2012-01-13 / Columnists

East End Matters...

PS 215 – Reorganize, But Keep It Open
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

For those who have already read this week’s Beachcomber, I’d like to identify myself – I am the staffer who is very disappointed with the impending closing of PS 215. I went there in the 1960s when I lived on Bay 25 Street, right around the corner from the school. I also went to Cardozo Junior High School 198 and Far Rockaway High School, both of which have faded into the sunset. Now the same is being threatened for PS 215. At this rate, I, along with many others, are going to find ourselves without alma maters to call home. Thank goodness CUNY’s York College is well and thriving.

It is amazing to me how the Bloomberg administration, unlike others in the past, continually goes for the most drastic steps in repairing the problems in city schools. It seems that they only know how to cut and run in an effort to bring smaller schools inside the buildings of current schools.

I’ll admit the progress reports of the last few years for Lucretia Mott Elementary School, aka PS 215, is discouraging. It earned failing grades three years in a row, with grades getting worse each year: a C in the 2008-2009 school year; a D in 2009-2010; and in 2010-2011 it received an F.

At a meeting for teachers, parents and other stakeholders at Sorrentino Recreational Center on Tuesday night, PS 215 staff members talked about the Department of Education’s proposal to phase out the school, a school that not too long ago received an A rating on its progress report. Teachers outlined the problems that PS 215 has faced since receiving that A grade. According to teachers the school started losing services. Where once there were 10 academic intervention teachers to help students who have difficulty in school work, there are now none. The afterschool program was cut. Supplies are limited. There is now only one guidance counselor for the whole student body, when in 2007 there were two. Class sizes have increased; many exceed 30 children. Textbooks must be shared by classes. There is no copy machine on the premises. Staff has been reduced. And every year the budget has been reduced so that teachers have had to find new ways of doing more with less.

Staffers are not blind to the facts. They know that changes need to be made. But they don’t believe those changes include phasing out the school. Neither do I. As of now, the plan is to phase out PS 215 and phase in another school which will become the new zoned school. The new school would accept the same students as PS 215 and essentially do the same work as the current one – serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The only difference will be that a pre-kindergarten program is up in the air until it is known if funding will be available.

Basically, reorganization is what will take place with a new name given to the facility. Why spend the money on redeveloping what we already have? Why not put that money into repairing the status of PS 215? Put the needed money back into a school that, by decreasing its budget each year, was set up to fail.

Pierre Dupuy, a teacher at PS 215, pointed out that “the same teachers that got us an A are still there. They did not forget how to teach.” He said that the teachers are actually better “because we go to training. When one of us has a way of teaching, we share it with the others.”

What did change at PS 215 is that the DOE disinvested in the school and its students. Year after year after year the school’s budget has been cut by the DOE and increasingly the teachers have had to do more with less and less and less.

Opening in 1957, on the site of Norton’s Hill, PS 215 should be allowed to right itself. The DOE will hold a public hearing at the school, located at 535 Briar Place not far from the Beach 25 Street subway, on January 20 at 6 p.m. Those who want to comment on the proposed phase-out can do so by attending the hearing in person, calling 212-374- 7621, or by emailing your comment to D27Proposals@schools.nyc.gov.

Speak up. Make your voice heard.

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