2012-01-27 / Top Stories

Parents Set Agenda To Save PPA

By Miriam Rosenberg


Brian Fidelman, 8, and Parent Teacher Organization co-president Lisa George during the meeting. Brian Fidelman, 8, and Parent Teacher Organization co-president Lisa George during the meeting. Parents, students and supporters gathered Tuesday evening to set an agenda and rally the troops in an ef-fort to save Peninsula Preparatory Academy from being closed by the Department of Education.

Almost two weeks after the DOE announced plans to shut down the charter school because it received a C on its last four progress reports, the school’s Parent Teacher Organization held an informational meeting to aprise parents of the plans to fight the closure.

“We have now turned from reactive to proactive,” said Josmar Trujillo, the copresident of the PTO, who talked about some of the methods they plan to use to keep PPA’s doors open.

Trujillo said the PTO would create more than one contingency plan. One already in development is a plan for a one year renewal for the school.


Donovan Richards, Councilman James Sanders’ chief of staff, told parents, “The only way you are going to win this battle is to help yourself. Parents have to show up. If you don’t then the school is going to close.” Donovan Richards, Councilman James Sanders’ chief of staff, told parents, “The only way you are going to win this battle is to help yourself. Parents have to show up. If you don’t then the school is going to close.” The PTO has also brought onboard free legal representation from the public interest law firm Advocates for Justice. Trujillo encouraged parents at the meeting to sign a retainer with the law firm.

Trujillo recounts that the DOE has said the school did not meet benchmarks set in its charter. Except, he says, the benchmarks changed “in the middle of the charter.”

According to the online site Gotham Schools the stricter benchmarks were added when the charter for Peninsula Prep was renewed in 2009. The January 11 article says the new benchmarks required that three quarters of the school’s students had to test pro-ficient on state tests and outperform District 27 as a whole.

Parents were told that changes by the DOE to the structure or leader-ship in the school could also be an option. At the same time Trujillo be-lieves that the DOE “is sensitive to the fact that most kids in the school [should it close] will be sent to worse performing schools [than PPA].”

Donovan Richards, the chief of staff for Councilman James Sanders Jr., gave the parents a bit of what he called “reality.”

“With the DOE, their numbers are wrong – sometimes their equations just doesn’t add up,” said Richards. He added, “The only way you are going to win this battle is to help yourself. Parents have to show up. If you don’t then the school is going to close.”

In addition, Richards said parents need to be checking homework and studying with their children.

Democratic District Leader Lew Simon called the proposed closing absolutely ridiculous.

“They’re faulting you for those lousy trailers they called a school,” said Simon. He added, “to send you to another school that’s failing is [wrong].”

Brian Fidelman, 8, has been at PPA for 2 1/2 years.

“I see how this school could be going and so far everybody in my classroom loves PPA,” said Fidelman. “I just don’t know why the DOE is closing down this school. My friends even agree with me. Ask any of them.”

Zaria, 10, said, “Everybody thinks the school is like a family to them and everybody needs this school for all reasons. … If this school closes then they’re going to send us to other schools that are worse than us.”

A rally on the steps of City Hall was scheduled for Thursday at noon. On Friday representatives of the school and from the PTO were to meet with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

“The meeting is a testament to the fact that we have not given up,” said Trujillo. He added, “We will be sitting down [with Walcott] to talk about the future of PPA.”

Among others attending the meeting were representatives from the Queens Chapter National Action Network and the Southeast Queens County Democrats and Councilman Ruben Wills.

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