My 7-year-old attends Central Park East II, one of two progressive elementary schools in East Harlem founded by famed educator Deborah Meier almost 40 years ago. Both CPEI and II have been trying to expand to a combined middle school for the past four years, and in 2012 the Department of Education told us the only thing standing in our way was lack of space in District 4. Cut to today: The DOE is giving away available space in the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex -- the same building that houses CPEI -- to the East Harlem Scholars Academy I and II charter schools.
You can read all about our struggle in the press and on our Facebook page, but I really want to put a personal face on our efforts. This isn’t about public school versus charter school. It’s about giving parents a choice.
When my daughter originally lotteried into pre-K at Central Park East II, I was thrilled. As a District 4 resident, I had toured many local schools and didn’t like most of my options. The “successful” elementary schools in District 4 tended to be strict, test-oriented institutions (both regular public schools and charters) where kids wore uniforms, were disciplined harshly and received little arts education -- everything I knew I didn’t want for my high-spirited daughter.
Four years later, she’s in second grade and thriving at CPEII. She loves to read, write and do math, she’s learning violin, and she’s studying NYC and birds. She never complains about going to school because to her it’s fun. There are no traditional tests or grades although there are certainly benchmarks, goals and frequent student evaluations, just without a number, letter or judgment attached.
The Department of Education constantly talks about how parents should have choices, and I agree. I’m glad the families who chose East Harlem Scholars Academy are happy. And I hope they respect the fact that I have opted for a progressive education for my child, and I don’t want it to end at fifth grade.
There are many reasons the CPE community believes we should get the space in the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex: