Friday, February 22, 2013

Why DOE's claim to be responding to "parent choice" is a myth; the fight for a Progressive Middle School in District 4

The following is by Raven Snook, a parent in District 4.  WhileDOE often claims to be responding to "parent choice" they are really responding to the choice of privatizers, in their effort to expand charters as quickly as possible and give them space inside public school buildings, even when they already have leased alternatives, as in the example below.  Also whether the DOE thinks there is "space" in a school building often depends on who is asking for it, public school parents or charter operators. Here's a flyer with more information about the hearing on Feb. 27 and the vote by the PEP on March 11; you can also click on the Eventbrite invitation.

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:

-          CPE has a lauded almost 40-year history in the Harlem community.

-          District 4 has no progressive middle school options, and very few high-performing middle schools at all.

-          East Harlem Scholars Academy already has another building. The organization is leasing the defunct St. Lucy's Catholic School on East 104th Street for its after-school program, and the building could accommodate at least one of its schools, too. 

Next Wednesday, February 27 at 6pm, there is a hearing about the EHSA co-location in the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex. I plan to be there with my daughter and the rest of the CPE community. If you also value choice in education, I hope you’ll join us. The attached flyer has all of the information. You can also sign our online petition and add your thoughts.  -- Raven Snook


Anonymous said...

Wanted to sign your petition, but it disappeared. Might want to check.

Anonymous said...

Just checked, the petition is still there. Here is the URL