Seven takeaways from last night’s marathon Panel for Educational Policy meeting, for those who don’t have time for 6,000-plus words, minute-to-minute updates, or actually traveling to Brooklyn Tech in the storm:
1. Bloomberg’s agenda was unsurprisingly approved: 10 schools will phase out, four new co-locations will occur. But on the panel, opposition now comes from more members than simply the Manhattan and Bronx appointees.
Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan borough president’s appointee, is no longer the sole voice of opposition on the panel. And while Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr.’s appointee has been making opposition known for a while now, the other borough representatives are beginning slowly to join.
Only mayoral appointees, for instance, voted in favor of proposals that would benefit the Success Charter Network schools run by CEO Eva Moskowitz, a former City Council member and perennial mayoral hopeful.
Besides ‘no’ votes, another manifestation of opposition to Bloomberg came in the form of a skirmish. From 9:53 p.m.:
Audience members told Anna that they saw Sullivan push Morales from behind. Then Tino Hernandez, the panel’s chair, and Deputy Chancellor Santiago Taveras got between them and escorted Sullivan back to his seat. Sullivan then told the audience that one of the mayoral appointees on the panel had approached him to “taunt” him, kicking off the clash. He proposed that the panel postpone their votes to another day on account of the bad weather, but this motion failed.
When the parents behind Anna saw the tussle begin, they started yelling: “Security! Where is security?” A few security guards did edge onto the stage but then backed away, Anna reports.
Sullivan told the Daily News that he was just tapping Morales on the back.
2. Families reached out across the closure aisle, sometimes poetically.
From Anna’s 9:12 p.m. report:
… some MCA [Metropolitan Corporate Academy, slated for closure] kids are rapping about racism and school closure. The charter school kids and parents are clapping the beat.
It’s clear that many of the charter school parents in the auditorium have empathy for the students from schools that could be closed. When students from Robeson and the Urban Assembly school speak up for educational equality, many charter school parents are cheering.
And a comment left this morning by a parent named Laurie:
My husband attended last night in support of keeping schools open and saying “no” to co-location. My friend and neighbor attended the meeting last night as a Success Charter parent. To tell you the truth, my husband and my neighbor–different races, ethnic origin, gender, religion and socio-economic backgrounds–would be able to work together better without Tweed or S. Charter Network breathing down their necks and moving the pieces on the board.
Maybe this isn’t an either/or issue, this side or that side being right. Maybe this is an issue of bring unity back into community and de-centralizing some of the DOE’s power. Maybe it is time to re-visit the idea of functioning school districts. Bloomberg “phased-out” school districts and left the shell behind. Over the past 10 years he has centralized budgets, admissions, the hiring and firing of principals, etc. Do we really think Ms. Black can better manage all of the day-to-day pieces of running a school from Tweed Hall?
3. Teachers union activists — including president Michael Mulgrew, but not necessarily teachers — heckled speakers.
From 11:07 p.m.:
After a mother says, “My local school is pathetic,” she gets a round of boos. “Jerk!” somebody from the UFT group says.
As the meeting ended, at 1:30 a.m., Mulgrew reportedly joined in:
“Mulgrew joined the UFT hecklers at the end,” Anna reports. As voting began, audience members hurled shouts at the stage. A NY1 Noticias reporter tells Anna that Mulgrew was one of the first to yell. “Puppets!” he shouted.
4. Supporters of Success Charter Network flooded the meeting with orange and blue t-shirts and a clear, scripted message.
Anna obtained a full copy of the script that Success organizers read aloud to parents on the buses that drove them to the meeting. The script read in part:
We’re not coming tonight to talk about space for our schools. We’re coming tonight to have our voices heard on what we want in public education. We need to all stay on message so that our voices really come through. In this world of 30 second sound bites, we need to all say the same thing so that we’re heard.
People who sign up to speak get 2 minutes. In your first minute: tell your story. In your second minute: tell the Chancellor you want BOLDER, FASTER CHANGE.
5. Students and parents sang and danced.
From 8:57 p.m.:
A group of students from Metropolitan Corporate Academy, which could be closed tonight, performed an original step routine to Michael Jackson’s song, “They Don’t Care About Us.”
“All I wanna say is DOE don’t care about us,” they sing. Then a girl pauses for effect: “Wait, wait. We mean, doesn’t care, to be politically correct,” she says.
The song continues: “Overcrowded, no support, no gym, no resources, hear me, hear what I say.”
Parent activist Lisa Donlan also performed, singing her own lyrics to the tune of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” — better known perhaps as the song that starts, “Don’t know much about history.”
6. Often, the parents attending PEP meetings are mainly low-income people of color. Last night, a core group of upper middle class white parents from the Upper West Side spoke as well.
City Council member Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and some Manhattan parents concerned about crowding spoke against Upper West Success, the new charter school that will move into the Louis D. Brandeis building.
Another contingent of mainly white, upper middle class parents spoke in favor of the school.
7. The following phase-outs, co-locations, and changes to grades served will occur:
These schools will be phased out:
Metropolitan Corporate Academy
Paul Robeson High School
School for Community Research and Learning
Urban Assembly Academy for History and Citizenship for Young Men
New Day Academy
Monroe Academy for Business/Law High School
Academy of Environmental Science Secondary School
I.S. 195 Roberto Clemente
Academy of Collaborative Education
These co-locations will move forward:
New high school 12X521 to replace Monroe Academy for Business/Law High School (12X690)
New middle schools I.S. 355 and I.S. 356 to replace I.S. 231 Magnetech
Harlem Success Academy 1 (grades 5-8) with Wadleigh Secondary School and the Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School in 2012-13
Success Academy Charter School with Brandeis High School
These grade expansions / truncations will happen:
Harlem Success Academy 1 (from K-5 to K-6) with M149/M209 in 2011-12
P.S. 40 Samuel Huntington (from K-6 to K-5)