The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Charter Schools & Space - The Empire Strikes Back

News trickled down to the Q that yet another Charter School (Explore) is getting a cold shoulder from their newly designated home. Parkside Preparatory on Parkside near Nostrantd is where I vote. That's how I first heard of it, and it's apparently a middle school with an ambitious agenda, trying to raise test scores in a generally lackluster district (ours). Explore Charter School was given a home within Parkside Prep, and some parents and teachers were outraged at the infringement on their space. An article here explains it a bit. I'm particularly taken by this clever picture attached to the Daily News piece:

At first I thought this was a lazy picture, til I realized it was meant to symbolize someone calling dibs on a seat in a crowded classroom. Nice conceptual pic, D.N.!

Here's my take on this constant struggle to allow charter schools to operate in already operating public schools. First, charter schools are public schools, financed with our tax dollars, and have every right to open in tax-dollar-financed buildings. Two, overcrowding should of course be avoided, but there must be a definition of overcrowding that all parties accept - the DOE obviously felt there was room. Overcrowding is a serious issue, but it shouldn't be invoked if it's only a matter of perception. Third, these buildings are OURS. All of ours. They don't belong to any particular school; principals can and should be fired or reassigned as appropriate. Teachers can (if their transgressions meet a very high threshold) be fired, and whole schools can be reorganized if the District sees fit.

What I'm saying is this: conceptually, there should be no problem with relocating a charter in an existing building. Last year, I attended at meeting at PS92, also on Parkside, where teachers and parents were outraged that the Lefferts Gardens Charter School would be located at their underutilized building. They came up with all kinds of reasons; to me, none of them were persuasive, and some were downright offensive. The LGCS has been up and running without incident for a year now, and I hope the knee-jerk reaction against Charters begins to wane. Each one needs to be judged by its merits in my book. They're no panacea, but some choice sure as hell beats no choice. And hey, LGCS has a new website, which bodes better than the old one for a school championing environmental science. I'm pretty sure the internet gets used quite a bit these days in the world of science, though I'll have to Google that.

I'm glad to hear your comments on this issue; I waver on questions of public ed all the time. The lottery at LGCS seemed to have produced a representative mix of students from the district. The bigger issue, to me, is how to get that kind of diversity at ALL public schools. With so many parents opting out - either to private schools, or special schools out-of-zone, or pulling strings, or out-and-out lying about where they live - it's hard to imagine that equal representation happening without zoned family's staying put. And that's another subject entirely, one I'm not sure I can adequately address least for now. I started a blog to express opinions and spark discussion, so I can't very well shy away from the big topics.

Like what's with Dork Klub anyway? The suspense is killing me.


Mad Momma Carmen said...

Having taught at both a public school and a charter school, I share the sentiment of worry with parents in the existing public school where charter schools are taking over. First, our mayor has closed 11 public schools thus far due to "underperformance". Instead of providing support, he closed them down. This has resulted in other local public schools having to take in the scattered students. On the other hand, there are dozens of severely underperforming charter schools which fall outside of the DOE rules and are allowed to continue functioning on our tax dollars so long as they fulfill their charter. This means that if an 8th grader has a 2nd grade reading level he/she is still considered passing as long as the charter benchmarks are met (which vary widely from school to school).

I have seen first-hand two charter schools push out the public school whose space they occupied, leaving parents having to take their children to the neighboring district school which was also overcrowded due to another charter school occupying the space there as well. This also left me without a job for the following school year.

As well, I worked in a charter school where we occupied just one floor of a regular public school, yet received 5 times the amount of money, supplies, and support from the state than did the existing public school which severely needed the resources the charter school had thrown at them.

In short, I think the argument against charter schools is that they are inadvertently taking the focus away from what our public schools desperately need addressed.

Anonymous said...

To Carmen: the building was at 42% capacity before the Charter moved in. Now they're a little over 80%. Most NYC public school buildings are at well over 100% (the average is around 130%, I believe). No one is being "pushed out" of Parkside Prep.

Mad Momma Carmen said...

I never said that. You should re-read what I wrote. It's merely a sharing of sentiment.

Alexis said...

So wonder no more, Tim...Dork Klub is apparently a t-shirt merchant with such pithy sayings as "Brooklyn; You know how we do."