A community leader in Bensonhurst is pleading with city officials to rethink their decision to forgo placing a small school catering to immigrants in Lafayette High School. The school, dubbed the World Vista International Studies Secondary School, was proposed for the Benson Avenue building but the city Deparment of Education (DOE) did not select it as one of the three small schools that will share space at Lafayette, which is being phased out, in September. The news has not been well received by local residents, as they threw their support behind World Vista insisting that it would best serve the needs of the communitys large immigrant and non-English-speaking population. The schools biggest champion, Steven Chung, president of the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn (UCA), which helped create the proposal for the school, sent an email to Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott questioning why World Vista was not earmarked for the new Lafayette Educational Campus. In the message, which was forwarded to this paper, Chung wrote, None of the three small schools currently selected for placement at Lafayette seems suited to or are even able to serve immigrant students. This is unacceptable given that more than 40 percent of LHSs [Lafayettes] current population consists of immigrants and a large majority of the population served by LHS consists of children of immigrants. We are gravely concerned that this decision deliberately ignores the right of Bensonhursts Asian, Russian, Pakistani and Hispanic students [to] adequate education opportunities, in violation of an existing United States Department of Justice consent decree. Hes referring to the departments 2004 ruling that Lafayettes then-administration did nothing to stop or prevent brutal attacks against Asian-American students in the school building. The ruling mandated that steps be taken to provide an appropriate learning environment for all Lafayette students. Fueled by that ruling and photographs of Asian-American students broken bones from beatings the UCA lobbied for the placement of World Vista at Lafayette with the belief that it would ease tensions between students and promote a message of diversity and tolerance. Chung asserted that the small schools selected for Lafayette one focused on sports management, another with a film and music base, and an adventure-themed third led by Outward Bound fail to meet the needs or are likely to attract the children of todays immigrant families. The DOE said it may place World Vista in a school at some point but probably not Lafayette. According to the DOE, new small schools are generally not housed in a school building where a member of the small schools planning team works. In the case of World Vista, one of the members of the committee that proposed the school is a current Lafayette staffer. A DOE spokesperson says, Historically, we dont site leaders in buildings where they came from [because, in the past, doing so] has not allowed for a fresh start to allow the school to succeed.
©2007 Community News Group
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