2002-11-23 / Front Page

Gearing Up For Battle

NAACP And Community Members Prepare For CSB 27 Meeting
By Gary G. Toms

Gearing Up For Battle
NAACP And Community
Members Prepare For CSB 27

Former City Councilmember Juanita Watkins shared her thoughts on the controversial plan with Community School Board member Ernest Brown during the November 19 emergency meeting.Former City Councilmember Juanita Watkins shared her thoughts on the controversial plan with Community School Board member Ernest Brown during the November 19 emergency meeting.

On Tuesday evening, November 19, representatives from the Far Rockaway chapter of the NAACP and residents from Redfern, Arverne and Ocean Village, met at the Battalion Pentecostal Assembly Church, 454 Beach 67 Street, to discuss a number of proposals they plan to present to members of Community School Board 27 on November 25. That meeting will be held at P.S. 105, 420 Beach 51 Street, at 7 p.m., and will continue to focus attention on the rezoning plan that District 27 officials want to implement. The plan has been fraught with controversy ever since district representatives introduced the plan earlier this month.

As reported in previous issues of The Wave, Marty Barr, a planning expert with the local school district, explained that the plan would have students who live in the Redfern Houses remain in the schools they now attend rather than attend the new school, PS 253, a school less than two blocks from their homes. The plan also called for a rezoning of the 400 Ocean Village children, who now attend PS 225 in Rockaway Beach to move back to their neighborhood schools - PS 105 and PS 42.

Many in the targeted areas denounced the plan, and it drew even greater opposition when Barr stated that if the low performing kids from Redfern attended P.S. 253, it would become a low performing school. Residents and prominent representatives from the black community felt the comment stemmed from a racial bias toward communities of color.

"We will definitely address the situation with Mr. Barr on November 25, and we also plan to present a number of proposals that we feel will help District 27, and members of the targeted communities, to reach some type of agreement," said Ed Williams, President of the NAACP's Far Rockaway chapter, at the November 19 meeting.

Community School Board 27 members Ernest Brown and David Hooks, Jr. attended the meeting, and they provided an overview of the District 27 plan to residents who had no prior knowledge of the district's intentions.

"No matter what the District plans to do, no one can force you to send your child to any particular school. Ultimately, the choice will fall upon the parent, as to where they want their child to attend school," said Brown.

"I was offended by the comment when it was stated, and I'm still bothered by it," said Hooks.

"I expressed my opinion that night, and I do not want or expect an official apology from the District. However, I do expect them to address this matter and prevent this type of thinking from permeating throughout the district."

Democratic District Leader Bob Simmons, Former Councilmember Juanita Watkins, Tammy Scruggs (who represented Assemblywoman Michele Titus), Simone Meeks (wife of Congressman Gregory Meeks) Pastor Donald Ventura (President of Lighthouse, Inc.), and Isaac Parsee (Co-chair of the local chapter's Education Committee) all took part in the strategy session, which at times was filled with tension.

"We are going to channel this energy and direct it at those who placed us in this uncomfortable situation. We are going to be ready, and we are going to make sure they know we are not playing games," said Williams.

The chapter president also noted that while the turnout for NAACP meetings to discuss the district's plan has been good, the community must make more of an effort to get involved and fight for the rights of their children.

"This is an issue that will have a major impact on our children and our community. This is not a joke, and people had better wake up before it's too late. In June, the Community School Board will cease to exist, and you'll have no one to speak for you. Are you going to wait until then to realize that our children and community are in serious trouble?" Williams exclaimed.

"On November 25, I expect to see P.S. 105 packed with people from Redfern, Arverne, Edgemere, Ocean Village, Hammels, and other sections of this peninsula. If they care about their children at all, they will be at this meeting. If people don't come out for this meeting, they will have no one to blame but themselves when the system fails them. In the end, their children are going to be the ones to suffer. Wake up people. It's time to wake up!"

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