Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Wave Reports: Peninsula Prep Academy Charter Tosses 5-Year Old

The Wave of Rockaway reports on the actions of Peninsula Prep Academy Charter, a Rockaway school founded by State Senator Malcolm Smith - talk about scams -  in a front page article by Editor Howard Schwach, published April 8, 2011. (Just wait 'till you see the videos of the interviews I did with former charter school parents at a Brooklyn charter school on how kids are treated.) Howie is a retired teacher and this week alone The Wave has at least 4 articles on education - and it's not my week to publish my column - the most extensive education coverage of any weekly newspaper (other than Ed Week).

Expulsion At Five

Parent Charges School ‘Stigmatizes’ Son
By Howard Schwach
The Peninsula Preparatory Academy, a local charter school, is trying to expel a kindergarten student for bad behavior. The Peninsula Preparatory Academy, a local charter school, is trying to expel a kindergarten student for bad behavior. The motto of the Peninsula Preparatory Academy charter school on Beach 111 Street is “The Future is Bright,” but for one little five-year-old kindergarten student, the future looks bleak.

The young boy, whose name is being withheld by The Wave because of his age, was suspended three times this school year by Principal Ericka Wala. His mother, Latesha Thompson is scheduled to face the school’s board of directors and an expulsion hearing later this month.

“They’ve provided my son with an unfair start to his school career,” Thompson told The Wave last week. “They have stigmatized him because the suspensions and the expulsion will be on his permanent school record forever. They have not given him a chance for a decent life.”

In a suspension letter dated March 2, Wala wrote, “We regret that we find it necessary to suspend your son for five days due to the following behavior: disrupting the educational process; being insubordinate; defying or disobeying the lawful authority of school personnel; using force against school personnel, hitting the teacher and engaging in an act of coercion or threatening violence, injury or harm to another.”

These, the mother points out, are the charges against a tiny five-year-old in his first year in a public school setting.”

“The allegations are outrageous,” Thompson said. “My son is a strong-minded little boy who is learning new things every day and he is never aggressive or threatening.”

She says that the teacher asked her son to get out of his seat and he refused.

The teacher then grabbed him hard by both his collar and his arm to get him out of the seat, his mother alleges. He swung at her to get her to let go and hit her hand.

The principal told Thompson that her son had “verbally abused” an assistant principal after the incident.

The principal also said that her son headbutted two other children, but refused to supply any details to the parent.

Thompson believes that the school gave up on her son after he was suspended for the first time in early October. He was suspended again in early March and then again on March 18.

“The school says he can’t stay because he has behavioral problems because they don’t want to deal with a kid who gives them more work than they want to do,” Thompson says. “I came forward because I don’t want any other parents at PPA to have to go through what I am going through. Schools shouldn’t treat either young children or their parents this way. I hope they get away from the harsh punishments they give out such as what they did to my son. I hope they learn to deal with children who may present a problem.”

Thompson says that she may not attend the board meeting in which she expects her son to be expelled.
I am looking for a new school for my son,” she said. “I don’t want him to have to go back there.”
The Wave’s calls to the school were referred to the Department of Education, which sponsors the school.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education declined to comment.

A reader left this comment blaming the parent which exposes the farce of the charter schools which are touted as part of the "no excuses" ed deform movement.

The child was not expelled

The child was not expelled arbitrarily. It is in the interest of the school and the folks running it to keep the students there. When I child, even one of 5 years--becomes a problem, he takes educational opportunity and valuable time away from other students having to deal with unwanted behavior.

The school's mandate is not have to deal with poor parenting, but rather educating the boy. By the looks of the story, the school made a principled and correct decision in expelling this boy. It will benefit the others in his class and the boy himself, if allowed to learn from it by the parent. Looks like this is not the case.

Using the euphemism "strong minded" to frame, unruly, poorly disciplined and violent, is laughable. Instead of pointing an index finger at the school, perhaps this parent should take note of the other three pointing back at her. The trouble this boy had started at home and can only be solved there, but by the tone of her response, that does not seem likely. Poor kid, the biggest hurdle to his educational growth is his own parent. 
This kid will end up in a local public school which cannot expel him and if he needs services, he will get them. And if he has issues, some teachers will go mad trying to deal with them. If he disrupts his class other parents will rail about how bad public education is and will consider moving their kid to a charter school. Thus the creaming process that over a decade will result in a desecrated public school system.
Charters claim to be public schools but act like private entities all the while using public tax dollars as part of a dual and dueling school systems.


  1. My public school in Harlem has taken in 6 Harlem Success Academy Charter School (HSA) students who were labeled the same way that this charter school labeled and demonized the kindergartener they are trying to expel. ALL of these students have needs that were not addressed at HSA. Good intentions do not educate children, skilled and experienced Educators do, neither of which were present enough at HSA. These students, like you said Norm, now have skilled Educators who are working tirelessly to connect and reach these children. They are now in a public school that doesn't kick children out when they aren't perfect little widgets. We are caring for these children with understanding, patience and nurturing. None of these things existed for these 6 children at HSA. Charters are not public or they would do their jobs and educate all children, not just the easy ones.

  2. I've met parents like her. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

  3. Its terribly sad when reporters fail to conduct proper research on the stories they are publishing. I have two kids currently enrolled in PPA. And as an involved parent can attest to the apparent misinformation and false sense provided by this reporter. PPA is the kind of school that accepts anyone with the belief that ALL kids can progress with time, patience and persistence which is obvious with the show of diversity displayed in this school. When a kid is suspended or transferred from this type of school is because extensive and exhaustive measures have been taken and both the kid and his parents have completely refused to accept any productive assistance. At this point this kid needs special education and very special attention to correct any issues he may be experiencing. This kid can recieve this in the appropriate school with the appropriate environment while not serving as a continous impediment for those kids that do want to learn in PPA.

  4. But you miss the point. Charter schools can't service these kids and public schools must. If public schools could dump these kids somewhere and use the resources for the other kids their performance levels would be higher and there would be no call for charters. It is an unfair playing field.

  5. While any rational and reasonable person would hope for some sort of egalitarian system of education where you charters were not so appealing to those familes who may feel helpless and desperate within the segregated state of public education, you must make sure that you do not lose sight of the unique set of circumstances each school presents.

    One story cannot paint the true picture of the inner workings of a school, no matter how politically attractive they may be to anti-charter critics as a whole. This is not one of the megachains of for-profit charters cherrypicking their students. Ive walked down the halls of PPA enough times during my sons enrollment there to see the effort and patience that the current staff and administration make for our kids. Ive worked with the kids as a volunteer flag football coach as well, which has also afforded me an opportunity to say that kids with special needs make up a very sizeable portion of PPA's students and there is NO effort to push these kids and into district schools. My son has special needs and the school has worked with me to accommodate him and he has excelled.

    Norm you know from our conversation that I understand the dynamics of charters and what they mean and where theyre coming from but you must understand that it was only until I had "skin in the game", was I able to put the kids of our community ahead of my politics and see it for what it is: not the caricature of an eva moskowitz school, but rather an independent and improving school who is serving the needs of our community in spite of the rough start, politically and academically, from where it began.

  6. Personal experience does count for something Josmar and I give you the benefit of the doubt. That doesn't negate the bigger issue related to charter schools as a whole and a concept --- that they cannot serve the most difficult children who end up in public schools.

    I heard a story today from someone that the reason they are closing PPA is that Malcolm Smith did something to PO Bloomberg and this is political retaliation. Whether true or not I would use it as ammo.


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