The Elephant in the Room Part 2: Second Re-Zoning Town Hall Held at P.S. 8

On Monday night, the District 13 CEC and DOE’s Office of District planning held the second of two Town Hall meetings at P.S. 8 to present the draft re-zoning proposal for the school.   As with the meeting held at P.S. 307 on September 16th, issues of race and class emerged. Now, the debate has caught the attention of the The New York Times.  Published Wednesday morning, Race and Class Collide in a Plan for Two Brooklyn Schools, was the lead story in the N.Y./Region section.  The meetings have also been covered by the Wall Street Journal, Gothamist and DNAinfo, among others.


Comments centered around the need to include sibling grandfathering (a decision at the discretion of the CEC), attendees’ displeasure with the short time-line for approval and implementation, and lack of community engagement in the re-zoning process.  Some wanted to know the status of P.S. 8’s wait-list and current Kindergarten enrollment. Others implored the DOE to build more schools and were reminded by the DOE, CEC members and other speakers alike that capacity still exists in nearby District 13 schools including P.S. 307 and 287.  Some questioned why P.S. 287 was not included in the re-zoning draft proposal.

Enthusiastic applause erupted when Dumbo resident and father of a one year old asked, “Why is drawing a few lines on a map taking precedence over fixing a severely under performing school? I don’t want to be the bad guy in the room but nobody else wants to talk about it.”  The DOE’s Associate Director of Analytics, Jonathan Geis responded, “We don’t consider P.S. 307 to be an under performing school.  What we’re seeing is a wonderful learning community.”

PS8 Re-Zoning Town Hall

Lisa McKeon, a veteran educator and mother of two pressed for more details about curriculum and staff development, “I will say this, I need answers and it’s not because I want to be in P.S. 8 or its not because I want to be in P.S. 307. It’s because this entire procedure needs to be much more transparent, it needs to be much more inclusive, it needs to be much more diverse and accepting. Dumbo residents, I happen to live with you. You’re doing yourselves a disservice…Open your minds. There’s not one mention of education in this conversation!”

P.S. 307 PTA Co-President, Faraji Hannah-Jones, added, “P. S. 307 is not an under performing school. Let me get that straight right now. We have brilliant teachers, we have curious students, we have committed parents and we have champions for the community. Number one I want to address the elephant in the room being that it’s the Dumbo community. Have you been to the school? You’re using 307 to basically make your complaints about the process but you’re not once talking about your neighborhood school being 307.”


The DOE also revealed plans to introduce a proposal to relocate MS313, aka Satellite West Middle School, from P.S. 307’s building on York Street to the newly constructed Dock Street space in Dumbo. The school will also house 100 Pre-K seats.  (This proposal must be approved by the DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy, aka PEP, not the CEC).  The move would free space for additional elementary student seats at P.S. 307.  But that’s not necessarily good news for P.S. 307.  “Did you know that you will be stepping on the toes of a brilliant Pre-K program that is already going  [at P.S. 307]? We have 40 seats still open…this interferes with the progress that we have been working on in that community,” said Faraji Hannah-Jones.

But, what’s really at stake is Title 1 funding.  If the percentage of students who qualify for free lunch dips below 60%, the school stands to lose those funds and the programs they make possible.  According to CEC member and P.S. 307 PTA Co-President Ben Greene, P.S. 307 received approximately $284,000 in Title 1 funds last year, a figure not likely to be made up by PTA fundraising.

CEC Member Amy Shire said at the conclusion of the evening, “Whatever happens with rezoning, I don’t think anyone thinks that a re-zone is a magic bullet…whether or not it goes through, there are lots of issues that are inter-related but much bigger than the issue of overcrowding in Downtown Brooklyn.”  CEC Member Rob Underwood agrees and sets out his thoughts on the issue, as one of the members to vote on the rezoning, in his latest Tumblr post, Thoughts on the PS8 and PS307 #D13Rezoning.


While the DOE compiles feedback from the Town Hall meetings, the community may continue to submit comments, questions and concerns via the form on the CEC website.   Input sent through this form is forwarded to the Office of District Planning, District 13 Superintendent Barbara Freeman and the CEC simultaneously.

The DOE will present its official/final re-zoning proposal to the CEC and D13 Communities at the CEC’s next Calendar Meeting, on Wednesday, September 30th, 6:30 pm, at P.S. 307 (209 York St.).  There will be opportunity for public comment.

The CEC is required to vote on the official re-zoning proposal at a public meeting within 45 days of its presentation.  During that time, the community may continue to submit their feedback.  If there is no CEC regular Calendar meeting that meets this timeline, a Special Meeting will be called and announced to the public with at least 48 hours’ notice.  Full details of the re-zoning timeline, FAQ’s and a schedule of CEC meetings are available on the CEC website.  To receive regular updates from the CEC, enter your email address in the left side-bar of the CEC website.

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  • Banet

    Songbird, not that it makes the rezoning unnecessary but I’m curious — what IS the status of the Kindergarten wait list at PS 8? How many of the ~50 kids who were waitlisted remained on the first day of school?

    Also, in speaking to a second grade teacher at PS 8 yesterday she marveled at how her class was so small — instead of the expect 34 students she had, I think, 26. I assume all the 2nd grades are equal in size and therefore ~40 second graders disappeared. Any knowledge? (I’m guessing that they all had kindergarten aged little siblings and they moved to the suburbs but really — did that many people move? I personally only know of one family that *actually* moved.)

    Lastly, I’m curious as to how the DOE can say that 307 isn’t an “underperforming” school when their test scores are so abysmal. Isn’t that the DOEs primary measure of success?

    Oh, and thanks for the write-up. It’s a real service to the community.

  • Heights Resident

    PS 307 is going to hold two Open Houses next week for prospective parents – Tuesday 9/29 and Wednesday 9/30- both at 9 am.

  • R.O.Shipman

    When schools are judged only on test scores, one often misses the bigger picture. The single biggest factor in test score performance is the socioeconomic makeup of the student body. If you could magically swap the “worst performing,” poorest inner city school (teachers, leadership, facilities, etc.; basically everything but the students) for one in your leafy, expensive suburb of choice, the test scores wouldn’t change that much for either student body.

    The DOE seams to feel that p.s. 307 is doing fine considering its student body made up entirely of students living in NYC housing projects. They probably recognize that there is no magic bullet that is going to allow p.s. 307 as it currently exists to suddenly see test scores equal to p.s. 8. Again, that doesn’t mean that good things aren’t happening at the school.

  • miriamcb

    The DOE actually uses many prongs for deeming a school’s success. And usually, it requires the DOE to do a Quality Report at least once every 2 years, more for a school that needs more support. The DOE brings in a team of network leaders, educators, DOE office people and assess the school based on different factors.

    One of the other factors they look at is, how well is the school moving children across the learning continuum? If they are a lot of needs, how are they addressing them? Are kids improving? Is the parent coordinator involved? And then of course, the actual lessons they see. Are teachers differentiating instruction for their learners, are they working toward high standards, and is there small group instruction to work toward differentiation? Those are some of the questions you might see on a QR walk-through.

    Here’s PS 307’s very short QR write-up per the DOE.

  • SongBirdNYC
  • SongBirdNYC

    What I’ve gleaned from the neighborhood grapevine is that there were several points in which there was some movement on the wait-list. First, when the G&T placements were announced in April. Next, end of June. It’s possible this coincided with private school tuition deadlines but I don’t know for sure. Lastly, I believe P.S. 8 was very pro-active in following up with parents about their enrollment. There was movement the week before school started because over a dozen families had not informed P.S. 8 their children would be attending elsewhere. (This apparently is not a new thing as was explained to prospective parents at an open house last October). Many families also moved. So anecdotally, the wait-list cleared just days before school started in large part because it was last minute and SO many families had already made alternate arrangements. Also, many families moved. That said, the available seats were filled immediately. Kindergarten enrollment is now at 127.

  • Concerned

    SLOW ZONES ARE COMING! This is great! I can’t stand these idiots risking all our lives because they can’t drive.

  • Brixtony

    That’s terrific. This will be a real plus for the nabe.