Black Jeered At First PEP Meeting
Cathie Black got a rough introduction to NYC school politics at the January 19 Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting at Brooklyn Technical HS during the public comment period where each speaker was allowed two minutes. “This is what happens at these meetings,” said one speaker. “Get used to it.”
The most contentious issue was the placement of a fourth school, a clone of the successful Manhattan downtown Millenium HS, within the Park Slope John Jay Campus, which currently contains three schools. Children of color mostly populate these schools and many Park Slope parents are reluctant to send their children to them. There were concerns that Millenium will be geared to attract these white students, thus creating a segregated situation within the walls of the same building and charges of “racism” rang out from numerous speakers.
Representatives of the three current John Jay schools also charged that the campus had been denied resources for years, a common charge from schools claiming the goal of the DOE was to create a “failure” situation to make them prime candidates for closure. Remarkably, two of the three principals of these schools made strong statements condemning the DOE for this practice. A story emerged later in the meeting that one of these principals had spent $5000 of her own money to put in a bell system for the building. The same charges of purposeful under-resourcing schools have been made by supporters of Beach Channel and Jamaica HS, the two large Queens schools targeted for closure. The proposal called for putting more resources into campus, but only if Millenium was added to the building. As expected, the PEP voted to insert Millenium.
Black had opened the meeting with a written statement that took direct aim at teachers calling for an end to last in first out (LIFO), reforming pensions and a solution to the ATR problem created when teachers are left without teaching positions when their schools are closed. “We must come to a compromise on the ATR pool, the one million one hundred thousand teachers who receive full salaries and benefits without having permanent positions in the classrooms,” said Black, apparently getting confused between the number of children attending NYC schools and the number of ATRs, estimated at around 1200. Black was booed and jeered during her statement, especially when she mentioned Mayor Bloomberg’s name.
Other groups used their time at the microphone to serenade Black and the Panel with lyrics like “You ain’t gonna close this little ole school of mine.” With closing school votes and more charter co-location votes due to come up, more PEP meetings have been scheduled for February 1 and 3 and March 1.
The February 1 meeting is expected to be particularly contentious due to Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Charter school attempt to take over part of the Brandeis HS campus on the upper west side. Brandeis is similar to the John Jay situation in that it is situated in a mostly white neighborhood. Moskowitz has shifted from trying to attract children of color to white students, flooding the west side with ads arguing that by attending her school, parents can save $30,000 a year in private school tuition, a tactic some other charter school supporters frown on, viewing it a perversion of the original charter school intention to reach into the poorest areas of the city.
Moskowitz is organizing buses of supporters to come down to the hearing while the UFT is organizing a premeeting rally, all to take place at Brooklyn Tech on February 1.