Friday, April 18, 2008

parent choice re: schools

It's interesting to hear that you feel that your lottery was an opportunity to celebrate parent choice. However, I do feel that I need to respond to your email addressing the issue of choice, and our apparently differing definitions of the word.
While I personally don't think much of charter schools, I do not dispute the right of other parents to choose to send their children to charter schools. But the real, core issue in a discussion of choice as it applies to sharing PS15's building with a charter school is this: PS15 was not offered a choice in the matter. The staff and parents were not consulted ahead of time; there was absolutely no choice - let alone an informed choice - involved. We were delivered an ultimatum by the Department of Education in February. The decision to place your charter school (or any charter school for that matter) within PS15's building has been put on hold, temporarily, but in the  meantime, the DOE has failed to respond in a definite way to requests for more information on holding  a public hearing about the issue, or about the status of their decision. This is fairly typical of how the DOE operates, and I speak from personal experience.
However, what I'd like to ask you is this: what other locations, other than the PAL location, have you considered as a potential location for your charter school? Red Hook is gentrifying rapidly right now; it's considerably different from what it was 10 years ago, when my husband lived right around the corner from PS15.  There's considerable new construction going on in Red Hook. Surely there are other options available within the area that would not infringe on a public school that's doing extremely well because it has small class sizes combined with a dedicated staff, as well as strong support from its parents and the community. It serves as an anchor for the community because it also houses the Beacon program that runs an after school program, a summer camp, and additional recreation and social improvement opportunities for community residents - all of which would be compromised by having a competing school which also happens to be a privately run organization sharing its space and competing for the same resources it needs. Considering the recent budget cuts to public schools, this competition would be even more unfair. It seems to me that if you are really seriously dedicated to helping the children of Red Hook, especially through offering their families real choices, you could find a way to do this without compromising the community's award winning public school.
I'd also like to know how much influence you have over the DOE's decision on your ultimate location? Considering the resources that appear to be available to you, I think it's safe to assume that you are in a position to bargain with the DOE fairly easily, and that if you were able to find another location for your school on your own, there would be a much stronger possibility that PS15 and the PAVE Academy could co-exist within the same community on equal and fair footing, which would obviously present a more democratic choice to the community.
That's my two cents on the issue, but I think you should take a look at the blog and see that other members of the community are also not interested in having a charter school imposed on PS15. For every person that has publicly posted a comment on the issue, be assured that there are at least 100 others who feel the same way. I'm genuinely interested in finding out whether you've pursued other venues, and would appreciate finding out more about this. 
Thank you,
Emily Brown
"Never underestimate the power of a small, dedicated group of people to change the world; indeed, that is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Read my blog, Charter Free PS15 at

1 comment:

moderator said...

This is the response I sent to Spencer Robertson's email to me, which appears below this post. I sent it directly to him, with a cc to the blog. Please feel free to comment on both ends of this discussion.