White and Quail refused to apologize.

The parents communicated to Olivia Ellis that an apology must come from the Department of Education to all the parents of PS 84, particularly to the more than 350 concerned parents who attended the meeting last Thursday and heard Quail describe a the plan to displace the children of PS 84.

THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR SUPPORT! We received phone calls from CNN, Daily News, ABC, Post and others that I could not get because my battery wore out while I was in Albany today. There were many groups and organizations which knew about the issue and wanted to join us for the Press Conference on Wednesday. We are calling off the press conference based on tonight's agreement, and instead will have a celebration and full report to the parents next week.

Thanks again,
Jaime Estades

See ednotes' previous posting on PS 84 here.

7 comments:

  1. Email to ednotes:

    Too bad this is at noon. This is discrimination! Yes it is like PS 16. I knew some of those parents at the time and they fought the wall tooth and nail. Also the AP or principal was head of the YMHA as well which was also discriminating against the local Hispanic children at the Y (another story) and those same parents in their fight were able to have him lose both jobs. This rumor of these new white folk to the neighborhood has been kicking around for over a year. They went to at least two schools asking for separate classes for their kids. I don't know what happened at 84, but at the other school PS 17) the administration to their credit wasn't having it. They also tried to get a charter school on the North Side, but it never came to fruition. NOW THIS! These same ilk are also behind the proposed move of MS 577 located in the PS 132 building to PS 17. I hear the local parents are furious. When my children went there these people didn't want anything to do with the neighborhood except to reside here. Now they want to take over on their own terms. What is in Quail's head?

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  2. This is a great victory for the parents and children of PS 84!!

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  3. You shouldn't lump all the "new white folks" in together. It's both unproductive and incorrect. I didn't agree with the need for a new school in the district and always felt that our resources should be spent working on improving the schools we have.

    Many parents who went to PS84 left because we felt the principal they hired was a weak and inexperience leader for the school. I don't know anyone who asked for separate classes for their kids or left because that wasn't offered.

    It's an absolute leap to assume that the DoE's lack of respect for the PS84 community is 1) limited to the Hispanic families 2) participated in by the "new white folks."

    And the issue with PS17 is a totally different one from PS84. While they both share in common the fact that their building are more than half empty, (along with many others in our district) and the DoE wants to exploit that, MS577 is an established and successful middle school in the community that has been living in trailers for over a dozen years. They have to go somewhere and no one wants them. I'm not convinced by the two arguments against the MS577 move to PS17. The first argument is that the school will be overcrowded which is easily countered when you tour the PS17 building and see that it's more than half empty. Certainly sharing space is not ideal, but it can be managed successfully and there are lots of models throughout the city. The second argument is that middle schoolers shouldn't be in the same building as elementary students. This is a pretty duplicitous argument considering a) Dr. Marchi himself at various points had discussed turning PS17 into a K-8 school and b) MS577 had lived intimately with PS132 elementary school students and safety was NOT the concern.

    We can make various claims about what a building "at capacity" looks like, but I'm not sure that argument really applies to PS 17 which has more than enough space for both schools.

    PS 84 has an issue bridging diversity which must be met with strong and experienced leadership from within the school.

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  4. I heard the current (fairly new - and young) principal was not happy when the "new" parents wanted to be more involved, so they left. Or were encouraged to leave.

    Ooops! There go the higher reading scores.

    I guess you were one of them and we'd like to know more about why. The term "weak" is not what I hear from teachers I hear from who are not happy with her either. But she has not been weak with them. Maybe you mean "weak" from a parent point of view as "not willing to do progressive things."

    There will be a real dichotomy between the minority parents whose kids are often behind and they are sold a bill of goods through the Tweed line that they must have a rigid, test-structured system while middle class parents have children who can read and thus feel they want less testing and more non-academic stuff.

    PS 84 always had low reading scores due mainly to the high level of kids who came from non-English speaking backgrounds. And there was also a much-beloved principal who some considered weak - but he didn't seem to go after any teachers if their scores were low -- which is what the new regime at Tweed wants. I hear from teachers that there is a lot of pressure on people. The corporate types think that is a good thing to happen in a school. I think it is destructive of education.

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  5. I'm happy for their victory. There are wonderful families in the school old and new. The principal is really working hard. This is just her second year. This will become a "Duel Language" school in the fall and the students will become fluent in both languages. The really great schools become great because families work together for all of the students. They also respect the leaders. We don't try to tell doctors what to do we respect their profession. I hope people realize children learn by what we model. Parents are the first teachers. Hopefully we are not raising another generation of people who don't respect and celebrate diversity. I think it is time we all grow up and if you don't like what is going on, take your marbles and go home !!!! And be respectful. Stop bad-mouthing people and putting down the school. If you left that was your choice. Go help your new school because that's not perfect either. We know you will never be happy, but we need to work together and help this school and all schools. Our children will grow up and still live in this world together. When will the adults think about the kids !!!

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  6. Tension over city's plan for new Williamsburg public school
    BY RACHEL MONAHAN
    DAILY NEWS WRITER

    Thursday, January 31st 2008, 4:00 AM

    Hispanic Williamsburgparents were up in arms last week when they
    learned a new school would be housed in the one their kids attended.

    The new institution at Public School 84, on Berry St., would have
    catered to the neighborhood's growing group of white families, the
    Hispanic families charged - an arrangement that smacked of
    segregation, they said.

    City school officials backtracked on plans for the new school this
    week, saying there was no final approval, and they denied the
    Hispanic parents' characterization.

    Still, the incident exposed an ugly side of Williamsburg's fast-
    paced gentrification.

    "I'm completely surprised that this administration was considering a
    separate but equal policy in the year 2008," said Jaime Estades,
    father of two girls at PS 84.

    The Education Department "dealt with this situation in the worst way
    possible," he said. "The tension that this has caused the parents
    regardless of race was totally unnecessary."

    Condo towers have risen and white families have moved into what was
    once a largely Hispanic neighborhood.

    At PS 84, white parents asked for teachers to change or looked to
    add new programs. Those requests were viewed as an attempt to get
    special treatment, said Hispanic parents.

    Tensions were left unaddressed by the school leadership and 25 white
    families left the school before the beginning of this school year,
    said former PS 84 parent Brooke Parker.

    "No one at that school could pretend there wasn't tension - except
    the principal," said Parker. Principal Stefanie Greco did not return
    a call seeking comment.

    Parker also opposed plans for the new school because she believes
    efforts should be focused on improving current schools. She too was
    shocked at a recent Community Education Council meeting when the
    plan was presented as final by Superintendent James Quail.

    Quail also told parents gathered for an emergency PTA meeting last
    week the new school was a done deal, said several PS 84 parents. But
    on Monday, Quail backtracked, parents said, claiming he'd never said
    plans for a Discovery School were not final.

    "I told him he was a liar. His ears turned red," said Virginia
    Reyes, mother of Jessica, a fifth-grader. Quail referred calls to
    the Education Department press office.

    A new school is not going to be placed at the PS 84 this school
    year, though Education Department officials are still considering
    the Discovery School proposal at a different site, said spokeswoman
    Melody Meyer.





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  7. Unexpected Obstacle in Plan for Brooklyn School

    BY ELIZABETH GREEN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
    February 1, 2008
    URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/70595

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    A push to open a new public school in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn is running into an unexpected obstacle: the politics of gentrification.

    A group of mostly white parents had the idea for an elementary school that would have a social studies-centered curriculum, and it seemed poised to open this year. But the school's future is now uncertain, after an angry protest from more than 300 parents — mostly Hispanic — recently led the Department of Education to declare one possible location for the new school off bounds.

    On both sides, emotions are running high.

    "With all my battles, with all my schools, I've never seen something like this," the president of the local Community Education Council, Mario Aguila, said.

    A recent closed-door meeting moderated by the Department of Education, with representatives from both sides — the white parents who want to build a new school, and the coalition of mainly Hispanic parents who are skeptical — was an attempt at peacemaking.

    Although new residents are pouring into Williamsburg, its public schools are losing their students.

    P.S. 84 on Berry Street had only 384 students enrolled last October, down from 409 in 2006. Its capacity is 1,057, city school officials said.

    The idea of a new school was to cut into the paradox. As the parents behind the idea see it, the schools have so few students because parents are opting out of local public schools in favor of either private schools or so-called progressive public schools in Manhattan.

    A new school with a similar approach, right in their neighborhood, might convince parents to stay, the thinking went.

    A proposal to build a new school called the Discovery School hit a roadblock recently when local Hispanic parents heard it might move into their building, at P.S. 84.

    Within days, about 350 parents were crowding into P.S. 84's lunchroom for an emergency meeting to protest what they saw as an encroachment grounded in a "separate but equal" mentality.

    "The fact is, our kids are kids of color. The school has basically planned for a community that is predominantly white. There is no way of getting around that," the vice president of the Parent Teacher Association at P.S. 84, Erika Donovan Estades, said.

    The proposal touched a nerve at P.S. 84, whose PTA in 2006 saw a battle between white parents and longtime Hispanic ones end in many of the white parents leaving the school. Ms. Estades estimated that 20 parents left.

    Ms. Estades said she is not opposed to creating new schools, but she said the whole Williamsburg community should be included in plans.

    "It's a gentrifying community, but there's no reason that it has to be a segregated community," she said.

    A parent who is on the Discovery School's planning committee said her school would welcome all members of the Williamsburg community.

    Indeed, speaking on the condition of anonymity, the woman said that she herself has lived in Williamsburg 16 years, and once faced eviction from a loft she renovated, due to rising rents, she said.

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