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Local parents fight to guarantee spots at Gifted & Talented K-8 schools

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.”

 

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14 Comments

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Donna C.

Just curious about your take on something Moitri…. so at the community meeting it was pretty evident that the collective, publicly demonstrated will was that the whole district should get K-8 status. So when something is argued publicly, wouldn’t you agree that it’s extraordinarily deceitful to then flood electeds and DOE officials with emails after the meeting to instead just argue for 122’s standalone special status?

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Anonymous

Totally baffled why the district schools are fighting so hard to take away the 122 K-8 school, not ever referring to the citywides which are identically modeled- same application procedure, with many qualified candidates chosing a district over citywide or just not getting the lucky lottery (plenty of 99 scores are in district schools as citywide are too small). CEC has an odd reverence for the citywides as if there is some big distinction. How can they say it is a level playing field when they never refer to the strange sanctity of citywide K-8?Shouldn’t there just be greater focus and demand for more K-8 seats for students in good standing to be able to have stability and continuity? Seems better for the whole district that there is at least one additional K-8 (and nice that it is same building) no? DOE and CEC both say each school has its own character. I say add more seats.

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moitri

Kevin, a memorandum of understanding is a legal document. The CEC is not publicizing it. You should ask them about it tonight. Not giving priority to students staying in their own program can also be legally challenged. Finally, putting a burden on one K-8 program that is not put on the other schools is “illegal.” I’m happy to discuss offline. By the way, It’s very interesting how much your comment is “liked” and mine “disliked” in such a short time period.

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Anonymous

p.s. you may want to google “memorandum of understanding” before you hang your legal hat on it.

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Kevin

Anything can be litigated. I think the word you’re looking for is “binding” which a memorandum of understanding is not. In the words of Inigo Montaya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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Donna C.

Never a bad time for a Princess Bride reference. Kevin, you win.

Moitri

Deb Alexander, Superintendent Composto and CEC 30 are passing along incorrect information knowing full well that there is a legal memorandum of understanding stating 122 G & T students are in a K-8 program. The DOE reiterated the K-8 nature of the program as recently as 10/16 and 12/16. In the past 5 months CEC 30 has been meeting with the DOE without parental representation to target one K-8 program rather than focusing on ways to ensure a seamless K-8 experience for students at 150, 85, and 166. Continuing the current course will just lead to a contentious lawsuit during an election year. They will then have to spend their time on mounting a legal defense rather than focusing on the education of our district students. We need to ask them why they have not been focusing on more relevant issues such as giving weight to work done in a G & T program, having a multiple year look back for admission and grandfathering current students. Targeting 122 for the sake of equity without calling for change at any other K-8 is so transparent. We need CEC 30 to fight for ALL the students in the district!

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Kevin

“Legal memorandum of understanding”? What exactly does that mean? The DOE changes policies whenever it wants. Does it suck that they can say their plan is X and then change it a year later? Yes. Is that what every district in NYC has to deal with routinely? Yes. It it illegal? No. Does this mean PS 122 should receive something other schools in the same district don’t? No. The CEC is *parent representation.* Not PS 122 parent representation.

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Valarie Lamour

As co-President of CEC30 I would like to weigh in:

The CEC represents ALL parents, and ALL 37,000 students in District 30. Approximately 1,000 of those students are in a G&T program, or just under 3%. Over the course of our time on the CEC, this council has represented ALL students of this magnificently diverse part of Queens.

We rallied in 2013 to save the Academy at Mamie Fay, we advocated for test scores not to be used as the only tools to measure our children for promotion, and our measure our teachers’ performance. We have demanded translation in all communications with the DOE for our non-English-speaking parents and we are always making sure that our most vulnerable students are getting the services they rely on as special needs students. We are the second most crowded district in NYC and our advocacy has helped get five new schools promised to and/or built in our district.

We have also devoted an entire CEC meeting to the auto-articulation issue, as well as countless hours of advocacy, and listening to parents from across the district on this issue, in an attempt to have all children in our district treated equally. This includes the 1,000 students in a G&T program, and the 36,000 other children, ALL of whom deserve equity and access to the same middle school opportunities as those who took a test when they were four.

We are committed to advocating for the appropriate education for ALL students, which includes making every school handicapped accessible; which includes every child receiving their mandated IEP services, art and phys-ed time; which includes seats for every child the city qualifies for G&T, and which includes ensuring that every child is on a level playing field when they apply to middle school.

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Nadine

PS 85 also has a district 30 G&T program. Grades K-3 are a district 30 G&T program, while 4-5 are a Citywide.

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Gary K.

Curious why, out of four affected G&T programs, not to mention thousands of General Education parents, no one else was interviewed for this story? This is a district-wide policy issue being presented from the perspective of one school.

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Georgia

There are three other district 30 g and t schools you are blatantly ignoring within this article. The elected officials actually don’t only support 122. The meeting on March 1st is actually for all district 30 g and t schools’ parents and students. It’s not only a forum for 122 parents. I’m not sure where you got your information but just judging by the content I’m assuming it’s from an irate 122 parent. I would have thought that you could at least try to write an article that shows all sides of a story. This is a biased article.

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