They aren’t backing down.
About 100 parents, District 30 Community Education Council members and Councilmen Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) rallied on the city’s Department of Education’s steps in Manhattan last Thursday to voice their opposition to a proposal to decrease Gifted and Talented seats at PS 122 in Astoria. They held signs saying “If it ain’t broken don’t fix it,” “Save our School” and “Replicate do not Truncate PS 122.”
Members of PS 122’s Parent Teacher Association also presented the DOE with a petition signed by 2,200 people against the changes to the school’s current G&T program.
“Our school system has enough problems, so it defies logic for the DOE to want to dismantle a highly successful program which is a model for the entire city,” Vallone said.
The latest in a slew of G&T plans for District 30 — which covers Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside — would cut the highly ranked Academy at PS 122 from 11 to three classes, or about 60 seats, by 2019. Also, G&T students who automatically matriculate into the middle-school Academy seats would no longer to do so, but would have to test in.
The DOE said the proposal is in response to the schools chancellor’s regulation that allows elementary students to stay at the same school for middle school if it’s available. The department says it has to make room for more general education students at PS 122 because of the rule.
However, parents with children enrolled in the G&T classes as well as in general education at PS 122 — which offers general education and G&T classes from kindergarten through fifth grade and only G&T classes for sixth through eighth grades — said it is not expected for general education students to stay at the school unless they test into the accelerated program.
“Bureaucrats are trying to blame the chancellor’s regulation, as if it was one of the Ten Commandments, but those regulations are changed constantly,” Vallone said. “That excuse doesn’t hold water, and the Astoria community demands to know the real reason behind this.”
Parents at PS 122 have been eyeing legal action against the DOE as well. On Friday they decided to file a petition with New York State Education Commissioner John King.
“We’re covering all our bases,” said Laura Barbieri, an attorney with Advocates for Justice, PS 122 parents’ representation and the nonprofit that won a court case last month in Brownsville, Brooklyn to stop the DOE from locating a charter school in a public school. “We’re making sure the administrative remedies are considered before going to court.”
A court case would take more time, but a decision could also be lengthy, Barbieri said.
“The commissioner takes a long while and sometimes he takes a short while,” she said.
As for a response from the DOE on the most recent plan to decrease G&T seats at PS 122, CEC 30 co-President Isaac Carmignani doesn’t expect anything new anytime soon.
“They are really digging their heels in on this one,” he said.