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Ferrer talks education with PS 251 parents

Last March 200 parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles spent three days and nights outside PS 251 in Springfield Gardens to get their 4- and 5-year-olds into the magnet school for students in kindergarten through third grade.

Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, who is running for mayor, met some of those parents while they were camping out and reunited with them May 16 to discuss how the city’s education system could be improved.

Reba Perry hosted the meeting of about two dozen parents of PS 251 students and pre-school students at her home in the Brookville area of Laurelton, not far from the school.

Before he spoke, Ferrer listened to the concerned parents and teachers. Several mothers said they have children in pre-school who require special education and think PS 251 would be the best place for their kids.

“Our children are already at a disadvantage,” said Denise Bouyer. “Why should we put them through a detrimental process?”

Bouyer and other parents said they would like to see more schools like PS 251, where classes are small and the principal promises to have each child reading by age 5.

Ferrer contrasted his position on public education with that of current Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who traveled to Milwaukee last week to observe the effects of school vouchers and also said he would like to abolish the city Board of Education.

“Ground zero is not school vouchers or privatization,” Ferrer said. “Ground zero is those 200 parents who stayed outside just to get their kids into a quality school.”

Ferrer said he gets most of his information on education from his wife, Aramina, who is a teacher and principal of PS 46 in the Bronx.

“I wake up with education and go to bed with education,” Ferrer told the chuckling parents.

He handed out copies of his 11-point plan to boost parental involvement in education, which includes eliminating community school boards “because they distract from meaningful parent involvement.”

Ferrer said that if he is elected mayor, he would push for a 30-percent pay raise for the city’s public school teachers but would in turn expect more from them.

“I disagree with some of my Democratic opponents on this issue — accountability,” Ferrer said. “I want the highest professionalism from teachers. I want them to continue learning and I want them to spend more time teaching.”

As suburban schools continue to draw teachers out of city schools, there is an increasing shortage of teachers in the five boroughs, but Ferrer said he would not support lowering the educational standards required to become a teacher.

“A 30-percent raise would keep a lot of teachers here,” he said.

Ferrer concluded his talk by tying housing, health care and taxes into the discussion, saying Giuliani’s proposed tax cut would only save the average New Yorker four cents a day.

If you ask the average parent whether they would like to save a few pennies a day or have after-school programs, they overwhelmingly choose school programs, he said.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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