public service announcement

Politician claims victory in city's school bedbug policy change

Teachers who are concerned about bedbugs in their schools have a new way to seek relief.

The Department of Education has set up a new email address —[email protected] — to receive complaints about bedbugs in city schools. School officials can also send photographic evidence of suspected bedbugs to the address so the department can identify, and try to end, infestations.

The new procedure was made public today by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who is counting the address’s creation as a personal victory. Stringer asked the city last year to let school personnel submit bedbug evidence by email, according to a press release from his office. Until now, school officials had to send physical specimens by mail to a department office in Queens in order to initiate treatment, according to Stringer’s announcement, a process that cost precious time in the fight against the invaders.

The city has long maintained that bedbugs are not a major problem for schools, but parents and school personnel continue to complain about the pests — often without getting a response.

“Several teachers in my school have found bedbugs in their classrooms. At least one has given a bedbug sample to the principal. A student even complained of being bit by bedbugs in the classroom,” a teacher wrote to GothamSchools today. “My principal is not remotely interested in the issue and does not respond to staff emails about our concerns. What can we do?”

One caution: The collateral damage of waging war against bedbugs can be costly for schools. After four classrooms at Brooklyn’s PS 107 were damaged during bedbug fumigation last fall, teachers had to hold a car wash to replace supplies.

Here’s the complete press release from Stringer’s office:

BOROUGH PRESIDENT STRINGER HAILS IMPORTANT VICTORY IN BATTLE TO RID NYC PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF BEDBUGS

Hailing “an important victory” in the battle to rid New York’s public schools of bed bugs, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer on Thursday congratulated the Department of Education (DOE) for agreeing to his suggestion that school officials should be able to email evidence of bed bugs to DOE for a rapid identification and response—instead of mailing them and waiting days for an answer.

“Bed bugs have no place in our classrooms, and that’s why I asked the city back in November to speed up the process by which school officials alert DOE to infestations,” Stringer said. “Although I’m concerned that it took this long to adopt a common-sense procedure, I’m glad to have played a role in bringing about a needed change.”

Although DOE did not publicly respond to the Borough President’s request last year for a speedier procedure, the new guidelines were recently distributed to principals. School officials now have the option of emailing photographs of a suspected pest to [email protected] Earlier, the Borough President noted, they were required to capture a specimen, position it in a plastic bag, seal the bag, secure it with tape and send the specimen through the U.S. mail to DOE in Long Island, City. Only then, after an identification process that could take days, would the DOE respond.

“Anyone who has ever discovered bed bugs in their home—or suspects they are present—would never stand for such a slow-moving reaction,” Stringer said. “We still have to combat this problem wherever it surfaces in our schools, but at least now parents, teachers and administrators can get a more instant response. The longer we have to wait for DOE to respond, the more difficult and costly an infestation will be to control.”

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.