For several years now, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens’ representative on the Panel for Educational Policy — the Department of Education’s policy-making body — has convened parents and community education council members at Borough Hall several times a year to discuss education issues and concerns with him and policy advisors to Borough President Helen Marshall.
On Tuesday, they met one last time. With Marshall — and likely Fedkowskyj, who serves at her pleasure — leaving office at the end of the month, the parents, officials, former teachers and CEC members gathered to put together a list of concerns and suggestions they hope Borough President-Elect Melinda Katz, her future PEP appointee and the de Blasio administration will tackle.
The list was extensive: overcrowding; co-locations; school closures; trailers; Common Core; busing; art and music programs and even the lack of cursive handwriting in many schools’ curriculums.
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood), chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, also attended the meeting.
Michael Duvalle, a member of CEC District 27, noted the DOE’s decision last month to close the Richmond Hill High School freshman annex to open a new high school there and move the students back into trailers in the schoolyard where they had been moved from several years ago. He noted that the students themselves got involved in the fight to save the annex.
“There were kids there, students of the school, testifying to keep the annex,” he said.
Fedkowskyj said the DOE had promised, and even allocated money, to get rid of the trailers, but hasn’t followed through.
“The new capital plan is earmarked to do just that, but the last capital plan was earmarked to do just that,” he said.
Deb Dillingham, president of CEC District 28, said she hoped to see more accountability and communication between DOE headquarters and the community. She also noted that foreign language instruction has been scaled back.
“Our children are really at a disadvantage,” she said. “Colleges look at that.”
She added that schools in Manhattan have more language options than those in Queens.
Alicia Hyndman, president of CEC District 29, said her biggest issue was co-locations, noting there are now six high schools in the Campus Magnet in Cambria Heights.
“I don’t know where they are going to find the space to add more classes,” she said, echoing Mayor-Elect de Blasio’s call for a moratorium on co-locations.
Jeanette Segal, president of CEC District 26, said she felt the budget priorities of the DOE were confusing and were unfair, not taking into account the types of students in the school and their needs.
“There is something wrong with the formula for funding these schools,” she said.
She also noted that cursive writing was not being taught thoroughly in the schools and that there are high school sophomores and juniors who do not know how to write in or read script.
Fellow CEC District 26 member Susan Shinoma suggested Katz issue regular reports on the state of education in the borough to keep parents and schools abreast of problems.
Fedkowskyj also received proclamations from Marshall and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), whose district he resides in, for his five years of service on the PEP.
He told the meeting attendees that he would still be involved in education issues after his term as PEP representative ends at the end of the month.