On Friday, February 8, a flier was handed out to parents as they picked up their children from school; the text of the flier was as follows:
On Thursday February 7th, the District 15 Community Superintendent Rosemary Stewart informed Ms. Wyns-Madison that the Department of Education will open a K-2 Charter School to be housed inside P.S. 15.
EMERGENCY P.T.A. MEETING TUESDAY FEBRUARY 12TH 5:00 P.M. P.S. 15 AUDITORIUM
This emergency meeting has been scheduled to discuss this unexpected announcement and the negative impact we feel this will have on our school community.
At the meeting (which will be discussed in more depth later), several items were distributed in flier form. One was a list of pros and cons for the proposed charter school; there were no pros listed at all, and the list of cons were as follows:
-increased class size
-loss of space for additional programs (Beacon, C.A.T., Studio In A School, Cookshop, band)
-elimination of science lab and social studies/art project rooms
-decrease in small group instruction
-limited space for counseling service (Good Shepherd Family Counseling Program)
-loss of community atmosphere
-safety concerns due to students entering and exiting the building
-limited access to our gym, cafeteria, auditorium, new schoolyard/playgrounds, and common areas
-potential loss of jobs due to low enrollment of PS15 students
-limited ability to create new programs
-compromised intervention services (occupational and physical therapy as well)
-overcrowded cafeteria and breakfast program
-potential loss of community celebrations such as Thanksgiving Dinner, Carnival, Holiday Fair, Book Fair
-creating a divisive environment (the "haves" and the "have-nots")
-Title 1 funds?
A letter from Council Member Sara M. Gonzalez (38th District, Brooklyn) was also presented. Her letter said:
As I will be unable to atend tonight's emergency meeting at P.S. 15 due to a commitment at City Hall, I wanted to express my position on the current situation involving your school and the proposed location of the PAVE Charter School.
First, let me describe my recent involvement in the process. Prior to the decision of the Board of Regents, I met with PAVE's founder, Spencer Robertson, to discuss his proposal. I was very enthusiastic (sic) by many of the school's principles: educating more of Red Hook's youth and giving the area community preference during the enrollment process; hoping to have the school composition reflect traditionally underserved segments of ou society by having the student body compromised of 50% Latino and 50% African American children; having small, intimate classroom settings of no more than 22 students and by following a two-teacher per classroom model. Most importantly, I support the philosophy that all students can achieve learning at a high level.
As for the location of the school, this decision was made solely by the Department of Education. In fact, the decision to temporarily house PAVE at P.S. 15 was not made until after the Charter School was aproved. I expressed my disappointment to DOE that not only was I not made aware of the proposed site for PAVE, but neither were the parents. Certainly, had I known that PAVE was going to be sighted at P.S. 15, my support for the Charter School would have had a number of pre-conditions attached and would have certainly included the input of the PTA and Principal Wyns-Madison. It's the least that oculd have been done for a school that recently received an "A" on its City report card.
That being said, DOE has been very clear in explaining their rationale for placing PAVE at P.S. 15; whether that rationale is justified is what is currently being debated. According to DOE, P.S. 15 is only operating at 54% occupancy, with 14-16 rooms not being utilized. PAVE would only be using 5 of those classrooms in its first year. Furthermore, PAVE will be housed at P.S. 15 for no more than two years. The first year, grades K through 1 will be running with 88 students and the following year, grades K through 2 will serve a student population of 110. DOE has assured me that the two-year time frame will not be extended and that all after-school programs currently operating at P.S. 15 will not be affected.
Alrhough it is my feeling tha ttheir arguments do hold some merit, I feel it is absolutely necessary to request a delay in the housing of the PAVE school ata P.S. 15 until all questions are answered, concerns are addressed, and alternatives are considered. Only once a democratic public hearing process is concluded should consideration be given to placing a Charter School in P.S. 15.
I am confident that through ongoing dialogue DOE and the support of my colleagues in the City Council and my community, we can come to a resolution on this matter that satisfies all sides.
Thank you for your consideration and please contact my office with any questions or concerns at 718.439.9012.
Sara M. Gonzalez