Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lawsuit filed to stop the closure of PS 25, the 4th best public elementary school in NYC according to the DOE

Update: Please send a letter to the Mayor and the DOE opposing the closure now!

A good article about the lawsuit was published in the Bklner;  another shorter one in Chalkbeat.  I also explained about why PS 25 should be kept open on Diane Ravitch's blog here.  As Diane wrote, "Did Mayor DeBlasio forget that he campaigned on the promise to support public schools against the voracious expansion of charter schools?"



For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Contact: Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329; leoniehaimson@gmail.com

Lawsuit filed to stop the closure of PS 25, the 4th best public elementary school in NYC according to the DOE



Today a lawsuit was filed in the Brooklyn State Supreme Court against the proposed closure of P.S. 25 Eubie Blake in District 16, Brooklyn, a zoned neighborhood school, which Chancellor Carmen Farina and the Board of Education are attempting to close without the prior approval of the Community Education Council.

Last month, on February 28, the Panel on Educational Policy voted to close the school which will require students to seek enrollment in other schools, with no assurance of admission. Not only is it a violation of NY State Education law 2590-e to close the only zoned school in the neighborhood without the district CEC’s prior approval, but P.S. 25 is also the fourth best public elementary school in NYC in the estimation of the Department of Education, and the second best in the borough of Brooklyn, when the need level of its students is taken into account.

According to the DOE’s School Performance Dashboard, which according to Chancellor FariƱa is ““the most advanced tool of its kind,” the positive impact of P.S. 25 is greater than all but three of the city’s 661 public elementary schools, and its closure would leave the entire city-owned building to Success Academy Bed Stuy 3, a charter school. [1]

Achievement levels of P.S. 25 students have steadily climbed over the last three years, and the school now exceeds the city average in state test scores, despite the fact that a large percentage of students are homeless, economically disadvantaged, and/or have disabilities. According to DOE’s figures, the school’s students outperform similar students by 21 percentage points in ELA and math. The achievement of the more than thirty percent of students with disabilities is also exceptionally high.

The school also meets or exceeds standards in all the following areas: Effective School Leadership, Trust, Collaborative Teachers, Rigorous Instruction, Strong Family-Community Ties, and Supportive Environment.

Plaintiff Crystal Williams, a parent of two children at P.S. 25, said: “The school has seen a big improvement in recent years. The teachers are excellent. They give students close support, and my kids are learning. The teachers take their time in part because they have small classes, and I don’t believe my children would be provided with the same quality of education at whatever other schools they are forced to attend.”

“PS 25 should be honored and replicated, not closed,” said Mark Cannizzaro, President of the Council for School Supervisors and Administrators, the principals’ union. “The school has been on a clear, upward trajectory: Dedicated school leaders and teachers have helped boost English and math test scores ever higher compared to the district and the city as a whole. All the while, PS 25 has made great strides in addressing students’ social and emotional needs, and has offered them a vibrant curriculum with art, music, library skills, coding and STEM classes. We continue to oppose this decision. The students, families and educators of PS 25 deserve better.”

Said Shakema Armstead, a plaintiff who has a third grader at PS 25, “My son, who has an I.E.P, loves the school. It gives him and other students with a sense of community and stability that allow them to thrive. There is no reason for them to be thrown into another school where they would have to re-adjust to an entirely new environment, especially as P.S. 25 is doing so well.”

There is a precedent for this lawsuit. In 2009, a lawsuit was filed against Chancellor Joel Klein on behalf of parents at three neighborhood zoned schools, in Harlem and Ocean Hill-Brownsville area, to prevent the closure of these schools without a vote of the relevant CECs. The lawsuit was joined by Randi Weingarten, then President of the UFT, and NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. Within weeks, Chancellor Klein withdrew the closure proposals.[2] He subsequently signed the following settlement agreement:

The [plaintiffs and the DOE] agree with regard to the three schools identified in the Complaint and any other traditional public school that, for those grades that are within the province of school attendance zones, [the DOE] will not close, phase-out, remove, alter or engage in conduct designed to effect the closure of any such school in a way that deprives residents of the right to send a qualifying child to his or her zoned traditional school, without either (1) obtaining, pursuant to 2590-e(11) of the Education Law, the approval of the relevant Community Education Council as to such change or (2) timely replacing such school with another zoned school within the same attendance zone.

In this case, DOE has no plans to create another zoned school for these children, and yet no vote of Community Education Council 16 has occurred. The DOE claims that the school is being closed because it is under-enrolled, but this ignores several important factors: Parents have not been told of the exceedingly high quality of the school according to the DOE’s own metrics, and if they had been informed of this, more of them would likely enroll their children in the school. The DOE could also install another preK or a 3K program in the school. The availability of space has also allowed for very small classes, which in turn have provided PS 25 students with an exceptional opportunity to learn.

Said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, “It would be tragic if the second best elementary school in Brooklyn were closed. PS 25 has very small classes of 10 to 18 students, which are ideal for such high-poverty students. Given how the DOE refuses to align the school capacity formula with smaller classes, that alone makes the school appear underutilized. It would be extremely disruptive if this closure occurs, especially for the large number of homeless children at PS 25, because the school is a sanctuary of stability in their lives. Instead of closing PS 25, the DOE should celebrate, emulate and expand it—and give more NYC children the same chance to succeed.”

A copy of the lawsuit is posted here and below.
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[1] https://tools.nycenet.edu/dashboard/#dbn=16K025&report_type=EMS&view=City

[2] https://www.nyclu.org/en/press-releases/response-nycluuft-lawsuit-doe-announces-it-will-keep-schools-open




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