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As Brooklyn school nears closure vote, public advocate steps in

With little more than a week to go before the citywide school board votes on a Brooklyn elementary school’s closure, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is entering the debate over the school’s future.

Canarsie elementary school P.S. 114 has been one of the most controversial stories of this year’s school closure season. Teachers and parents at the school have argued that the Department of Education caused their schools’ problems when it installed a principal who overspent her budget by $180,000. Though parents and teachers have complained to the city for years, the principal was not transferred until 2009, by which point the school was heavily in debt. City officials claim that the school can’t turn around, given how far its students’ performance has fallen.

Now, a week before the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on P.S. 114’s proposed closure, de Blasio is putting pressure on the city to keep the school open. De Blasio launched a page where visitors can watch filmed testimonials from parents and can sign a petition to stop the school’s closure.

At a meeting last week, parents and teachers were introduced to the two principals who are expected to open new schools in the building next year as P.S. 114 begins its proposed phase-out. One of the schools P.S. 521, is a traditional public school that will be led by Principal Sasha Medina, and the other is Explore Excel Charter School, which will be led by Principal Ethan Mitnick.

At the meeting, P.S. 114 parents and teachers asked DOE officials why their schools wasn’t being given the fresh start and extra funding that some new schools receive.

“I don’t have anything bad to say about Explore [charter school],” said one P.S. 114 teacher. “But if we had all the money you have, we could do it too.”

Parents and teachers from Explore, who came out to champion their school, sometimes found themselves agreeing with P.S. 114’s supporters.

“I agree, the DOE screwed you over,” said one Explore parent. “But Explore is an option.”

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