Feb. 27, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan (Updated: 3:22 pm)
Local parents are fighting to preserve a policy that allows children enrolled in the Gifted and Talented programs throughout the school district to automatically continue from elementary to middle school without having to reapply.
Parents will be holding a rally directly before a community meeting with representatives from CEC 30 and the DOE on March 1 at 6 p.m. at PS 234 at 30-15 29th Street in Astoria.
The fight began last December when the Superintendent of District 30 Philip Composto sent a letter to parents of students enrolled in Gifted and Talented programs in District 30 stating that the auto articulation program in the district would end beginning with the class of students currently in the first grade at the school in an effort to “ensure equity for every student.”
Local parents were upset about the switch, though it had been in the works for several years, according to CEC 30 Co-President Deborah Alexander, who said that many DOE publications referenced the switch in policy planned for 2019.
Under the existing system, there are G&T programs through the fifth grade at PS 122, 150, and 166 in District 30. The children from PS 122 and 150 auto-articulate in to middle school at PS 122, and PS 166 go to a G&T program at IS 126.
Parents at PS 122 specifically were alarmed by the letter because they had fought the DOE to maintain the K through 8 G&T program within the school in 2013, and eventually received a memo that stipulated that “G&T students enrolled at P.S. 122 in the elementary school grades will continue to have priority to remain at the school for 6th grade.”
Alexander said, however, that the memo has since been contradicted with newer policies that said auto-articulation would end throughout the city by 2019.
Parents in the district are somewhat divided on the solution to the change in policy.
Parents in PS 122 say that the 2013 memo means that at least the auto articulation at 122 should remain intact.
Parents of children in other G&T programs in the district, as well as members of CEC 30, want to see a unified policy throughout the district.
“We want to make sure that the system is fair and equitable for everyone with a level playing field,” Alexander said.
“There shouldn’t be a preference for just 30 kids in the district,” she added, speaking on why there should not only be auto articulation for children at PS 122.
Though Alexander said that the CEC 30 is debating the best course of action moving forward, whether to keep auto articulation intact or end it altogether, members agree that current students should be grandfathered in to the existing system, as many parents made life decisions based on the understanding that their child would have a spot in a K-8 program in the community.
After the initial outcry from parents after the letter in December, parents from PS 122 put together a petition to maintain the program as it is, garnering over 350 signatures. They also courted support from many local politicians who voiced their support for maintaining the PS 122 K through 8 program.
However since then, many of the politicians have stated their broad support for maintaining all G&T programs in the district as they are, agreeing with parents that auto articulation should continue for all students.
“We were contacted by parents at PS 122 and wrote a letter on their behalf as requested, but our advocacy is that the entire district remains as is,” said Senator Michael Gianaris today. “The policy letting students auto articulate is currently being applied district wide, and we are advocating for that to continue.”
Following months of back and forth between parents, the Community District Education Council, the Department of Education and elected officials, local parents plan to hold the rally on March 1 to preserve auto-articulation throughout the district and “stand together and show the DOE that this program is something we need, and is a successful model that should be considered throughout the city,” said local parent Melissa Lee.
The parents organizing the rally are encouraging all in attendance to wear red, regardless of what school their children go to, in order to show the unity within the district, Lee said.
She said that the fight is bigger than simply allowing children at PS 122 to auto articulate, but that it is necessary to ensure that all children within the district have a spot at a gifted and talented program within the district.
The forum on Wednesday will give parents a chance to raise concerns with Composto, CEC 30 and the DOE directly.
“Families have built their lives around this program, expecting that their child will be able to continue on through middle school at their school,” Lee said. “This has been a successful model and should broaden throughout the city, not be dismantled.”