Chancellor Carmen Fariña was eager to find middle ground at a low-key meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy on Tuesday night.
Trying to recast her relationship with charter schools, she told the crowd that she was “working collaboratively” with a number of charter schools and reiterated her plans to find additional space for the Success Academy middle school whose co-location plan she overturned.
“Just as we won’t approve a co-location that hurts special needs students at a traditional public school, we don’t turn our backs on the children who attend this charter school,” Fariña said. “We are working to find space for the kids at this school because we know that every child, every public school student, is our charge.”
The wording was deliberate, as Fariña came under fire in recent weeks for saying that the charter schools were “on their own.” She later said she misspoke.
Only about 40 people attended the meeting, with many speakers thanked Fariña for her decision to kill the plans for three charter school co-locations. Others urged her to go even further in stopping co-location plans.
One of the final speakers was Shamona Kirkland, an organizer with the charter advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools, which has helped mobilize pro-charter rallies in the city and in Albany. Kirkland took a softer line on Tuesday, speaking as someone who sees both sides of the charter school space debates with a daughter at Achievement First Apollo and son at Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School.
“If my children only gain, it means nothing for my community. I have to fight for all, and I wish that our city will come together and make decisions that are best for everyone,” she said.
“Excuse me, Ms. Kirkland? I’m going to take you on the tour around the city I have to do and you can introduce me with that speech,” Fariña responded.
The Panel approved the city’s five-year $12.8 billion capital spending plan, which raised ire (and cheers) in late January for reallocating money the Bloomberg administration had set aside for potential charter school building. Now, that $210 million is earmarked for the city’s pre-kindergarten expansion.
The Panel also delayed a vote on a temporary re-siting of a portion of P.S. 11 in Queens.