In Central Brooklyn, particularly in the Crown Heights/Lefferts/EastFlatbush District 17, you can add another frothy layer of fraught. The schools for which you are likely zoned - say PS92 or PS375 - are not regularly cited as tops in the borough, nor do they garner lots of positive reviews from the meager online resources. For decades, middle-classers have found ways into other public schools, out of district, or opted for private school if they could afford it, leaving the local schools poorer and even under-enrolled. A few years ago parents banded together to start a science oriented Lefferts Gardens Charter School - to address the apparent need for a more progressive and higher quality alternative. (It has since lost its charter, ironically for poor performance). But was it really an issue of too few options that led to LGCS in the first place? Or were local parents simply too put off by the overwhelming blackness and poorness of the local choices? (Please excuse the inexact word poor. But DOE does mark the number of free lunch qualifiers, and 92 and 375 are over 90% free lunch, also known as Title I schools). Were the demographics and/or principals the reasons so many (honestly hundreds if not thousands) of mostly white and mostly wealthier children went to schools outside the neighborhood through the many many years?
Answers vary to why exactly so many parents chose not to enroll locally. Other neighborhoods have seen schools become reverse-integrated as the neighborhoods became whiter/wealthier. Perhaps that time is upon us, right here in Lefferts. Questions abound:
- Why have parents been so resistant to attending and helping local schools succeed?
- What do those parents mean by "succeed?"
- At what ratio of whiteness (10%? 20%?) do white parents feel comfortable enrolling?
- Is this more about class than race? Like, would these whites go to an all-black school of (forgive me) Sashas and Malias?
- What role does, or should, a principal play in a school's integration?
- Are programs like Dual Language and Gifted and Talented primarily about attracting whites to go local and public?
- How important is it that mostly black schools add more white students in the first place, since we've supposedly all agreed that it's important for mostly-white schools to add students of color?
- Why do progressive whites still have such sticks up their asses?
And so on.
You do have other options in D17 by the way. I don't mean to dwell on Jackie Robinson and PS92. They - and the Caton School and Parkside School and PS770 and LGCS and Explore - just happened to be the ones I spent some time looking into. And I went to PS9 and PS11 and others, plus had discussions with charter schools and homeschoolers and Montessori etc. Whew I learned a lot. And went to another D17 school, the delightful PS705, for pre-K. Then opted for a g&t spot at PS38 at Pacific St between 3rd Ave and Nevins. Always happy to talk about any of them, but really it's the parents who actually go to the schools that you should reach out to. Oh, and PS241! Happy to introduce you to folks at these schools. PS241 especially, since that school has just recently come on my radar thanks to local parent I know.
!!ACTION ITEM ALERT!!
From that very parent comes this:
Hi friends and neighbors.
A few of us have been talking about how to get organized in support of our local (District 17) schools.
We have roughly 33 elementary and middle schools full of talented educators, bright students and involved families—but, for the most part, the schools remain segregated, under-enrolled, and under-resourced.
And as you know, the ability of PTAs to raise money for schools also perpetuates inequity across the city. Rich schools attract more kids from wealthier families, who in turn raise more money to supplement the school’s budget. For schools that predominantly serve kids from less wealthy families, those forces work in reverse – they’re less able to raise outside money, and they often have populations with higher needs.
To address this systemic inequity, we would like to create an auxiliary, district-wide fundraising, advocacy and support group for District 17 schools. If community residents and local businesses go to work on behalf of the local schools, the schools will get stronger and kids and families across the community will benefit.
We have some ideas about how this could work. We need yours, too. On, we're going to start planning in earnest. After introductions, neighbor and InsideSchools researcher Nicole Mader will do a brief overview of the district to get everyone on the same page. Then we'll get to work.
Anyone interested in and committed to quality public education is welcome — including people who don't have kids and people who send their kids to schools in other parts of the city. We’re interested in coming together to make sure our neighborhood schools -- and the kids they serve -- have the resources they need.
808 Nostrand Ave (Repair the World)