On Thursday night, The Panel for Education Policy unanimously approved the DOE’s proposal to re-locate M.S. 313, a.k.a. Satellite West to the newly constructed school at Dock Street. Satellite West is currently housed on the third floor of P.S. 307 and has less than 80 students. The school also resides on the “persistently dangerous” list, a categorization it may have earned unfairly (because of its low enrollment the school has a statistically higher percentage of reported incidents than a much larger school with the same number of incidents). It’s relocation to Dock Street frees up over 360 elementary school seats for District 13. The DOE’s hotly contested draft re-zoning proposals for P.S. 8 and P.S. 307 already take these numbers into account.
At all PEP meetings, the community is given the opportunity to make public comments. CEC member member, Maggie Spillane who has previously expressed her concerns about the M.S. 313 re-location, submitted a lengthy written statement prior to the meeting which said in part, “the proposal…simply states that [the DOE] expects the [M.S. 313] redesign to ‘shift the academic programming and instructional focus of the school’ such that it will attract more students.” Spillane added in her testimony, “Parents don’t understand what the vision is. They don’t see a vision. We need better resources.”
Chancellor Farina responded by hinting at more details of the plan. “This [Dock Street] school is going to be a replication of another school that has a very strong STEM program and all I can I can say to you is there is no way we are taking a small school and putting it there without putting a lot of support. The expectation is that within that building there will be 300 students” adding, “It will be open admission. It will be open to students who are from other parts of that District.”
While promising, the STEM component came as a surprise to Ms. Spillane, “This is the first I’m hearing of it,” responded Spillane. “I’m on the [Superintendent’s]* working group that is supposedly integrating with the community and taking all of our concerns into account. We’ve had parents who have come to multiple forums to talk about their ideas and if it’s already set what the school is going to be then that’s very troubling.” Chancellor Farina responded flatly, “Well, the reality is just wait, give me your name and I’ll follow up.”
In her responses to PEP panel member questions, Chancellor Farina also revealed she had met with CEC President, David Goldsmith “this past Saturday” (the context, location and duration of this meeting was not elaborated on)** and explained “there is an overall plan for all the Middle Schools in District 13.” She emphasized Brooklyn Borough President Adams has shown strong support for the DOE’s vision to create STEM programs. Lastly, she explained the DOE is in the final stages of interviewing a consultant who specializes in the design and construction of STEM facilities. “This is very carefully thought out.” The change will take effect for the 2016-17 academic year.
On the heels of this PEP vote the DOE will unveil the final re-zoning proposal on Monday, November 23rd. This comes after considerable push-back from parents, community and civic leaders to the draft proposals and the DOE’s extended period of community engagement. But as reported by Schoolbook, so far Dumbo parents feel left out of the conversation as their promised small-group meeting has not been scheduled until early December. Thursday’s edition of The Brian Lehrer Show also dedicated a segment to exploring the concerns of both Dumbo and Vinegar Hill communities and the lingering questions surrounding race and class.
The CEC’s vote must take place by no later than January 5, 2016. The Kindergarten Enrollment period closes ten days later on January 15th. Parents applying for 2016 will therefore have the ability to update their applications based on the vote’s outcome.
*CORRECTION: This post has been edited to reflect that the Middle School Working group was mistakenly referred to by this correspondent as a CEC group. It is in fact the initiative of District 13 Superintendent, Barbara Freeman who has been holding a series of public forums throughout District 13. The final forum is 6:30 pm on November 30th at P.S. 11, 419 Waverly Avenue.
**EDIT: After careful review of the audio recording of the PEP meeting, this post has been revised to include a direct quote from Chancellor Farina regarding the referenced meeting with CEC President David Goldsmith. Ms. Farina did not specifically say the meeting was “private” but that she met with Mr. Goldsmith “last Saturday.”
In an email statement, CEC President David Goldsmith provided the context of this meeting, “The most private one on one conversation I have had with Farina did occur right before the last CEC/Citywide President’s meeting with her on [Saturday] November 14th. There were probably 40 or 50 people in the room and she was on her way up to the front of the room when she saw me, grabbed my arm and asked me [about the D13 re-zoning]. We spoke about that for about 2-3 minutes…We spoke about the re-siting and the re-design [of the middle school] for about another minute. She said she was following the progress and was convinced it would be a great school. As I recall we chatted about the need to consolidate our smaller middle schools and get them into their own buildings…With all the other people around us she was reminded that it was time to start the meeting and she walked to the front of the room.”