2011-12-16 / Community

Middle School Choice Discussion At Community Education Council

Meeting Set For 19/9 At PS/MS 114

A meeting that might well be critical for every public school parent in Rockaway will be held at PS/MS 114 in Belle Harbor on Monday evening.

The District 27 Community Education Council will meet for its monthly meeting at the school, 134-01 Cronston Avenue, at 7:30 p.m. and on the agenda for the evening is the Middle School Initiative.

While the city says that the initiative is necessary to create more choice for middle school parents, its Rockaway opponents charge that the initiative will limit the choices of west end parents and will increase the likelihood that the school will have to accept students from outside the MS 114 zone, while turning down students who live in Belle Harbor.

In addition, they say, the plan will redistribute the assignment of seats to qualified local applicants in the “only viable middle school of choice,” the Scholars’ Academy.

This will impact all of us, says one local school activist, who urges everybody to come to the meeting and be heard on the issue.

The activist said that her group has prepared an in-depth outline of their position regarding the Middle School Choice Initiative and urges everyone to take the time to read it to have a better understanding of why the group is opposed to this initiative.

They say that there continues to be “conflicting information concerning the Middle School Choice. As of December 12, 2011 we have been assured by Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey and Hazel Wellington, Administrative Assistant to the Community Education Council (CEC), that a vote has not yet been taken, nor have we been provided with a date that it will.”

“Parents have received a memorandum from the CEC addressing concerns regarding the MSC initiative. Many of the responses in this memorandum are responses to questions that we have asked and waited months for a reply to,” an organization spokesperson said. “We have read and dissected the information in the memo and remain opposed to this initiative for the following reasons:

“We disagree with the outline of the dates posted in the memorandum. Several parents from our building attended the June CEC meeting where it was clearly requested that the vote take place right at that meeting. Then CEC President Andrew Baumann advised those in attendance that the vote would be held at the July CEC meeting. The July meeting was heavily attended by parents of several schools, as well as by local politicians including but not limited to Eric Ulrich. Councilman Ulrich advised the CEC that he had no formal notification of this initiative despite the fact that he sits on the Mayor’s Education Panel. He urged the CEC members to shelve the vote until parents and community members had a better understanding of the initiative.

“Middle School Choice, in spite of its name, will ultimately remove the choices your child currently has to attend middle schools. It will mirror, although not exactly, the high school selection process where a student ranks their choices and a computer assigns that child a seat. For example a current fifth grader can receive multiple acceptances (including citywide, district wide and zoned schools) and then select the school he/she wishes to attend. Under the Middle School Choice initiative choice, only one offer will be made.

“It has been explained to us that one of the main goals of this initiative is to streamline the application process, as well as to limit the number of seats offered to one child. However, children will still have the opportunity to apply to a number of citywide schools that will not be included in a student’s individualized personalized application. For example, there will still be a separate application for up to 15 citywide school based application schools. In essence, the application process will not be completely streamlined to only one application.

“This initiative, like many other DOE based ‘solutions’ is not a solution to failing schools. It does nothing to help schools that are currently unsuccessful, nor does it help the students attending those schools. Much like ‘closing a high school’ and then opening 5 in the same location – how many of these “new” schools are truly successful? Simply giving children the ability to leave a failing school does nothing for the school and students that have been left behind in the process.

“It is our belief that MSC has the possibility of undermining neighborhood K- 8 schools, particularly higher performing schools. Up until now we have been able to control, based on careful prediction made by the administration, how many middle school classes will be in place each year. We will no longer have the ability to make these accurate predictions if the DOE assigns seats using a computer algorithm. This could potentially “enable” us to have the capacity to accommodate out of zone children, thereby diminishing the idea of a neighborhood school. A concept, we might add, that the DOE was strongly in favor of over eight years ago when there was a strong thrust to move schools to becoming true neighborhood K-8s. The idea at that time was that children could grow and feel comfortable not only in their own school, but in their own neighborhood, developing friends and participating in activities within their community.

“We truly are a geographically isolated community, different from many others who participate in this initiative throughout the city. We do not have the ability to move all of our current 5th grade population collectively to one specific middle school, as can be done in District 22, for example. In schools throughout District 22, an entire 5 grade population from one school (i.e. PS 277) can move en masse to Marine Park Junior High. In addition, these same children have several other viable middle schools from which to choose.

“Over the past several years we have seen many of our childrens’ options taken away from us, i.e. Bay Academy, Christa McAuliffe, David A. Boody, Andries Hudde, to name a few. In addition, we have witnessed a trend whereby fewer of our children are able to compete academically to secure seats at Scholars’ Academy. Finally, we are not aware of a formal plan in place to accommodate the large class sizes that are currently moving upward in our school.

“We have no way to gauge what impact the Middle School Choice initiative may have on Scholars’ Academy. Conceivably, as a result of the passing of this initiative, there may be fewer seats available to our children. “In essence, while Middle School Choice might be a good choice for other schools and Districts, we feel that for the various reasons stated above, it is not a good choice for our school and District 27.”

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