Parents rallied Tuesday at their local Community Education Council meeting, putting pressure on the Department of Education to install a new system for parents to request bus service for kids who must walk a hazardous route to school.
At the CEC 24 meeting that covers a swath of Queens including Middle Village and Ridgewood, parents in the audience cheered as the council voted unanimously to support a resolution asking to reveal an opaque process that parents say covers life and death.
Currently, students who walk a hazardous route to school have to apply individually to get a variance for bus service if it’s not provided already. The Department of Education decides case-by-case to grant these waivers or not.
Parents at the meeting denounced the current process, saying it’s unsafe and completely mystifying which variances are granted and which are turned down.
Doris Stroman, whose children attend P.S.229 in Maspeth, said she can’t get a waiver for her kids and she has no idea why because the process is so masked.
“If they’re working on the probability of someone getting hurt, I have been that person with my family,” she said.
She described a car accident where her car was struck by an 18-wheeler in the same intersection where her kids cross to get to school.
“It’s a gross hazard and even a more gross injustice,” she said.
This recommendation from the PEP asks for an independent review board with a public process to grant or deny variances.
It’s called the “Safety Hazard Advisory Review Program” (SHARP) for each district. It would be comprised of three CEC members, the district’s superintendent, four DOE representatives and an appointee by the borough president.
Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens’ representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, penned the resolution, and now he’s shopping it to local CECs to mount pressure on the PEP and Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education Dennis Walcott, who holds the final say.
“The proposed resolution that I put forth to the panel is something that every single district in the city needs,” Fedkowskyj said. “We need to have a transparent process in place.”
He asked parents at the meeting to flood the DOE with new requests for variances to show support and added that CECs 27 and 30 already voted to recommend there solution be implemented.
“Let the DOE know that you are watching them,” he said.
Fedkowskyj’s resolution cites that only 42 out of 468 requests for hazard variances in Queens were granted. Out of those 42, only 18 were at public schools.
He joined the CEC in blasting unilateral decisions made by DOE.
“What this administration does is they preach one thing and they do another,” said CEC president Nick Comaianni, criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s call for parent involvement and what he sees as a lack of communication back from the administration.“This chancellor in the entire time he’s been chancellor has yet to answer an email to this council, not once.”
The resolution will most likely be voted on by the PEP in February, Fedkowskyj said.
By Jeremiah Dobruck