Today’s news:

City put on hotseat over Tilden - Parents say little notice was given about small school plan

A Brooklyn politician and parents caught city Department of Education (DOE) officials off guard with accusations that they failed to inform the public about a meeting to discuss which small schools will open at South Shore and Tilden high schools. At the meeting, which was held at South Shore at 6565 Flatlands Avenue, about 50 people filled the seats in the auditorium that could easily accommodate 200-300 attendees. But what really set off city Councilmember Lew Fidler was what happened when he asked for a show of hands of those who were in attendance because they worked for the DOE or were affiliated with the small schools planned for South Shore or Tilden. The majority of attendees raised their hands at this point. When Fidler asked the same of parents, students or community activists, just a few hands went up in the air. “Either parents don’t care,” Fidler told DOE reps, “or you didn’t do enough to publicize this meeting.” He also criticized department bigwigs for not providing meeting attendees with paperwork explaining the themes of the small schools. Such paperwork was distributed the evening before at a meeting to discuss the small schools planned for Lafayette High School, 2630 Benson Avenue. Without similar information at the South Shore forum, Fidler said, “How is anybody supposed to make intelligent decisions or make informed decisions?” “Since we didn’t have printed materials, I know very little about what you offer,” said Joseph Zwerling, who has a daughter in the eighth grade and is a teacher at Brooklyn Comprehensive Night High School, which is based in South Shore but will close in June as part of the plan to open small schools. Fidler added, “Do you care what we think or is this just another dog-and-pony show so you can say you consulted with the parents and engaged elected officials?” Josh Thomases of the DOE’s Office of New Schools said notes were not distributed at the meeting because the department didn’t want to hand out flyers only in English. “This is a diverse community and we weren’t able to get translation in a timely manner and we wanted to be respectful of that,” he said. “We made sure materials got to every principal in our region,” said Region 6 Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard. To compensate for the lack of documents, the principal of each small school was present at the meeting to answer parents’ questions, said Jemina Bernard, chief operating officer of the Office of New Schools. A source at the DOE’s headquarters insisted that community engagement has been a main component of the process of phasing out large schools, like South Shore and Tilden, and replacing them with small schools. The source said the official release of details about the small schools that will open in South Shore and Tilden was delayed a day so the information could be presented to politicians first. Once Fidler’s wrath subsided, parents and teachers aired their concerns about the DOE’s plan to phase out South Shore and Tilden and fill their buildings with small schools. A sophomore at Tilden, Danaya Hamilton said she is not sold on the idea that three small schools, each with its own administration, can happily share space in one building. “You’re going to have three principals all trying to take over,” she said. “Who is going to rule?” Ibiann Mckenzie, a senior at Tilden, called for the school to remain open at 5800 Tilden Avenue. “You’re closing down a school which is progressing and if progress is what you preach about, you should not be closing down our high school,” she told educrats. Zakiyyah Ali, a social studies teacher at Tilden, questioned whether small schools will solve all the problems at the school. “You have not come up with an answer to why there are gangs inside the school,” she said. The DOE is phasing out South Shore and Tilden because of their low graduation rates and poor enrollment figures.

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