2003-12-12 / Front Page

MS 180 Parents Propose Plan To Cashin

Charge That Her Reorganization Plan is Racially Motivated -- Meeting At School On December 18 To Address Opposing Plans
By Howard Schwach
MS 180 Parents Propose Plan To Cashin

MS 180 Parents Propose Plan To Cashin
Charge That Her Reorganization Plan is Racially Motivated
Meeting At School On December 18 To Address Opposing Plans

Charging that a reorganization plan for Middle School 180 "calls for phasing out minority students while creating an open door policy for non-minority students," a parents group at the school has drafted an alternative plan that was presented to Community School Board 27 earlier this week.

"Dr. Cashin's plan is a serious violation of our children's rights both under civil law and the Federal No Child Left Behind Act," say the parents, who have formed a group called The Rockaway Organized Coalition for Forward Movement (ROCFM).

"We looked at Dr. Cashin's plan and felt that it was racially based and that it furthered the environment of excluding kids and keeping them separate from each other," Angelique Reid, a parent of a sixth grade student at the school and one of the new organization's founders told The Wave. "The plan is targeted towards children who have been told for years that MS 180 is a bad school and who don't want to bother with Black students."

"For the first time that I can remember, parents are standing up to the system and saying no to a plan," Reid added. "We have offered to sit down with Cashin, to have a dialogue, but so far, she hasn't responded."

Cashin's plan, detailed a few weeks ago, called for MS 180 to be closed and then reinvented as several distinct components, including a gifted program, called "The Scholar's Academy," that would require an application process and a grade 5-8 school for the upper grades at PS 114, which is reportedly too overcrowded to contain those grades at its Beach 135 Street building.

Students who go to both PS 183 and PS 225 would stay at those schools through grade 8 unless they qualified for the Scholar's Academy.

Those students are now zoned to go to MS 180 in the sixth grade, and many of the parents who are fighting the plan want it to remain so.

Instead of admitting only those students who clear the application process, the parent's plan would admit any zoned student from the feeder schools to one of a number of mini-schools:

A 100-seat "Collegiate Inclusion Academy" for the lowest performing and most at-risk students;

An "Urban Scholars Academy" for those students who are performing near or on grade level;

A "Gifted and Talented Academy" for those students whose talent is not academic in nature;

"The Regents Academy" that would be open only to the academically highest-performing students.

"We are proud that we have come up with a plan of our own that will not exclude our children from MS 180," Reid said. "If they want to exclude our kids from that building, they are in for a fight."

Aria Doe, another founder of the new organization and a member of MS 180's school leadership team, agreed with Reid.

"I have never seen as many people stand up and fight a plan like they are fighting this one," Doe said. "We have received the support of the NAACP and Congressman Gregory Meeks."

She pointed out that the parent associations of both PS 183 and PS 225, as well as the MS 180 parents association, back the new plan.

"It is important for Cashin to know that she works for the parents," Doe added. "We have the signatures of more than 2,000 parents who oppose her plan. Our plan is an inclusive plan rather than an exclusive plan. This is a new day for education in Rockaway."

"It is not right," she added," that kids have to apply for their zoned school.

And, while both Reid and Doe emphasized that they were not "trying to bash Cashin," they both said that her plan is blatantly discriminatory against the children in their community.

Eileen Murphy, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, issued a statement that read, "The Department of Education always welcomes input from parents."

Calls to Region Five for comment went unreturned.

Steve Greenberg, the president of Community School Board 27, said that the board would listen to the plan, but that it had little chance of being accepted unless the formal parents association group brings it to the table.

"We understand that the parents at PS 183 and PS 225 want their kids to have open access to MS 180," Greenberg said. "We left it at the table that their proposal is open for discussion."

The school board will hold a meeting at MS 180 at 7:30 p.m. on December 18. Cashin will make a formal presentation of her plan at that time and parents are hoping they will get equal time.

"I hope that everybody comes to the meeting with an open mind," Greenberg adds. "We want to hear anything that will help us make a decision."

Greenberg admits, however, that he is not sure whether the board will ever get to vote on either proposal.

"If all we are doing is moving the upper grades of PS 114 to MS 180, I don't know if that is a zoning issue that needs our vote," he said.

Reid, however, thinks that things are already rigged against her group.

"We had a permit to hold a talent show at MS 180 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on December 18," she said on Wednesday. "Today, we got a call that our permit had been pulled."

When she asked why, Reid was told that "We don't want all the people getting excited prior to the meeting at the school."

Reid, however, says that she expects hundreds of parents to attend and, she added, "to be very excited," particularly about what is being done to their children.

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