2002-09-21 / Front Page

Raucous Meeting At PS 114

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

The meeting started with Parent Association Co-President Helen Kilgallen telling the packed auditorium at PS 114 that the start of the school year was "chaotic" and it deteriorated from there with challenges and invective hurled at the school’s new principal, Lisa Vecchione.

"This has been a most chaotic start to a school year," Kilgallen told the 400 parents and community activists packed into the school’s hot, stuffy auditorium. "We are here to address that fact."

After a presentation by Frank LoFaso, the district’s Administrator of Special Education, the chairperson of the association’s safety committee began to address safety issues at the school.

Billy Smith, the father of the seven-year-old boy who was missing for more than an hour on the second day of school, stood and told the audience that he was very concerned not only about the fact that his son was placed on the wrong bus, but because the principal’s perceived indifference to the problem caused the arrest of his wife.

When Vecchione got up to present her report, however, she failed to address Smith’s concerns. Instead, she thanked those parents who had painted class numbers on the school’s playground.

"You choose to talk about a number on a wall rather than a missing child," Smith yelled at the woman. "Why don’t you address my lost son and all of the other problems that people are speaking about here tonight?"

Vecchione went on with her report.

Parents, however, began to get up to report problems with the line-up for busing, with safety within the building, with replacing the school safety officer (who had been in the building for more than ten years), with the lunch program, with a fifth grade not programmed with any Science classes.

Vecchione attempted to answer the questions in her own way, but was often shouted or hooted down by the audience.

"Everything you’re saying is an excuse," one parent yelled. "You have not answered one question."

"I run a major corporation," said another woman. "What you need to do is step up to the plate and say that you’re sorry to that father and to everybody else in the audience."

A parent with a child in the kindergarten program said that he knew of some problems that he was having, but never thought that he would find "the deep dissatisfaction with the management of the school," that he found at the meeting.

"I am new in this community and in this school district," he said. "It is clear that the PA must work to do something to remediate this management problem before some children are harmed."

District 27 Deputy Superintendent Martin Weinstein, a Belle Harbor resident, supported the principal.

"When I ran my own school, I ran it in my own way," Weinstein said. " The principal has the ultimate supervisory authority in the school. If you have a complaint, take it up with the principal."

"Your concerns tonight have been heard. They might not be dealt with in the way you want them handled, but they have been heard," Weinstein added. "The superintendent supports the principal."

On Wednesday afternoon, the president of the Parent Association told The Wave that it planned to meet with a parent who is a lawyer to draw up a letter to the Chancellor, asking for some resolution of the problems at the school.

"We went to the principal and got no help," she said. "We went to the superintendent and we went to the district. There was no response. Now, we are going to the Chancellor to see what he can do for us."

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