Parents from IS 59 and local officials are fuming over what they say was less than 48 hours’ notice from the Department of Education about a meeting related to the co-location of a charter school in their building in September.
The meeting, which was not technically a public hearing, was meant to discuss how IS 59, PS 176 and the new Success Academy charter school will coexist and share facilities in the same building for the next two years before 176 returns to its own site.
But many of the parents who attended on June 6 said they did not know about the meeting until they were notified by community leaders with less than two days’ notice.
Community leaders said they did not know until they heard from Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans).
And Miller is deeply suspicious about the timing of the meeting and the DOE’s public notification process.
“I received an email at 4:41 on Wednesday from the [DOE’s] Office of Intergovernmental affairs for a meeting on Friday at 6 p.m.,” Miller said. “That isn’t enough time. Plus, the school was closed on Thursday. Who did [the DOE] think was coming to this meeting?”
While many parents and officials like Miller opposed the co-location from the start, it is a done deal, having been approved for a September opening by the Panel on Educational Policy.
“It is just another example of the DOE disrespecting this community,” he said. “Bloomberg may be gone, but his spirit remains.”
Hundreds came out in opposition last October in the waning weeks of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s term, as opposed to the roughly 50 who showed up Friday night.
Miller and others said Friday night that may not have been an accident, particularly given the short notice on the day before IS 59 would be closed for the day.
“In the best case it is disingenuous,” Miller said. “In the worst case, maybe they lied.”
Miller has an important ally in Councilmember Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who is chairman of the Council’s Education Committee.
A retired New York City teacher, Dromm is no great fan of co-locating charters.
“I have visited this school personally and I believe this co-location will be detrimental to the school,” Dromm said in a statement sent by his office. “I stand strongly with Councilmember Miller and his assessment of the issue.”
When the crowd addressed hostile comments to representatives of Success Academy, District 29 Superintendant Lenon Murray came to their defense.
“Tonight is a DOE meeting,” he said, reiterating that the decision on admitting Success Academy already has been made.
But during the meeting he never addressed the timing issues raised by parents and the councilman. Afterward, he repeatedly refused to discuss when he was informed of the time and date of the meeting. “I’m not going to comment on that,” he said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, DOE officials remained silent as to the complaints about the timing, including those who allege the short notice was deliberate.
Department of Education personnel at Friday night’s meeting referred all questions to the DOE press office. Messages left with and emailed to the office on Monday were not returned.
In the email, the Chronicle requested the name of the individual who authorized the scheduling of the meeting, along with any emails or internal memos related to its scheduling.
The Chronicle also requested the name of the person who determined that notification would not be sent to Miller and others until late in the business day on Wednesday; when Murray and IS 59 Principal Carleton Gordon were notified of the meeting and how they were notified; and any statement that the DOE would care to make regarding residents’ suspicions over timing and scheduling.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari–a also was unavailable for questions on the matter Tuesday night when she spoke at Borough Hall in a meeting of the Queens Borough President’s Parents Advisory Board.
“No questions,” an aide said as Fari–a was hustled out of the meeting room. But the chancellor did evoke some snickers from District 29 representatives during the meeting when she discussed the era of openness and transparency Fari–a said she wants to foster at the DOE.
“We are trying not to run a subversive or secretive agency,” she said