Volume 21, Number 40 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 13 - 19, 2009

Letters to the Editor

School control

To The Editor: 
On Fri., Feb. 6, I went to hear testimony and testify before the current N.Y. State Assembly Education Committee on mayoral control of schools — however I was not allowed in because I was told the room was full.  There were about 10 other people who were turned away at the same time I was, and people have told me that many more were turned away as well.  I am deeply concerned that some people who were turned away will now not be heard at any official level, either by the politicians or the press.

On the one hand, I hope a lot of interested bodies were up there testifying and listening, and on the other, I fear a lot of people with good knowledge and experience will now not be able to testify and also not be able to listen closely to what is being said.  I feel that some possibility for informed debate has been closed.  I sincerely hope there will be many more hearings because clearly there is a lot to be said on the matter, but I also want to be able to hear what the other people said  — it’s not enough to just testify, I also want to learn, and to clarify, if need be —  and hope that this issue can somehow be addressed.

I personally feel the need for more information about mayoral control and how C.E.C.’s (Community Education Councils) can regain their power and influence so that the parent body can have more real input into the decision-making process.  I went to the meeting to raise that issue and can now only hope that someone else did it for me.

Liat Silberman
Former president of P.S. 234’s P.T.A.
 

Step in, Mr. Mayor

To The Editor:
The following are excerpts from an open letter sent to Mayor Bloomberg:

I voted for you because your administration has been committed to an agenda of common sense in lieu of politics and has been committed to making New York a quality place to live and raise a family whether by reducing traffic, reducing public smoking or adding bike lanes….

Unfortunately, the Department of Education is currently planning to contradict your common sense agenda…. It is clear that there are more families entering kindergarten in the fall in Downtown Manhattan than there is capacity at P.S. 89 or P.S. 234. In response to an overcrowding scenario, Marty Barr, executive director of elementary enrollment at the D.O.E. is planning to randomly assign students to schools, ignoring geographic proximity to a school.  Specifically he said, “‘If [P.S. 89 and P.S. 234] have more applicants…than they have seats, they will randomly assign children. Where in the zone [the children live] will not matter.’” “The children who do not get a space in P.S. 89 or P.S. 234 will go to one of the two new schools opening in Lower Manhattan: P.S./I.S. 276 in Battery Park City or the Spruce Street School.” [news article, Feb. 6 –12, “Downtown school applications full of surprises for parents”]

Mr. Barr’s commitment to a random approach may make things easier for the D.O.E. and local politicians by avoiding … [something] unpleasant, but prudent. However, the refusal to rezone or approximate “final” rezoning will hurt the families of Downtown. Despite living a block and half from P.S. 234, a random approach could result in eventually busing my 3 children (4 years old and entering kindergarten in the fall, 3 years old, and one due in March) to another school or walking long distances to school. Equally important is that it would separate my family from the parents and students we know and with whom we have built relationships within our community over the past seven years. Additionally, it would deprive us of the opportunity to enhance those relationships by interacting with them at school for the foreseeable future. No rational or honest …D.O.E. official can honestly think that this type of scenario would enhance public education in Downtown, strengthen Downtown communities or improve the overall quality of life.  If it would, why are there any school zones in the city at all?

In addition to disrupting the existing school community, a random selection will weaken the new schools as… [they] will not have the leverage which comes from having nearly all parents and children know one another from the immediate neighborhood. Additionally, the geography of downtown Manhattan is spread out over several square miles, has substantial business traffic during school times, [and] has the West Side Highway and Broadway as obstacles…. To ignore geography in the school application process …is nonsensical and absurd.

I request that you assist in correcting this issue, in maintaining my family’s quality of life and in developing and enhancing the existing and emerging Downtown school communities. … Utilizing geographic proximity in defining student placement is common sense….

Regarding rezoning or utilizing geographic proximity in the school application process, Barr’s recent [paraphrased] comment was that “…the zoning will depend on the families that move into buildings now under construction, so it makes sense to wait at least until next year to zone.” Barr’s assertion …implies that if the D.O.E. cannot do something perfectly, then the D.O.E. should not attempt to approximate the future zoning or rezone and benefit as many people as possible today. There will always be new buildings and other events that affect school populations on a yearly basis…

I would greatly appreciate your leadership and immediate attention regarding this matter as school assignments are scheduled to be mailed in March….

Michael Bacon
 

Too sexy for my paper

To The Editor:
I was a little put off by Ben Krull’s op-ed piece (Downtown notebook, Feb. 6 – 12, “Sex, politics & memories as V Day approaches”). I know that “sex sells” and a so-called freelance writer needs all the publicity he can get, but this bit was a little too much soft-core porn for a family, community-oriented newspaper. Next time, leave out the naughty bits (“…I was pulsating with desire.”).

Reed Malloy


Letters policy

Downtown Express welcomes letters to The Editor. They must include the writer’s first and last name, a phone number for confirmation purposes only, and any affiliation that relates directly to the letter’s subject matter. Letters should be less than 300 words. Downtown Express reserves the right to edit letters for space, clarity, civility or libel reasons. Letters should be e-mailed to news@DowntownExpress.com or can be mailed to 145 Sixth Ave., N.Y., N.Y. 10013.

 




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