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Dave Sanders Dave Sanders UFT President Michael Mulgrew joined state and city elected officials, parents and education advocates on Feb. 28 to announce his support for proposed state legislation that would require elected parent councils to approve school co-locations before they could go into effect.
“The way the DOE handles co-location is to pit one school community against another,” said Mulgrew at the press conference on the steps of Department of Education headquarters. He added that Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education have made unilateral decisions to close or co-locate schools without regard to the views of the affected school communities.
The Panel for Educational Policy, which must approve all co-locations, has never rejected a city proposal.
Under the bill, to be sponsored by Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem, no school could be co-located with another unless the Community Education Council for the district approves it.
State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick of the West Village promised her support for “a bill that will return reasonable input to the community.”
State Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez of East Harlem promised to “push back against disenfranchisement” of parents and the community, saying that we know that “the best schools have parent engagement.”
Carl Pressley, the vice president of the PTA at Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts, whose middle school was spared closure this year but is set to begin sharing space with a Harlem Success Academy school in September, said he worries about the loss of classroom space on the building’s first floor to the charter school.
“The first floor of Wadleigh is our arts department and dance studio,” he said. “We can’t improve as an arts school without them.”
Fred Baptiste, the parent of a child at PS 161 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which is having its middle school grades truncated despite strong community opposition, said the change on co-locations would be an important first step.
“We need to change this policy and process in which the mayor knows better than parents and communities,” Baptiste said.
Community Education Councils, which were created by the legislation giving the mayor control of city public schools, are supposed to provide oversight of local issues, but can only act in an advisory capacity. Each council has 11 voting members, including nine parents elected by voters in that district. Borough presidents appoint two additional voting members who are district residents or who own or operate a business in the district.