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.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Black Educator's Perspective

If you have a perspective you'd like to share, feel free to shoot the Q an email. Thoughtful, engaging, provocative, challenging, moving, hilarious...send it along. And if this issue of segregation and inequality in the public schools is a concern of yours, please show up next Tuesday for another thought-provoking and hopeful action-inspiring event, flyer and info at the bottom of this post.

Longtime Lefferts neighbor, activist and "local gentry" Brenda Edwards shares her thoughts on the state of segregated schools and the history of such in our very neighborhood.

In the mid 90s a group of us black teachers decided to form a committee to protect our students and to be a definitive voice in the decision making process in what we saw as the coming onslaught of a white dominated school. For us, this was the beginning of gentrification which would affect our school,Erasmus Hall High located in Brooklyn's district 17. The district encompasses parts of East Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts, Gardens, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights.
We did not believe ourselves to be paranoid or over reacting. We had already seen the displacement and destruction of communities when its residents became more white and more wealthy.
We were determined to establish a balance within our school and with in the New York City educational system. We would be ready for whatever was to come. Students of all ethnicities would be welcome, but our black and brown students would not be excluded. We were armed with our teaching skills, our knowledge of the educational system and it's history of school segregation. We had witnessed the wrath of racism and economic inequities.
We would approach this issue with a vengeance. We would perform the necessary research citing evidence based on neighboring schools as well as others across the country. We would look for the signs: A sudden windfall found in the school budget resulting in long overdue renovations, the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment, and a generous inventory of school supplies including enough books for each student. Although this should be the normal working operations of a school, more often than not; this does not occur in schools located in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods,especially in the inner city.
We eventually realized that there would be no influx of white students eagerly registering for our school. The trickling stream of gentrifiers at that time and the presently increasing number would unequivocally decide that our school was not the right choice for their children. Perhaps it was and still is a clash of cultures, a resistance to change and a fear of the low performance that is associated with our neighborhood schools. Whatever the rationale, this choice continues to promote an imbalance where the majority of desirable schools are overwhelmingly stocked with the more affluent, the high achievers, the less needy and white students.
But as the neighborhood becomes more diverse, parents are organizing in preparation for their children to attend the schools around the corner, down the street and just a few blocks away. The hope is that the schools will reflect the various faces of its residents. And that all who live here will take responsibility in insisting on quality education for all students who cross the threshold of each classroom.
It is evident that in a changing neighborhood that our schools will also change to accommodate the newcomers as well as re-evaluate what works and does not work for the students who are already there. A successful educational system should never remain stagnant. it should be a system that proposes to satisfy the needs of its students regardless of who they are. It should not be a sudden and blatant realization that the schools are in need of substantial improvements only when the demographics change.
To quote the title of the song that Sam Cooke made famous "A Change Is Gonna Come." We will see where it takes us.


16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Seems there’s a misunderstanding of public school racial demographics in play here. It should be understood the student body in the NY City public schools is 15 percent Asian, 15 percent white, 30 percent black and 40 percent Hispanic. Meanwhile, whites are now only 30 percent of NY City’s population.

Soooo, whites and Asians are not going to displace blacks and Hispanics in the school system – ever. It’s far more likely whites and Asians will become a smaller percentage of the student body.

Therefore, what lies ahead with respect to racial demographics of the school system and the city itself should be painfully obvious to all.

There’s so much wrong with the Brenda Edwards commentary it’s hard to know where to start. But possibly worst of all is the implicit notion in her presentation that school buildings themselves make the students. As though simply attending Stuyvesant High School or Brooklyn Tech would turn an indifferent student into an intellectual competitor.

Erasmus Hall High School was once a great school. Bernard Malamud is a graduate. However, I’d bet most of the teachers there today have little or no understanding of Malamud and his writing. The students likely know even less about him and his work. Still, the list of illustrious graduates is long. But the list stopped growing by the end of the 1960s, when a big transition – for the worse – occurred in the NY City public school system.

The people I knew who attended in the late 60s and early 70s couldn’t wait to get out. And none would have considered sending their kids to their alma mater.
Sooooo, it seems Brenda Evans has it backwards. The school system is not segregated. Grade schools – kindergarten through 5th grade – kids attend their neighborhood school, unless they’re accepted into the Gifted Program. In that case they might ride a bus to the Gil Hodges School. Neighborhood schools reflect the demographics of the neighborhood. That’s not segregation.

Some middle schools are selective. A thinking parent would steer his kids toward Mark Twain Intermediate School in Coney Island. It is the best Brooklyn has to offer.

Meanwhile, the school system is probably now more rational than ever. However, the rationality is not a function of race. It is a function of intellectual placement. The smarter kids are accepted into the Gifted Program. They move through the system according to their ability to learn and achieve. The Best and Brightest end up at Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and 10 other “exam schools.”

Every kid gets a shot at the top schools. No one is barred. All that matters is the kid’s score on the Specialized High School Admission Test. What are the racial demographics of the Stuyvesant? About 75 percent of the students are Asian. About 20 percent are white. About 5 percent are everyone else. That’s not segregation. That’s competition.

The majority of the student body at Brooklyn Tech is also Asian. Brenda Edwards and others who believe there’s some flaw in the system that has led to this imbalance should look into the elements that account for the success of Asian students. Then encourage less successful students to do what the Asian kids are doing.

Anonymous said...

Poverty and good education don't mix well in society. They're like oil and water. That is the problem. Well, that and the unequally high level of poverty among black folks.

babs said...

"Grade schools – kindergarten through 5th grade – kids attend their neighborhood school, unless they’re accepted into the Gifted Program." Not so - most of the non-black parents I know in this neighborhood (can't say POC because I know some Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern parents in this group), as well as some black ones, have turned themselves (and their kids) inside out to keep them from going to their zoned school - or even other District 17 schools. They travel up to an hour each way every day to get their kids to their chosen (still public, mind you) schools - or they rent a studio apartment they don't occupy in a desirable district, like PS 321 (I know one family that does this, with a relative living in the apartment while they use the address. I know another family that owns a condo in the 321 zone that they rent out.). I have friends whose kids attend schools in Manhattan, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Windsor Terrace, and elsewhere - all of them living here in PLG. I don't know how they did (beyond the fake address scheme) but they did.

I know other people who send their kids to private school - and they factored in the cost of tuition when deciding whether to buy here vs. in a more desirable area, school-wise. When you're comparing a $4 million townhouse in PS 321 in Park Slope to one for $1.7 million in PLG (I'm using these as the entry prices to those neighborhoods - you'll rarely find anything for less and a whole lot for more), an extra $40K per kid per year for private school tuition can make sense.

I do have one friend who decided to send her child to her zoned school. Result? She is the only white kid in her class.

For this reason the demographics of our neighborhood elementary schools do not reflect the demographics of our neighborhood. I think it's a scandal, but I get it - no-one wants their children's education to suffer for the sake of social justice. But our local schools won't get better until everyone gets involved to make them so.

Anonymous said...

Apparently you have not taken into consideration racism,prejudice and misconception. I would suggest that you read the article concerning John Jay High School and The Article "New York City's Great Middle-School Divide",in Park Slope among others.

The principal at John Jay has been working towards encouraging white parents to enroll their children at the two schools that exist in the building to create an atmosphere of diversity. However,these parents have opted to create a third school in the same building to service their children. Not only does this create segregated schools, but also displacement of students who do not meet their clandestine rules.

Over the past 40 years due to gentrification, the ethnicity and wealth of Park slope has changed. what once was a predominantly black and Latino working-class neighborhood is now predominately white and more affluent ,especially, at the north end of the neighborhood. Of course with the change in demographics, there will also be a change in who attends the schools. And as you state,statistics show that the attendees of the public school system are predominantly black and Latino. Yet, there are schools that were once predominately black and Latino that have become predominately white even in integrated communities.Over a period of time displacement in neighborhoods will equal displacement in schools.

Also, black and Latino students have been successful in this city, this country and around the world with or without an Asian model as you propose. Many are unaware of their accomplishments because they remain as "hidden figures".

This is why we have organizations that are working diligently to provide opportunities for diversity in the schools such as the group live here,learn here.

Anonymous said...

Brenda is right. Spouse and I struggle with this one. I would love to save the money and send them to local school here. It would be more convenient and cheaper. But you look at the test scores, and they suck. And you look at some of the kids/parents. Not all, but enough are too young, too poor, and sometimes use too many curse words and speak with poor grammar. I say this growing up as a lower middle class immigrant. I am also extremely uncomfortable when a black person peppers his speech with the N-word. I understand use of the word is complicated, but still. We see other 10 year olds talking this way. No thanks. I have to explain to my kids that we can’t say that, and it shouldn’t be said (we’re not black). What are we to do? We do not have second chances in our kids’ educations. So we bite the bullet, pay for private, and commute with our kids. We make just enough to have that option. I predict PLG will have educated, gentrifying parents who cannot afford to send their kids to private, or have kids who just miss getting into Gifted and Talented and then start a new trend that rightfully set a good, better path for our local public schools because those parents are involved.

So I also agree with Anon at 9:32. But to achieve what Brenda wants, we need gentrification. Affluent families will bring and demand resources to the school. Why is that bad? I get extremely frustrated with my neighbors who would object to re-development of the Armory, and/or upzoning of Empire Blvd. 100% affordable housing is not economically feasible. I rather have a new bball court, pool, and community center with 80% market rate housing All. Day. Long. Meanwhile nothing happens, and the armory remains blighted. Empire Blvd looks like shit and has speeding cars. Status quo is completely foolish, lazy and greedy.

Anonymous said...

babs -- With respect to where grade school kids go, the default is the neighborhood school. As you mentioned, involved parents can work the system and place their kids in schools in other neighborhoods. Yes, there's a game of pretending to live in the PS321 zone. Because I had a legal tie to the neighborhood, I considered sending one of my kids there. But, frankly, I didn't like the school. Too many busy-body parents roaming the halls every day.

Anyway, my child was accepted into the gifted program and landed at PS 230 in Kensington. All good.

In short, how do parents get their kids into non-neighborhood schools? Lying plays a big role. But the introductory meetings with parents of future students, administrators at hot schools such as PS 321 tell the crowd they will verify addresses and kick out the scammers.

There are also schools around town that accept kids from out of district. No lying required. Bottom line, the demographics of the neighborhoods do reflect the demographics of the schools, but not on one-to-one basis.

Compare the demographics of the city with the demographics of the schools and it's obvious the city will continue to shift more and more toward a population of blacks and Hispanics. The school system is 30 percent black, 40 percent Hispanic.

Black and Hispanic kids are displacing white and Asian kids in the school system. If you want to project the racial composition of population of the whole city in 20 years, just look at the demographics of the school system today and you'll see the future.

But again, Carmen Farina is a crackpot and should retire for good. She seems to imply that something fishy is behind the fact that Asians fill so many seats in the top schools. There is no secret to their success.

Kids are not a social experiment. They need a sane environment for schooling. But as Anon 6:01 says, that environment does not exist in PLG grade schools. And that problem isn't likely to go away. 6:01 is right. You don't get a second chance with a kid's education. So, gifted program if possible, weaseling into good out-of-neighborhood schools, private schools, or lying. Whatever works.

Anonymous said...

Apparently you have not taken into consideration racism,prejudice and misconception. I would suggest that you read the article concerning John Jay High School and The Article "New York City's Great Middle-School Divide",in Park Slope among others.

In fact, about 10 years ago, I had a brief gig teaching math at John Jay. Let me sum up the experience. The place was a waiting room for Riker's Island. Until you've been in a classroom with these characters, you have no idea what you're talking about.

Over the past 40 years due to gentrification, the ethnicity and wealth of Park slope has changed. what once was a predominantly black and Latino working-class neighborhood is now predominately white and more affluent ,especially, at the north end of the neighborhood.

Park Slope has been white since the Bronze Age. It was once much more Irish, But those brownstones and limestones weren't built for the poor. You must be relatively new to NY City. Whatever, you're misinformed.

Anonymous said...

Yes Park Slope has changed. During the 70's, there was a large population of Haitian/Caribbean immigrants residing in PS. I know that, because my parents, and several elderly relatives owned two/three Brownstones on 7th avenue, which they sold in 2015. I grew-up there, and also attended John Jay HS, when it was considered a great school.

Anonymous said...

Yes Park Slope has changed. During the 70's, there was a large population of Haitian/Caribbean immigrants residing in PS.

There's no doubt PS has changed, but not quite in the way you suggest. Yes, a community of Caribbean immigrants began arriving in the South Slope during the 70s. And they also moved into Sunset Park. The new arrivals from the Caribbean began displacing the large Irish population that had been there for a long time. But with respect to the overall population of PS, the Caribbean group was not large. Meanwhile, the North Slope was, and is, white.

My history with PS goes back to friends of my parents who owned a brownstone on 11th St a half-block off the park. They bought that house probably in the 1940s. I first visited as a kid in the 1950s. My in-laws bought a big limestone on 3rd St, also a half-block away from the park. They bought it in 1960.

My wife and her siblings were high school students in the 1970s. By that time, John Jay was off the radar for them. By the 70s the school had a lousy reputation. Much of the destruction of the school system occurred in the wake of the 1968 battle over school boards led by Sonny Carson. After the Carson/Ocean Hill/Brownsville debacle, most city schools took a beating, as did CUNY.

Nobody in PS today would send their kids to John Jay. It's been that way for decades.

Anonymous said...

Carmen Farina, as expected, is showing more signs of her worsening dementia.

http://nypost.com/2017/06/11/school-desegregation-push-doesnt-help-the-kids-who-need-it/

Anonymous said...

I disagree with a lot of the things the DeBlasio administration is doing. But I think they are getting the school stuff right. We don't have segregated schools in NYC; no one is assigned to a school solely on the basis of their race. Legal segregation, the kind of segregation that Brown v. Board of Education addressed, was the system of "whites at this school, blacks at this school." Now we have the more insidious problem of academically and class segregated schools, which maintain their status quos because of residential sorting, neighborhood demographics, and various screening mechanisms; rich, generally white, kids go to the better schools, poor, generally Black or Hispanic, kids go to under-resourced schools. Challenging this "de facto" segregation is not the kind that courts really want to go to bat for. Kids have the right to attend a legally non-segregated school; they don't have the legal right to attend an integrated school.

DeBlasio and Farina clearly realize that the courts would not be on their side in any truly robust or radical integration plan for the public schools. Plus, the demographics of the public school system and the challenges of changing the neighborhood school system make it nearly impossible to have racially representative schools. Parents would revolt against an integration program that would require bussing 80% of the Park Slope kids all over the city to balance out classrooms in ENY and Harlem; parents in ENY and Bed-Stuy would probably be worried for the safety of their kids who would be bussed to places like Staten Island or Bensonhurst.

So DeBlasio and Farina are choosing to try to bring all the public schools up to a higher level and provide extra resources to struggling schools and student populations; I think that is great. And realistic. And demonstrates a great deal of faith in schools in neighborhoods dominated by people of color, that if the schools are properly resourced that the kids can thrive in great POC-lead schools, and good schools become real options for all people who live in neighborhoods throughout the city (including the great many middle class, upper middle class, and striving people of color who send their kids out of zone or district or to private or charter schools).

FWIW, I'm the parent of a kid eligible for UPK this year, in District 17. I'm not truly thrilled by any of my options, and I do not want to travel a far distance with a four year old at 7:30am in the morning, so I am keeping my kid in his nearby private preschool for another year while we prep for the G&T test. I'm trying to keep an open mind, but our district's subpar test scores worry me. Not that I think test scores are reflective of truly great educations -- I am equally against the kill-and-drill methods favored by places like Success Academy and KIPP -- but there is a huge material difference you face when choosing between schools with 50-60% 3rd grade academic proficiency in English and Math and schools with 15-30% proficiency. Am I personally willing to put my child in a school where 15-30% of his peers are performing on grade level? What does that mean academically, and what does that mean socially, for my kid and myself (school is as much a social experience for parents as it is for kids). How much parental involvement can I really contribute to a school, given the realities and demands of my life and work and pocketbook? How much am I willing to sacrifice mine and my child's time to a commute? All things I ponder and worry about, and am happy to have put off for another year.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:26, it appears you're a parent whose first kid is in the starting gate of public school. You're about to cross the Rubicon. You rightfully and intelligently acknowledge that you're prepping your kid for acceptance into the G&T class. However, at the same time, it seems you feel guilty for coming to the realization that you don't want your kid in school with kids who are going function as impediments to the education of your kid. Don't feel guilty.

The G&T program is good, though it varies across the city. But District 17 has done well. One of my kids attended the CIG section of G&T at the Gil Hodges school. Overall, it gets high marks. The kids are challenged and they are successfully prepped for middle school.

The best middle school in Brooklyn, and probably the city, is Mark Twain Intermediate in Coney Island. The school has programs -- majors -- that cover the range of talents and intellectual interests. Just like college.

From Mark Twain, the kids go all over. Stuyvesant, High School of the Performing Arts, Brooklyn Tech. Then they go to college.

It is utterly pointless and a colossal waste of time to play social scientist, pseudo-sociologist, involved parent aiming to improve the school system while your child is in it. Your child will have left whatever school you attempt to improve before improvements arrive. You have to deal with what is.

The best you can do is steer your kid toward the schools that offer what you want.

But never forget that good schools are good for one reason: the kids who attend.

There is a painfully obvious reason the student body at Stuyvesant is 75 percent Asian. But there are a lot of parents and bureaucrats in NY City who think the imbalance is unfair. Those people are wrong.

disco princess said...

re: Anonymous June 6, 2017 at 9:32 PM: Sooooo, it seems Brenda Evans has it backwards. The school system is not segregated. Grade schools – kindergarten through 5th grade – kids attend their neighborhood school, unless they’re accepted into the Gifted Program. In that case they might ride a bus to the Gil Hodges School. Neighborhood schools reflect the demographics of the neighborhood. That’s not segregation.

The demographics of neighborhoods did not develop in a vacuum. There is a reason why the Fair Housing Act came about in 1968. Practices (whether sanctioned on a personal level or by the government) like redlining that aided and abetted residential segregation were a thing.

re:" Some middle schools are selective. A thinking parent would steer his kids toward Mark Twain Intermediate School in Coney Island. It is the best Brooklyn has to offer."
I know that Philippa Schuyler (JHS 383) out in Bushwick is also pretty good. It has been a good school for decades. Reportedly Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in district 17 is also good (source: http://brooklyn.mamasnetwork.com/guides/schools/10-great-public-middle-schools-in-brooklyn/).

re:"Brenda Edwards and others who believe there’s some flaw in the system that has led to this imbalance should look into the elements that account for the success of Asian students."

...and what would those elements be?

disco princess said...

Park Slope has been white since the Bronze Age. It was once much more Irish, But those brownstones and limestones weren't built for the poor. You must be relatively new to NY City. Whatever, you're misinformed.

----------------------

There's no doubt PS has changed, but not quite in the way you suggest. Yes, a community of Caribbean immigrants began arriving in the South Slope during the 70s. And they also moved into Sunset Park. The new arrivals from the Caribbean began displacing the large Irish population that had been there for a long time. But with respect to the overall population of PS, the Caribbean group was not large. Meanwhile, the North Slope was, and is, white.

My parents lived in PS before they moved to this area. The reason they moved was because the building fell into such disrepair once the owner passed away. They were not of Caribbean descent though.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

So many things to say here. Two jump out. Park Slope, depending on how define it, was not all white at all. Watch "The Landlord." That's Park Slope - "prime" North Slope, which used to look more like Prospect Heights. Oh, right, Prospect Heights is becoming mostly white now. When I lived on Vanderbilt the Caucasians were few and far between. That was only 25 years ago.

To the parents who wonder whether their local school is "good enough" for them, I'd say only that you're talking about pre-schoolers and kindergarteners. They'll be just fine. Why not go with your social justice "gut" on this one and just send them? The five year olds don't throw around the n-word as much as you think. They all learn the same 26 letters and 10 digits. You might be uncomfortable at times, but that's on you, not the kids.

Nothing changes if we don't change. It's not Farina's fault, or de Blasio or Cuomo, or even charters or million dollar PTAs. It's us. We choose to segregate.

I've been following this for awhile, and I gotta say, it really is that simple. Any idea you have about how your local elementary school is inadequate for your child is probably misinformed at best, racist at worst. If you like the Principal "enough," go. You can always change later.

I know tons of parents who tried to make the system work to their advantage and are STILL disappointed. Or doing fine. It's simply not worth the belly-aching.

And if you think the elementary shit is twisted, just wait for middle and high school. Then you REALLY get to see what entitled racist pricks most white people are. Ruthless too.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Simpler way of stating the above - you gotta be in it to win it.