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With massive budget cuts to education threatened, the charter cap raised, and new school construction unable to keep pace with demand, it’s no surprise that more than half of all the city’s public schools share space with at least one other school.

Peaceful co-existence is the gold standard for sharing space -- "co-locations" in DOE-parlance --and some schools maintain harmony despite scheduling challenges and limited space.  Other schools don’t fare as well, clashing over everything from use of classrooms and the gymnasium to which students get 10 a.m. lunch!

A number of new school-sharing proposals will come up for a vote at the March 1 Panel for Educational Policy meeting. If previous meetings are any indication, most of these will be approved.

We'd like to know: Does your school share space with at least one other school?  If so, how’s it going?  Do the administrations get along?  How about the students?  Is there adequate space? Take our poll and share your thoughts below

Published in News and views
Thursday, 14 October 2010 17:11

District 15 parents grill the chancellor

Joyce Szuflita, of NYSChoolHelp.com, attended the Meet and Greet with Chancellor Klein sponsored by the District 15 Community Education Council. Here's her recap of the evening.

Last night, schools chancellor Joel I. Klein participated in a town hall style meeting sponsored by District 15’s Community Education Council. The large crowd of parents, students and teachers that gathered inside Sunset Park Prep Academy’s auditorium grilled the chancellor on a range of topics affecting District 15 families and those citywide.

Klein opened with a brief PowerPoint presentation demonstrating rising test scores and a shrinking achievement gap. His conclusions invited considerable dissent by CEC members over how to interpret the test results. Klein also told the crowd that 2162 new seats were created recently in District 15. Both CEC members and parents questioned why District 2 has small, selective high schools that give priority to District 2 residents (Manhattan has no zoned options for high school), while in other parts of the city there are  few small, screened programs that offer in-district priority.  Some spoke of the heartbreak felt by many Brooklyn students over not being admitted to Millennium High School last year.  In previous years, Millennium, also a District 2 school, routinely accepted Brooklyn students despite its policy of giving top priority to residents of lower Manhattan.

Klein responded that the schools were zoned by the old District 2 School Board long before his tenure and that Millennium was built after 9/11 to support and revitalize the downtown neighborhoods. He voiced his interest in providing schools that are open to students citywide.

Funding was on the minds of teachers who asked where Race to the Top money was being spent, and if “high priced consultants” and charter schools had their budgets slashed as much as DOE schools.

Klein said that most funding cuts happened at central office and administrative levels and that charter programs are funded at a lower level per student than DOE schools.

A student from the Secondary School for Journalism, one of several schools located in the former John Jay High School, told Klein that her school was cutting language and arts classes. She asked why the DOE is considering opening a new program at the John Jay campus instead of spending money on the schools already in the building, which would make them more attractive to neighborhood students.

Klein explained that there is a need to open more school facilities and that the money spent to create new space comes from a different budget than the one that funds school operations.

We hear that the Chancellor will be speaking at the District 2 CEC meeting next week, at PS 33 on October 27

What questions do have for him? What's happening in your district?

Published in News and views

Dear Judy,
Our high school is overcrowded by the capacity standards in the DOE Blue Book. Our school has corrected the DOE calculation of space twice and our submittal has gone unacknowledged. Meanwhile, our3800  students fill a school with a capacity of 2100. What can be done to have the legal capacity enforced?
Thanks,
Dave
Bayside H.S. PTA President

Dear Dave,

It is not useful to argue over the capacity figures since the Blue Book (officially, the  Enrollment-Capacity-Utilization Report) already shows that Bayside is severely over-enrolled.  As far as I can tell, while the legal capacity is based on square footage of each room divided by 20, the standard of the NYC Building code, there are ways to manipulate the figures. Either way, your school is severely overcrowded and you need a solution.

Arguing over the numbers does not solve the problem. As you know, most of the larger high schools in your area and other parts of the city, are also overcrowded. It’s a complex problem, because parents and kids want schools like Bayside, with its proven track record and safe environment, so demand is high. But the current Department of Education policy favors carving small schools out of large dysfunctional ones, and funneling leftover kids to still standing large schools, like yours.

So how to proceed?  As the PTA president of a large, high- performing high school, much of what I say is probably old news to you, but perhaps there is something you missed.

I would start by inviting a representative of the DOE's Office of Portfolio and Planning to speak at a PTA meeting to clarify any plans they have in the works for your area of Queens. It is likely they do, having taken on Forest Hills High School overcrowding with the founding of Queens Metropolitan  High School.   GothamSchools reports that at an October 5 meeting at PS 58 in Queens, DOE Executive Director of School Improvement Alex Shub told parents a new 1,100 seat high school is going to be built in Maspeth. He  acknowledged that parents want a "large comprehensive high school" and "not a bunch of boutique schools..."

Next widen your base and set up a collaborative process with the Borough President’s office, the community board, your local council member, and congressperson.   Work with the School Leadership Team, and rope in the SLT’s from other area high schools because any solution is likely to affect all the high schools in Queens, or at least your part of Queens. SLT support is crucial as it brings the principal and the faculty on board.

Support of the local elected officials adds credibility, expertise, and public pressure. That is important to keep in mind whether you are looking for long term solutions -- involving new buildings or annexes -- or quick fixes such as trailers in the yard, restricting enrollment through screening or zoning, or any other strategies yet to be devised.

Once you have a  a detailed description of the problems that overcrowding is causing, and some ideas for a remedy, bring the issue to the Citywide Council on High Schools for consideration.  According to Andrea Anna Lella, president of the CCHS, no proposal can be considered if it breaks the law, such as making your school, or schools around you, less diverse. On the other hand, it would be a plus to increase diversity through your plans.

Hearings at the CCHS can lead to a formal request to the DOE to develop a plan. Before the DOE acts, it wants assurance that there is good faith resolve to accept a plan. That’s why, at this point your work intensifies, even though the Department of Education takes the lead.  All parties must stay involved, monitor the process, and help devise a workable solution.

Good luck!

Judy

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 21 September 2010 13:26

Seeking parents to help restore arts funding

The Center for Arts Education (CAE) is enlisting parent leaders to join a team of advocates dedicated to restoring arts education to New York City public schools.   A recent study published by the CAE found that over the three year period from 2006 to 2009, support for arts education in the city's schools declined.

In its second year, CAE's Parent Fellows Initiative trains parent leaders -- ideally those with experience working for a PTA, Community Education Council or other community organization -- to raise awareness about the benefits of arts education and the decline in state funding for it. Tasks will include  visiting schools and reaching out to parents  to increase awareness of the benefits of arts education.  Parent Fellows will be paid a monthly stipend and get free access to cultural events, performances, and workshops.

For more information about the Parent Fellows Initiative, see the  Parent Fellows Announcement.

If you're interested in becoming a Parent Fellow, contact Kira Streets, Director of Public Engagement at (212) 971-3300, ext. 324 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in News and views
Monday, 20 September 2010 08:32

Poll: What needs improvement at your school?

With the first full week of classes behind them, families and schools are settling into their routines. Most new students have registered, PTA meetings have been scheduled, some out-of-work teachers have returned to the classroom, and public hearings are underway to decide how C4E money from the state is to be spent.

It's still early in the school year, but already challenges have arisen: Crowded classrooms, especially in high schools, concerns about funding for the artsa rally for student safety, and how to maintain a clean -- and green --school environment are just a few of the things families are talking about.

This week we'd like to know: What area needs the MOST improvement at your child's school?

Take our poll and let us know. And, given that most of you are optimistic about the school year, please share your suggestions for how to solve the problems.

Published in News and views
Monday, 13 September 2010 05:01

DOE to hold public hearings on C4E funding

The Department of Education will be holding public hearings in every school district on this year's round of funding from Contracts for Excellence (C4E), the state legislation passed in 2007 to distribute the settlement proceeds from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

Contracts for Excellence funds target students with the greatest needs: English Language Learners, students in poverty, students with disabilities and those with low academic achievement. Funding is supposed to be spent in six specific program areas: class size reduction, time on task, teacher and principal quality initiatives, school restructuring, full day pre-K and ELL programs.

Parent leaders, education advocates and the United Federation of Teachers have charged that the city has not used C4E funding to reduce class sizes througout the city. In January 2010 , the United Federation of Teachers, NAACP, the Hispanic Federation and Class Size Matters joined with parent leaders in a lawsuit against Chancellor Joel I. Klein and the DOE for violating state law by not applying C4E funds to reduce class sizes.

The hearings come at an opportune time for parents, many of whom are first learning the extent to which classes, programs, and services have been slashed at their children's schools as a result of the latest round of budget cuts. With news that Race to the Top funds will not be spent to offset budget cuts, C4E funds will likely prove critical to many schools as they work to bolster student achievement -- a daunting task given the 2010 state test results released in late July and the raising of passing standards by the state.

You can read the DOE's proposed plan for the disbursal of C4E funds here. Over the next few weeks, each of the city’s 32 Community Education Councils will hold hearings for the public to offer their views on how C4E funds should be spent for the 2010-11 school year.

No time to attend a meeting? Send your input to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Planning to go attend a C4E hearing? Please let us know how it turned out by commenting below.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 09 September 2010 07:15

Coalition collects school supplies for homeless

The Coalition for the Homeless launched a back to school project to collect school supplies for an estimated 15,000 homeless kids who attend New York City public schools.

Until September 17, the Coalition will be accepting school supplies at locations around the city. Choose from a Wish List of items, including backpacks, crayons, pens, pencils, binders, and other "must have" supplies that you are probably buying for your own children this weekend!

Other ways to help? Attend a Friday night concert and poetry slam fund-raiser at Notice Lounge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You must be 21 to get in but the admission price is only $10. and all proceeds go towards buying school supplies. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Check the Coalition for the Homeless website for more details.

Insideschools also learned that the Gap clothing store has donated school clothes for children whose parents are unemployed, receiving food stamps, or homeless. Clothes will be distributed on Saturday, September 11, at Roy Wilkins Park, 119th Street and Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. The event, running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., is sponsored by the Greater Bethel Community Development Corporation. For more information, see the flier here.

With budget cuts affecting schools and classrooms, and a 9% unemployment rate in the city, schools and students need all the help they can get!

If you know of other opportunities to help support homeless families and other students in need, please share below.

Published in News and views

The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) has scheduled two meetings in late August to address unfinished business from its August 16  meeting that was cut short in response to a  parent-led protest concerning the 2010 state test results.

August 30 meeting

The PEP will meet on Monday, August 30 at 6 p.m. at LaGuardia High School.  The sole topic for this meeting will be to address the city's 2010 state test results in light of the change in state testing standards.  At the August 16 meeting, parent protested that they needed a forum to discuss the city's 2010 test results.

The public will be invited to comment following presentations by Chancellor  Klein and Deputy Chancellor Shael Suransky about the test results.

More information on the Aug 30 PEP meeting here.

August 31 meeting

The PEP will meet again the next morning, Tuesday, August 31 at 10 a.m. at LaGuardia High School. Panel members will vote on all items included on the August 16th meeting agenda, mainly concerning DOE contracts and budget.

More information on the August 31 PEP meeting here.

Published in News and views

New York is among ten winners in the second round of federal "Race to the Top" funding announced today.

After losing out in the first round earlier this year, the state legislature voted in May to raise the cap on charter schools, to help boost New York's chances to win the federal dollars.

There's no word yet as to exactly how much money the state will get. UPDATE: According to GothamSchools, the state will get all of the $698 million it asked for and the city will be getting about $250-300 million.

Take a look at GothamSchools for updated coverage and a summary of how the state plans to use the money. Education Week has a rundown of the other winners. Eighteen states were finalists for the funding; most of the winners come from the East Coast.

What will this mean for New York City schools? Comment below.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 24 August 2010 06:44

Ask Judy: Budget cuts and parent volunteers

Dear Judy:

I am wondering how we parents can help offset the impact of  budget cuts. Any suggestions as to what parents can do to keep school programs going despite the loss of staff and funding?

A parent

Dear Parent,

With schools set to open in a few weeks, now is a good time to plan your supportive activities: not just fund raising, but hands-on contributions as well.  Fund raising may have reached its saturation point in some schools, considering the lagging economy and ongoing unemployment rate, while other school communities have never been able to raise funds on a large scale.   But parents who are working less -- or not at all -- now may be able to take time to volunteer to help schools which may be strapped for resources.

A good place to start is the lunchroom: there are never too many hands in the cafeteria to help kids during the sometimes chaotic mealtime and to button up their coats for outdoor recess. Some parents are cut out for playground supervision (good at sports, love games) others may enjoy conducting a board game club, teaching knitting, or reading with kids on those forbidding winter days.  Other ways to help out:  volunteer in the school library, collect lunch money, of course accompany classes on field trips.

As an individual, you can speak with your child’s teacher to work out a helpful ongoing role in the classroom. As a group,  class parents can organize to contribute to the classroom library, visit local merchants for donations of school supplies, develop a schedule of parent led mini-lessons on, say, cooking, science, chess, sewing, knitting, sing-alongs --  whatever parents can do that the school budget no longer supports.  After school programs will also need the same kind of help.

Note: Some principals do not yet welcome parents to the classroom. Your Parent Association should place this issue front and center.  Principals should recognize the benefits that parent involvement brings to the kids.

Parents can make a big difference in the arts. Kids learn from the arts so parents may consider sponsoring a school wide “let's put on a play” project.  That means kids, parents, teachers,  and school staff,  take part.  This project is guaranteed to raise money – everyone wants to see their children and neighbors on stage, and it helps keep the arts alive in school. With a part for everyone from stagehand, to costume-maker to actor, it's loads of fun, according to some schools that already do it.

Don’t fail to weigh in on budget and policy issues with city and state legislators. Check out the Panel on Education Policy agendas, attend meetings of your district's Community Education Council, as well as the district presidents' council and your own school's  Parents Association.

Now is the time to start planning with your fellow parents about how you can help alleviate your schools’ money woes.

Good luck!

Judy

Published in News and views