Wednesday, February 24, 2010

White Flight: PS 92 Lefferts Charter School Hearing Notes - Video to Follow

People in Lefferts Gardens want their own charter school and the DOE decided to house it at PS 92 in Crown Hts. A hearing as is required was held Monday night though everyone know that issue has been decided in favor of the charter and will be voted up tonight at the PEP meeting.

I attended the hearing on Monday night and taped it. I know something about the school. My wife graduated from there in 19$% and her dad had a grocery store on Rogers Ave a block away and they lived over the store. But no matter how hard I tried to pursuade her to join me, she wouldn't go. After I retired, I mentored six teaching fellows at the school and so knew the lay of the land. Also, Vera Pavone, an ICE founder, was the school secretary there for three years.

The mostly white charter school crew claimed to be home grown, talked about options and choice, praised PS 92 as being a great school (but they wouldn't send their kids there) – you know, if you've been to these things before, they all use the same arguments - they are well coached. And of course, it is all temporary since one day they will have a building of their own. Duck, that flying pig is coming straight at you. But then again, why shouldn't Tweed hand over millions of dollars for them to build their own school - as long as they know someone with influence and money like the Robertson clan and Malcolm Smith.

Parent activist Carla Phillip, a PS 92 grad, spoke at the meeting and sent this report to the NYCEducation listserve (Leonie's List- who as I write this is about to appear on Fox after Joel Klein to discuss the charter school invasions- oops, just saw it and it was only sound bite).

Here is Carla's report:

The public hearing at PS 92 was well attended. There were a good amount of parents from PS 92 and Lefferts Gardens. This was the first hearing that I have been to where it was racially divided (blacks and whites). The Charter school tried to convince the public on the benefits of their school. To which I had to correct them on, in the sense of being a modern day form of segregation, where you have the haves and the haves not.

At one point in the hearing, you could literally cut the tension with a knife. I bought to the panel's and community's attention the Chancellor's letter on DOE's website stating the placement of Lefferts Gardens in PS 92 in September of 2010; and asked why are we having this hearing, when the decision was already made on January 8th? Yes, I had to go there. To which they said that the decision would be made on Wednesday at the PEP meeting. Now, we all know its going to be rubber stamped. That's what Bloomberg's appointees do - rubber stamp everything.

All in all, the parents and alumnis of PS 92 kept saying:
- Where were you (Lefferts Gardens), when we were bringing the school up to par?
- Charter schools need their own buildings
- Why your kids cannot attend the school now and help further improve it?

Meanwhile, Lefferts Gardens was stressing the fact that the school is an option and helping the children of the community. If this is a new option, why are they not pushing for their own space, but rather co-location?

And yes, there was a public official in the audience, Mr. Mel Faulkner from Assemblywoman Barron's office came to support. Thank you, Mr. Faulkner for taking the time out to come and its not his district. He understands that it is about the children and empowering the parents.

Finally, thank you Senator Adams for sending out the initial email and informing the community of the hearing.

And the struggle continues.

Carla M. Phillip


  1. Posted on nyc ed news:

    I attended PS 92 in the 1960s - it was mixed then, but mostly white (as I am). When I went to middle school for 6th grade, my zoned middle school (IS 320) was next to the Ebbets Field apartment complex and I was the only white kid in my class.

    "Lefferts Manor" is comprised mostly of the beautiful 3- and 4-story brownstones between Flatbush and Rogers Ave, Lincoln Road to Parkside Ave. In the 1960s and 70s, this neighborhood was predominantly black (my parents even had trouble getting a mortgage due to red-lining) but since then a lot of these homes have been purchased by white families who are priced out of The Heights and Park Slope but want a classic brownstone.

    The herd mentality is probably in place - no one wants their kid to be the only white kid in PS92 so none of them go... They probably all pay for private school and would love the Charter School option...

    Marge Kolb

  2. Although this is an issue that divides along racial lines, it's only so because it's an issue that divides along class lines. I am black and a recent transplant to Lefferts Manor from Prospect Heights--same story as others, we wanted a brownstone and couldn't afford one in PH. I was very happy to hear about the charter school b/c I have an infant daughter and it would be nice if there were a viable public school option for her. The fact of the matter is, it is very hard to work within the traditional public school environment for change b/c of red tape and a host of other issues. Charter schools are attractive b/c they have less bureaucracy from a curriculum perspective, parents appear to have more of an impact on the administration of the schools, and the schools tend to attract staff and students of parents who are singularly focused on attaining the highest quality education.
    Yes, it would be great to work for change in the traditional public school environment, but I am simply not going to knowingly place my child in an educational program that has less resources and more challenges if I have another option.

  3. It's nice to see a mention of Vera Pavone. The ICE BBQs at Vera's were legendary!

  4. Sad, sad, sad we're talking about skin color. Bloomberg the ed mayor? He set us back a century and a half.

  5. I appreciate both the original post by the PS 92 parent and the subsequent ones, including the introduction of class into the conversation by the newly arrived black parent in Lefferts Manor who is hoping for a viable school in the neighborhood for her/his child. I also live in the Manor.

    My child is now 12 and goes to a public school--guess where?--Park Slope. But nine years ago, along with a black friend (I'm white) whose child was also entering pre-K, I explored possibilities of working with PS 92 to improve the school for all children.

    In a memorable conversation around that time, a public elementary school principal who lives on my block explained the issue in terms of getting a "critical mass" of middle class families into a school serving primarily poor and working class children. Why? Because middle class families bring resources and because their children benefit not only from material goods but also from the "cultural capital" their parents give them (lots of early reading, museums, arts classes, etc.) My friend and I made an attempt to form a coalition with one of the local pastors and we met with PS 92 administrators and PTA reps. But there was friction then, too, and although we would have persisted in these efforts if we'd had more time, we had to deal with the then fast approaching deadline for applying to pre-K. And we were unwilling to send our children to a school we didn't think would best serve their needs. Like nearly all middle class parents--especially in NYC--we agonized over how to make sure our kids were to get the best possible education. Working class parents typically don't have that luxury of choice for any number of reasons.

    I am very concerned about the news about the charter school and P.S. 92. The racial and class divide will only worsen if we don't act collectively in our own neighborhood to address what Jonathan Kozol calls "savage inequalities." I have no magic bullet to offer. But I hope the supporters of the charter school and members of the PS 92 community, along with other neighborhood organizations and individuals will make an effort to discuss these problems honestly and openly, and work for the good of all children who live in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

  6. I would like to address the remarks by the parent that argues that any perceived segregation of charter schools is a matter of economics in this country rather than race.

    Although I'd like to believe that to be true, I would point out that many policies that seem economical in nature, have consequences that affect minorities more than the others. In addition, often times minority neighborhoods are manipulated for the economic gain of the majority.

    Take for instance, subprime mortgages. Initially, billionaire bankers lobbied congress to unregulate predatory lending practices in mortgages. It was sold as a civil rights issue in getting minorities into houses. For a time, minorities benefited. We all know what happened as a result.

    Now minority parents are scrambling for hand outs of billionaires again, but this time for funding for charter schools.

    The rationale that many parents use to justify the stealing of public school space - forcing students to teach in the cafeteria and lose valuable science, library, music, and rooms for special ed services is - I have to do what's best for my child.

    Well, let's jump forward to a possible city with uncapped, limitless charter schools. What will be the rationale of the white billionaire hedge fund managers when they have to decide on which charter school to donate their money to. Will it be the charter school that their children or relative's children attend in the upper west side? Or will it be the Black and latino charter schools that is not even in their own neighborhood. Like the parent who made the comment, the answer will be - I have to help my own child.

    But there is no need to imagine. Just look at the states where charter schools have been entrenched thus far - Arizona, California, Michigan, etc. What we see is that not only has segregation increased, but that the majority (87%) of charter schools in minority areas are doing worse or equal to public schools (Stanford study).

    So, we have to ask ourselves - do we stand together and demand more funding and lower class sizes now for all students, - or buy that luxury house with an adjustable mortgage?


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