Tonight I had the pleasure of joining a few hundred parents, teachers, leaders and kids at the 60+ year old PS92 Auditorium for a forum to discuss the proposed permanent co-location of the Lefferts Gardens Charter School within the building historically known as K92, or PS92. What this means is that the two schools, which have been sharing the building since 2010, will be formally married to each other. For better or worse. And if you stayed through the first 45 minutes of the meeting and got to the part where actual parents and teachers and grammas talked about the schools, you could see that mutual respect has been the norm, and the problems few. Sure there's work to be done, including considering how to better coordinate time, budgets and other resources and school rules. BUT...
District 17 superintendent Buffie Simmons did not allow parents to set the tone for the evening. Rather she chose to give members of her Community Education Council the floor to start, the dais as she called it. This group was so hell-bent on firing up the crowd against the LGCS co-location that they resorted to name-calling, false accusations, and general vitriol. Did Ms. Simmons step in to ask them to tone down the rhetoric to help preserve a civil demeanor for the evening? Not at all. Since she gave each of these three speakers more than 10 minutes to deliver their diatribes, she didn't even respect the 100+ community members who had taken numbers to speak, each of whom was to be given a max of 2 minutes. In reading about other meetings of this sort in other districts as well, and thinking back a few years to the first time this LGCS/92 co-location proposa took place even before the charter school moved in, this is just classic District DoE bashing, still pissed as they are that the City took back control from them and their local boards. Almost nothing the CEC folks said was true, and almost all of it was intended to give the impression that more people were against than for co-location.
I left halfway through the speakers, but at that point well over 3/4 of the people who came out were fully in favor of co-location. And even those not in favor of co-location showed way more respect and civility than did Superintendent Simmons or her chosen speakers.
Best (or worst) of all, when she finally gave someone from LGCS a chance to speak, and invited interim school leader Mark Dicus to come up, she then mangled his name thusly: Mark Dick-us. That's right. As any potty-mouthed kid or potty-mouth-thinking adult will tell you, that's a really insulting way to pronounce the guy's name. So clearly she made no attempt to meet with him or learn the proper pronunciation. (Does anyone remember the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, wherein Michael Palin plays Pontius Pilate? You'll need to view it to get the reference.) Mark took all of one minute to sum up LGCS's position:
"PS92 is a public school. LGCS is a public school. The PS92 building is a public building. Some folks like strawberry. Some folks like pistachio. This is about giving families in District 17 another choice."
Well said, Mark. Best of luck, and may the marriage bring many blessings to your families.