The Community Education Council District 24 and parents criticized the city Department of Education (DOE) for its lack of action to get students the seats they need.
Peter Vercessi, vice president of CEC 24, said that parents had been complaining that their children, who currently cannot be accommodated at P.S. 153 in Maspeth have been told there are seats available in neighboring schools around the area. However, they were not being directed to P.S. 290 in Maspeth.
“We set up 290 to take care of overflow,” CEC 24 President Nick Comaianni said. “There are 18 free seats at 290.”
District Superintendent Madeline Taub-Chan said the DOE Division of Portfolio Planning is doing everything they can to place students, and that she would continue to speak with parents and administrators to find the best solutions.
“Portfolio is working diligently to place students. But I also know a lot of parents are not pleased about those placements,” she said.
Comaianni said that Portfolio and new Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott are “dropping the ball.”
“They still don’t know our district. It seems every time someone starts learning the district, they get sent to another position,” Comaianni added.
At P.S. 7 in Elmhurst, where the meeting was held, parents said Principal Sara Tucci was not efficiently using her budget to handle overcrowding. The school hired two new assistant principals—bringing the total to four.
Taub-Chan said she has had discussions about this issue, and there were defined reasons why Tucci needed more administrative help. Yet, neither Taub-Chan nor the parents were given the rationale for the hires.
“My opinion is teachers before assistant principals,” Comaianni said.
Glendale’s I.S. 119 is also facing severe overcrowding—the school does not even have enough bathrooms for all the students, one parent said. The CEC board has been working with the School Construction Authority to find a site to build a new school to handle the overflow or to build an extension or a brand new school on the playground of I.S. 119.
As schools become overcrowded, other services are cut. Stephanie, a parent in Elmhurst, said her daughter was disadvantaged because P.S. 7 has no pre-k program. “Considering [the state testing] rising standards, I think her not being in a pre-k class puts her behind.”
Comaianni explained that a learning grade—kindergarten to eighth grade—will always take precedence over pre-k. “Pre-k is good, I wish we could put them in every school,” he said. But he said he would always favor adding more seats to a learning grade, even if it meant cutting pre-k programs.
Comaianni also briefly reviewed the Queens Central Academy, a new charter school approved by SUNY last week. He said charter schools exist to make money, and the school administrators failed to show the board a viable business plan.
“It’s a private school that uses public funds. They just want to get started so they can make money,” he said.
Taub-Chan reminded parents summer school will begin for students who did not meet testing criteria. In District 24, P.S. 7, P.S. 88, I.S. 5, I.S. 61, I.S. 93 and I.S. 125 will be open for summer school. Students will be re-tested on August 8 and 9.
by David J. Harvey