Angry Community Responds To Charter School Proposal
“We are the people who live here” was the defining mantra heard loud and clear following an emotional monthly District 18 Community Education Council (CEC) meeting on Monday night. There was a palpable mix of fear and disapproval toward the potential of charter schools jamming into existing public schools.
Department of Education’s (DOE) Portfolio Department Associate Planner Kim Wong and DOE Executive Director Paymon Rouhanifard delineated the benefits of their proposal for a charter school to co-locate at P.S. 114, but was heavily panned by fuming parents and teachers. Residents were mainly angered since they believed that even if a public school garnered an “A” rating, they still run the risk of being co-located.
Co-location is placing multiple schools in one building.
“With co-locating, there will always be friction,” Wong conceded.
President of CEC 18 James Dandridge reminded residents that the representatives of the portfolio department were merely “messengers,” and this forum was meant to present new proposals for District 18 here. There will be time for a prudent and political solution. District 18 Superintendent Beverly
Wilkins, Rhonda Joseph, Cherry R. Phillip Sr., Eusbio Hooke, Hon. Dandridge, and Allison J. Williams made up the members on the dais.
Another problem with charter schools co-locating is not just the shared space, but also a growing feeling of superiority some charter school students have toward existing public school students, according to some parents.
“They feel they are better because they are told they are,“ one woman remarked.
District 18 includes many high achieving elementary and middle schools, like I.S. 211, at East 100th Street and Avenue J, but large neighborhood high schools have deteriorated in recent years, and more charter schools have been established in the area.
“We do respect the work of I.S. 211, a tremendously successful middle school, in District 18,” said Wong, appearing sensitive to the residents’ primary concerns. “And all those issues will be addressed, including principals who will propose how to co-exist with scheduling, and also dealing with shared space …” he added. Parents and teachers were hardly satisfied, however; they could not see the justification of enabling public schools be overrun by charter schools.
Charter schools follow the same curricular standards as traditional public schools and are subject to the same accountability metrics. Students who apply to charters are chosen by the lottery, unlike public magnet schools, which often require admission testing.
Hon. Phillip told residents that, “charter schools introduce a death nil to public schools” and that the education to students at the existing public schools could be compromised as a result. Colocating a charter school in existing public schools in this district is “the wrong move,” he said.
His sentiments were met with applause by parents and teachers.
“We don’t agree that our space should be shared,” Dandridge agreed.
Dandridge also encouraged residents to continue letting their voices be heard, and to attend the council’s strategy meeting on Thursday, April 5th, to address political figures and vote to save existing public schools.
“We need to take a very strategic approach,” added community activist Tiffany Tucker. “I commend the CEC for the steps taken thus far and I am very concerned about what is happening.”