PS 215 Teachers, Parents Meet To Discuss School Closing
For the first time since the announcement that PS 215 in Far Rockaway is slated to be phased out, teachers, parents, students and union representatives met for an hour-long session Tuesday evening to discuss the impending closing at a well attended meeting at Sorrentino Recreational Center.
After three years of receiving failing grades on its yearly progress report from the Department of Education, PS 215 – Lucretia Mott Elementary School – is now threatened with being phased out.
In the 2008-2009 school year, it received a C; in 2009-2010, a D; and in 2010-2011 it received an F. As a precursor to a public hearing on January 20, teachers outlined to parents the problems that have brought the school to the edge of being phased out and what they can do about it.
According to teachers, after the school earned an A on its progress report several years ago, PS 215 started losing services. Where once there were 10 academic intervention teachers to help students who have difficulty in schoolwork, 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 to where many exceed 30 children.
Teacher Kelly Moroney, a Rockaway native, said, “We were once well equipped with textbooks, workbooks, paper, pencils and a copy machine. The library on the main floor was open for student access. …Many things that we took for granted disappeared. We often don’t have enough textbooks and we’re often running from class to class sharing. …Workbooks don’t even get ordered any more. Necessities such as pencils and paper are very low in supply. The copy machine we used to have, we don’t even have anymore. …If we need copies we need to go elsewhere.
“The budget cuts implemented by Mayor Bloomberg on PS 215 have had a tremendous detrimental effect on our school and our community.”
Teacher Pierre Dupuy said, “The same teachers that got us an A are still there. They did not forget how to teach.”
He added, “The only thing that’s been going on [since the A grade] is our budget’s been going down. From the time we got an A to now, every year the general education budget gets lower.”
Hetha Lawrence, currently the only guidance counselor at the school would not blame the problems on the school, but instead the DOE. She believes that the city could do more for the struggling school.
“My question is, how could the Department of Education fail our children? How could they close a school without exhausting every possible measure?” asked Lawrence. “In the end the ones that are losing are the children.”
Coralanne Griffth-Hunte, the president of the Community Education Council for District 27, has a personal interest in PS 215. Her son was a student there.
“You [parents] are the most important stakeholders in your children’s lives,” said Griffth-Hunte. “You cannot leave anything that pertains to your child’s education in other people’s hands. …It’s time to raise our voice. This is our community. How dare you [the DOE] come in and take from us.”
United Federation of Teachers representative, Dermot Smyth, told parents “to be outraged, be annoyed and fill that school on January 20.”
He added, “Don’t let the city walk away from your children.”
Parents were urged to contact their local elected representatives and to attend the DOE’s public hearing at the school, located at 535 Briar Place, on January 20 at 6 p.m.