Dec. 15, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
Parents of children in the Gifted and Talented program at P.S. 122 were blindsided by a letter last week informing them that their children would no longer be automatically eligible to stay at the school beyond fifth grade.
PS 122, located at 21-21 Ditmars Boulevard, is unique in that it has both general education and gifted and talented programs for grades K through five, but then transitions to only being a gifted and talented program for the middle school grades.
Parents received a letter from Superintendent Philip Composto last Friday informing them that students in the primary school gifted program would no longer have guaranteed seats in the middle school program at PS 122 beginning with the current first grade class.
However, after pressure from local politicians and a petition from the parents of current students, the Department of Education has promised to maintain the program as it is.
This battle to maintain the program came as a shock to parents since they fought hard to preserve it when the DOE tried to change the program in 2013 as well, and were promised it would stay as it was at the time.
In 2013, the DOE announced that it would make the middle school similar to the primary school, with both general education and gifted classes, which would reduce the number of gifted classes from four to one.
Community members fought off that change, which would have cut down the number of gifted seats in the district, and would not have guaranteed middle school seats to the children already enrolled at PS 122.
After the DOE reversed the decision, it issued a memo that stated “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.”
Until recently, the parents considered the issue resolved. A misprint in the school directory earlier this year raised concerns with parents that the DOE was looking to change the G & T program again, but they were comforted by an email from the Office of Student Enrollment on October 28 that read, “We are not changing anything contained in the agreement and we expect the students in the G&T program at 122 to continue on for middle school as it is a K-8 school.”
Then last Friday, parents received a letter from Composto outlining a change in the process, eliminating auto articulation for the students enrolled at PS122 for elementary school. The letter stated, “We have made the determination that all of our students deserve equal access to middle school G&T seats.”
“We were caught by complete surprise and were horrified, so we mobilized immediately,” said PS 122 parent Vinod Mathew. “It seems like it was just a unilateral decision that arbitrarily overturns the 2013 agreement.”
Parents immediately began a petition, spoke out at the Community Education Council 30 meeting on Monday, and got in touch with local politicians, who came down firmly on their side.
Five local politicians wrote a letter to DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña in support of maintaining the program as it is.
“Our offices were not made aware of this proposed change and failed to receive any information. We find this unacceptable and reaffirm our support for the 2013 exemption memo,” wrote State Senator Michael Gianaris, Representative Joe Crowley, State Senator Jose Peralta, Assembly Member Aravella Simotas and Councilman Costa Constantinides.
“While we recognize the desire for uniformity of policy, educators surely know the pitfalls of “one size fits all” educational policies. The attempt to change the articulation policy at P.S. 122 is unfair to the parents and students who have worked hard to maintain their status in the G&T program,” the letter continued.
Gianaris said he received word yesterday afternoon that the DOE had reversed its decision and the school would maintain its current structure, though parents are still waiting on official written confirmation.
The DOE had not responded for comment by press time.