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Elected parent leaders learned of school closure by e-mail

It’s déjà vu all over again for parents as the Department of Education reveals its latest round of school closures.

Last year, City Council members complained that the DOE announced school closures without first discussing them with community members. Like other parent advocates, council members argued that the DOE’s actions were in violation of the state’s education law, which requires the chancellor to “consult with the affected community district education council” before closing or substantially changing schools.

But despite the outcry, the district-wide community education councils aren’t any more in the loop this year.

“The CECs were notified the same day the staff was told” at each school, DOE spokeswoman Melody Meyer told me today.

For District 15’s CEC, at least, that notification came in the form of an e-mail yesterday afternoon, after the principal of PS 27 had already been told her school would be closing in June, according to the council’s president, Jennifer Stringfellow.

“We were not consulted, we were notified,” Stringfellow told me. “It’s just so crazy that the same process just keeps happening over and over.”

On the Insideschools blog, CEC 3 member Jennifer Freeman wrote last week that no one from the DOE had spoken with the council about the prospect of closing MS 44.

And it’s not just elected parent leaders who want to discuss school closures with DOE officials before the closures are finalized. In a press release about MS 44, the Center for Immigrant Families, an Upper West Side community organization, said that such conversations could provide a basis for “an equitable school system.”

Here’s CIF’s full statement:

The ways in which NYC’s current education system marginalizes and discounts the voices of parents, educators, and community members is well-illustrated by the DOE’s latest announcement that IS44 in District 3 is being shut down. The following are some questions that we believe need to be addressed: Where was the community process leading to this closing? Were parents, educators, and community members part of this decision to determine what is best for their community? An article in the Times says another school will be created to replace it, but who is part of that process deciding what the needs of the community are and what kind of school it should be? Is the school being shut down before anybody knows what is going to happen to the sixth graders who would be entering the school in the Fall? How are the remaining seventh and eighth graders going to feel at a school labeled as failing that is about to close down? And who will decide whether the new school will be accessible to all our families, or, instead, be another school that privileges white, middle class families, as is increasingly becoming the case in our District and, indeed, across the City.

To address such questions related to the future of IS 44 and its students and to have an equitable school system that serves the needs of all our children, we believe we must begin from a foundation of building and strengthening meaningful parent, school, and community partnerships and creating a system that has communities at its center at every level of decision-making.

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