Lack Of DOE Communication Hit At CEC Meeting
Dozens of parents, local school faculty and members attended Monday evening's monthly School District 18's Community Education Council (CEC) meeting to discuss the Department of Education's modified plans in the new school building at 965 East 107th Street.
The original plan, approved by the council last year and formally announced by the DOE in January, called for an elementary school and middle school to share the property. However, in February, the DOE determined the elementary school was unnecessary for the community, so it added a transfer high school that is deemed better suited.
As reported in the Canarsie Courier's April 23rd issue, when residents protested the proposal at last month's Community Board 18 meeting, CEC members and some community residents were upset due to the DOE's lack of notification regarding the change.
Tania Shinkawa, of the DOE's Office of Portfolio Development, with assistance from the I.S. 366 Science and Medicine Middle School proposed school leader Ingrid Thomas-Clark and proposed high school leader Patrick McGillicuddy, were present at Monday's meeting to try and allay the community's concerns.
Shinkawa said the DOE's is scheduled to have the building open and ready in September for the new school year. But, she pointed out, plans have not been finalized due to the community's response to the change in plans.
"We discussed the changes through last summer and fall," she explained, "at district leadership meetings and asked for feedback from the community about what they'd like to see.
"After announcing the revised plans, we heard from the CEC and other folks about their concerns that the plans for the new building were not reflective of the things the community is looking for."
A DOE spokesperson confirmed yesterday that due to the community's opposition, it is considering different options before the matter is settled.
When the forum opened to public discussion, the concerns varied greatly, including the need to have the schools open, how students of each school would adapt to being in the same building given the difference in ages and the reasons for the transfer high school.
The major sticking point towards the DOE throughout the meeting remained their objection to the lack of communication between the school authority and the community in making the decisions.
City Councilman Charles Barron, whose district includes the school, stated his disgust for the rushed decision and lack of communication, "My office is researching the legality of this. You can't come before the city council and say you want one project then change your minds. It's unacceptable and disrespectful to our community to tell us one thing and then another. They said it would be an elementary school and middle school to help the children of the community then they say it's going to have a transfer high school. They didn't talk to us about it. We've got to battle to make sure we are respected. If we have to take it to court then we will do what we have to."
Following the meeting, CEC President James Dandridge stated the council's interest was to make sure the decisions of the DOE are made with its approval and there should be significant discussion beforehand.
"It's about the notification process. It's always after the fact and we have to take a stand somewhere. We need to have our representatives at the decision making process. We aren't against the transfer school. It's about the placement of the transfer school. We weren't able to decide what was put into that building. We were told it would be an elementary school and at the 11 o'clock hour we were told it would be a transfer school. We need to have the choice of where the transfer school is going to be placed and what is going to be placed in that building," he said.
Information on the new District 18 schools can be found at the DOE's web site: www.nyc.gov/ schools.