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Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Brooklyn parent reports on the WNYC/Schoolbook forum on "school choice"

See also NY Times/Schoolbook and GothamSchools on this forum. Here is the account from a Brooklyn parent who wishes to remain anonymous:
Last night I attended the WNYC/Schoolbook forum on “school choice” which turned out to be mostly about promoting Schoolbook--no surprise. Jodi Rudoren of the Times kicked off the evening by telling us all to go on Schoolbook and add comments on our children's schools. 
The Walcott conversation with Brian Lehrer was about what you'd expect. Some gentle probing, but they filtered out any slightly difficult questions by having the audience submit them on index cards or via Twitter. I didn't hear any Twitter questions answered. An OWS person tried to disrupt things and was hauled away after a while. Walcott just kept hammering away on the world as he sees it, where choice and small schools are all that matter.  A 12-year old who attended summed him up nicely: "He just keeps talking about how hard his job is." 
Walcott left and was followed by the panel discussion, led jointly by Beth Fertig and Brian Lehrer. This was a lot more interesting, and I came away impressed by several of the panelists. Kelvin Diamond, the Dist. 13 CEC member, struck me as a decent guy, very committed to building schools and community. His daughter attends Philippa Schuyler, a good middle school in Brooklyn, and he's been in the thick of the high school search. He spoke about how frustrating it was for parents to try to get sense out of the DOE, either about their children's situation or in a more activist role, i.e. through the CEC.
 The 8th grade teacher, Laura Klein, and the principal, Rashid Davis, both of whom have been blogging on Schoolbook, were terrific, actually, and seem like professionals who are very aware of their students and what they can and can't do for them. They both mentioned the fact that by the time kids get to high school, they've had ten years in the system already, and there are limits on what they can achieve. The charter school operator, Miriam Raccah of Achievement First, formerly of Girls Prep, said very little. The parent, Carla Trujillo, is a Mexican immigrant who spoke via a translator. She spoke about the difficulties of negotiating the process without knowing English, of the limitations of having one's child translate at school fairs, and so forth. They also ran a video that showed kids who'd been through the process talking about what had happened: honest and engaging teens.
Lots of bloggers and journalists were there, in addition to parents, quiet a few of whom were from the neighborhood.  But not enough to fill the auditorium, which was quite large and I wondered if they'd expected more of a crowd.  [Note from LH: Despite the frequent announcements on WNYC about how this event would help parents navigate the choice process, the event occurred the week after the high school applications were due.]  
They had perhaps a couple of hundred people, a mix of middle-class parents and those who looked as if they might be school employees. Walcott came in with Tish James, *the neighborhood's* city council rep, who has been dedicated to fighting for local schools. Anyway, I attended mostly because I have a 7th grader, and because it was a few blocks from where I live. It didn't tell us much about the high school process that we did not already know, but it was interesting to see Walcott as the face of mayoral control, with no acknowledgement of what real parents and children face every day.
And we all came away thinking a lot about the difference in choices--and likely outcomes--for our middle-class, high-achieving children and for those young people who have been born with very different opportunities.


Anonymous said...

When I saw "run down the clock with verbiage" Walcott and members of the charterocracy were being featured, I cancelled my plans to go.

Anonymous said...

Why do we accept the DoE's decision to call this "match" process school "choice"? The only choice we get is "take it or leave it". We put down the names of schools we hope to attend - a list of 12 - from a selection of 300. And we hope the DoE "computer" gives us one of our preferences. That is a "hobson's choice". A real choice is if you get three offers and you choose one. Shame on DoE.

Heart boken parent said...

I went to a meeting in P.S. 216 in brooklyn to meet Walcott. It was a open meeting to ask him any question you wanted. What a waste of time that was! I asked why doesn't the board of education recognize dyslexia children? He had no clue, some women took my name and number and i never heared a word. My son is struggling in school or two years, they put him in a ctt class with no improvement whats so never. I fought wih the school, the board of education. I got no results or support that i need to help my child to be successfuly throughtout his years in school. What happened to a free and appropriate education? You always hear about the negative in your children. They should bring back black boards, sitting in row not tables. Also bring back phonics. The teachers should stop depend on children to teach other children. Our taxes are paying their salaries so why they teach. They also want a child o evelated i think they should once a year. If they can have english as a second language or a gifted children they should have the sources o teach dyslexia children. They favorite words are his not trying harder enought or he needs o study more. They should look up dyslexia on their smart boards and maybe they can learn to teah children wih this disability. I also get a hold over letter. They could put that where the un doesn't shine. I'll never give up on my eight year son. I am his advocate and i will not give p until i get what i want fo thr proper education he deserves!!!!!