Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Prisco Report on SI Charter School Hearing

by Loretta Prisco

Tonight on Staten Island there was a "Public Hearing" on 2 charters being proposed - the Barak Obama Community Charter and the New World Charter.

Thanx so much to Mark, who came by public transportation from the Bronx to SI, and spoke so well against charters.

Thanx to Dom, who made the trip from Queens to SI and dittoed Mark's remarks.,

And finally, thanx to Imani, who spoke from her personal experience about what is happening at P.15. She spoke about how promises are made and just as quickly broken. We found out that we are Staten Island neighbors.

Interesting format. Michael Duffy, Director of Charters, spoke. The Parent Engagement Deputy showed up late. They spoke during the business meeting. The CEC asked tough questions during the Business Meeting. Many of his responses were "will check that out", "we are checking that out", "we will have that information soon". The 2 charters presented their plans during the Calendar or Regular Meeting. Before the public was able to comment, Duffy and the Parent Engagement person left!!!! We were offered the opportunity to write to them.

Some interesting comments from Duffy: they will not go into overcrowded schools. Then he mentioned the schools that were being considered. Many of us laughed - they are overcrowded. He said that the law demands that public hearings be held.. He said that some charters are welcomed and some have been contentious. He was a former member of the board of a Boston Charter and then a principal of a charter.

Duffy explained that charters that do not meet their goals in 5 years will be closed. 3 have been closed so far. But he did admit that most schools are in existence only 1-2 years so that they have not run out of time yet. The jury is still out, but they keep pushing ahead.

Staten Island is a small place and we knew many of the people involved. It was hard for us to attack - but we did. We think that they are sincere people that don't see the public schools working for their kids or their clients. The Barack Obama was the weaker of the 2 - they don't like the elementary school for which they are zoned. My daughter went to that school and did very well. I supervised student teachers from CSI when I taught in the Ed. Dept. The teachers are fabulous. It is what is often described as a "mom and pop" charter. They do now have the weight that New World has. Basically, the parents want options. One of the leads was a parent coordinator of the school they want out of.

The New World was a bit tougher to argue against. They want to serve the immigrant kids that are not doing well in the middle schools. Many of the people behind it are well respected in the community. Retired principal John Tobin is one of them. The kids are dropping out, on the streets, falling into gangs. The programs are really concerned about the Mexican kids and with good reason. Space is being offered by Richard Nicastro who owns the Staten Island Hilton and other properties. While they say that they will serve all immigrants, ( Liberians, Nigerians, Russians and Spanish speaking) it is quite obvious that they will serve Mexicans. We work with Liberians in Park Hill- they speak English!
The "cooperating design' group for the New World Charter is Victory Schools, Inc. The CEO is Margaret Harrington, former HS Supt. in Queens and had to leave for some scandalous reason. Does anyone remember?

A Board Member, Dennis Kelleher is the Founder and CEO of Wall Street Access and very wealthy. He donated the funds for a large beautiful building on the St. John's Campus on SI.

Also on the Board is the wife of the Pres. of Wagner College, a priest, a film maker, a parent, a teacher and sports columnist (I think private school teacher) and an attorney.

Anybody know anything about Victory, Wall Street Access?

Attached is my statement

We made the case that the work must be done to create answers within the public schools, creating institutes with the existing schools to serve special populations.

UFT endorsed Michael McMahon, through his rep, spoke heartily in favor of charters.

Charter school children do get busing! They must follow the same eligibility requirements for all kids - but of course, if they are out of their zoned school, they are eligible. So a parent who wants busing (busing is big issue on Staten Island as our schools are not close together and the streets around the schools are jammed at 3) need only go to a charter to get transportaton.

We also found that the John Lavelle charter approved and scheduled to open in September, while presented to us as a charter school for emotionally disturbed children, will only have 15% of that population.

But the best comments of the night came from a teacher who teaches in Soho and talked about the terrible conditions at her school. She compared that with the Petrides School(she obviously did not know that it was a public school!). And let's face it, she went on, the UFT protects teachers. In a charter school, she explained, those teachers who are not working get thrown out and "I should know I have been one of those teachers protected for 32 years".. Genius.

Of course, the best argument we made was that the reasons for these schools were worthy - so put the programs into the public schools, follow the rules of public schools.

Also note, charter schools went to court saying that they couldn't be audited, and won. It was taken to the next court and overturned. That was reported in NYSUT paper. It was then ruled against in a higher court - they need not be audited.


More on Duffy and on these questionable hearings at: http://grassrootseducationmovement.blogspot.com/2009/08/charter-school-hearings-study-in.html.


Anonymous said...

Did anyone question the absurdity of naming a school after a president that's only been in office for a few months?

GEM said...

More on Duffy and on these questionable hearings at: http://grassrootseducationmovement.blogspot.com/2009/08/charter-school-hearings-study-in.html.