Monday, January 31, 2011

Parents Concerned About DOE Choices

By Eric Yun

Parents let city Department of Education (DOE) officials know they were not happy with the direction the city is taking regarding enrollment and rezoning at this month’s Community Education Council (CEC 24) meeting.

It was a full agenda, and the meeting started with Bonnie Gross and Xinpei Qu from Stu- dent Enrollment. Gross alerted parents that 8th graders who took the specialized high school exam to enter schools like Stuyvesant or LaGuardia will receive their results and placements around February 10. By March 25, everyone will begin to learn their high school matches, Gross said.
CEC 24 President Nick Comaianni asked the enrollment officers to do a better job of including Superintendent Madelene Taub-Chan in the decision making process. “You should check with the superintendent before enrollment decisions are made. She should not be alerted after the decision,” Comaianni said.

Qu told the board that the superintendent is an integral part of their decision process. Gross also said if there is a communications breakdown they will review and fix the problems.

Parents let Gross and Qu know that more seats needed to be added for the gifted and talented programs. Most elementary schools in Maspeth including PS 153 are kindergarten through sixth grade. Therefore, students who test and qualify into the “Beacon” program in 5th grade face a difficult decision: switch schools to enter the program from 6th through 8th grades or enter the program in 6th grade and hope there is a spot for 7th graders the following year.

Charlie Vavruska, president of the Beacon Parents Forum, said they were guaranteed spots for their kids in 7th grade, but now they are being told there are only a handful of seats available.

“My daughter is in 5th grade at PS 153,” Vavruska said. “I’d like her to stay and graduate with her class.”

Parent after parent pleaded with the DOE to add extra seats to the program.

Another controversy arose at the meeting when Alex Shub from the Division of Portfolio and New Leaders presented the proposed principal of Maspeth High School. Shub said Khurshid Abdul Mutakabir was the most qualified leader out of the 200 candidates the department interviewed.

“This is a community concerned about their children,” Mutakabir said. “I proposed a straight forward school with a language arts focus. The top goal is to send kids to top universities.”

However, the board and parents felt Mutakabir’s introduction to the community felt disingenuous. A similar introduction of proposed leaders for the Metropolitan Avenue high school saw the DOE bring several candidates for public meetings.

“It feels as if this guy was just hand picked and we have no say in the decision,” one parent said.

Finally, the board passed a resolution approving Portfolio’s “step zoning” proposal that was introduced last week. IS 119 was ex- panded to kindergarten through 8th grade, so
a new zone needed to be introduced. When creating the zone, Portfolio wanted to alter several other zones to alleviate overcrowding.

However, at last week’s meeting at IS 119, parents strongly opposed the move and asked the department and the board to reconsider the proposal.

Board member Brian Rafferty understood the objections to the project: “I don’t think it’s necessarily the best solution. But it is a solution,” he said, and voted for the proposal.

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