Parents residing in Community Education Council District 27 made it loud and clear last week that they want no part of a controversial proposed plan offering their children enrollment in six schools outside of their original schools.
Two weeks ago parents around the district received a notice from the city Department of Education that offered fifth graders the option of applying to six schools, including Brian Piccolo Middle School 53 and The Academy of Medical Technology—both in Far Rockaway—Eagle Academy for Young Men III within District 29, Village Academy Q319, Phillipa Schuyler Junior High School 383 in Brooklyn, and the Young Women’s Leadership School in District 28.
The problem, according to parents who attended the Dec. 8 Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meeting, was that according to the letter, every student in District 27 would have to complete an application by today, Dec. 16, or else risk being placed in a school “based upon zone, eligibility and available space”.
Mary Hansen, a Howard Beach parent with a fifth grade child, was angry that she received such short notice about the application. Furthermore, Hansen said that many of the schools on the list were in sub par neighborhoods.
“The only schools that this [initiative] truly will benefit are in [expletive] neighborhoods,” she said, adding that middle school choice took away the ability of District 27 parents to choose whether their children could stay in their local schools.
Another parent at the meeting suggested that by DOE implementing this program, it would eventually drive families out of local neighborhoods and further out to places such as Long Island.
Theresa Fonal, president of PTA 27 and a local parent of a fifth grader, said the issue was one that was of particular importance to her. “This is all I think about. I eat, sleep and breathe this. I just don’t know what to do with this application,” she said.
Fonal told parents at the meeting that they should not fill out the applications, while she would seek a letter from the DOE stating that, if parents do not fill out the applications, they could continue to attend PS 146.
The DOE was contacted on Tuesday for comment.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who was in attendance at the meeting, spoke out against the plan, advising parents that they did not have to turn in the application if they chose not to. Furthermore, Ulrich said he had a meeting with members of the DOE and had been told that families who did not submit such documentation would not be penalized.
Ulrich also criticized the DOE’s policy, adding that the policy appeared to be favoring certain schools while punishing others.
Reminding parents that the council tabled their scheduled vote on the matter in August, Raymond McNamara, council member of CEC 27, said the council was still in the process of gauging parents’ reaction to the proposal before reaching a decision on whether to accept it.
“We have not voted on middle school choice, nor will we until we hear your voice on the subject,” he told parents Thursday.
At several points, the chatter from parents in the room became so loud that meeting organizers had to call for order. Ulrich urged them to take their grievances to the next CEC meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at P.S. 114 Belle Harbor School, at 134-01 Cronston Avenue.
“We’ll fight the battle to stop middle school choice at the CEC meetings. That battle cannot be fought here,” said Ulrich.
By Jean-Paul Salamanca