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Friday, October 12, 2007

Is there adequate public review for charter schools? Letter from Marge Kolb

Here is a letter to the New York State Board of Regents from Marge Kolb, a parent leader in Queens. It points out that while state law requires a public review process by members of the community before the applications of charter schools are approved, in NYC this occurring without sufficient notice and information being disclosed to parents.

At the September Community Education Council meeting in D24 (Queens) the prospective Principal and AP for La Cima, a proposed charter school, made a public presentation. I am a former member of that CEC and the current D24 designee to CPAC. I was at the La Cima presentation and I have the following comments:

  • I believe there is a requirement under state law that prospective charter schools seek public opinion. If that was what was trying to be accomplished at the September CEC meeting, I must point out that there was not adequate notice given to the "public." The CEC agenda only listed an item under the District Superintendent's monthly report which said "presentation regarding charter schools by DOE officials." It did NOT say that it was a public hearing or request for public input regarding a new charter school proposed for Jackson Heights or Corona.

Consequently, affected parties from those neighborhoods were not put on notice. For this reason, I believe this charter school must be heard from again at a future CEC meeting. (In fact, I met some PTA members from a Corona school, PS 19, a week after the CEC meeting and they told me that their parent coordinator had told them it wasn't necessary for them to attend CEC meetings!)

  • I object to this charter school being placed in any current or future DOE facility in D24. If the school organizers are able to find their own space, so be it, but inasmuch as D24 is one of the most overcrowded districts in NYC, especially in the Corona area, any use of public school space for a charter school - which can cap class size and overall enrollment and accept students from outside the school zone (and indeed, outside the district) would only serve to increase overcrowding in other area schools. The new school which will open in September 2008 in Corona is already going to be at- or over-capacity accepting students from the two nearby schools (PS 19 and PS 16).
  • I didn't think the idea of the La Cima school was particularly unique. The speakers said it would be a dual-language school which celebrates Hispanic culture and seeks to involve parents. PS 19 in Corona already has a dual language program and I believe one of the DOE's core values is to involve parents. Furthermore, I defy anyone to identify a school in D24 which does not "celebrate diversity."

Finally, on a note about dual-language programs, I looked into the question of whether my zoned school, PS 229, could have a dual-language program and was told by the District Superintendent that Central places a cap on the number of such programs that any given district can have. Why would you deny such programs to public schools and then sponsor a Charter School just because it plans such a program?

Thank you for your consideration of the above.

Marge Kolb, Woodside, NY

For more on this issue, see our recent posting on charter schools.

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