The Panel for Educational Policy has agreed to set up a meeting with dissatisfied parents to discuss Gifted and Talented programs at several Western Queens schools.
“We will meet this week or the next.” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said at last Thursday’s PEP meeting.
Parents in District 30 are furious because they say their children in elementary school G&T programs previously had been guaranteed seats when they moved into middle school, but a new proposal would renege on the promise. A city plan released by the Department of Education’s Office of Enrollment on Oct. 12 would require students in G&T classes at Astoria’s PS 122 and Sunnyside’s PS 150, both elementary schools, to reapply for those accelerated seats when graduating into middle school.
Parents say they chose those schools because of the automatic acceptance into the middle school program. They disagree with the DOE’s contention that the retesting would create equity in the program.
The students are tested daily in their G&T classes, parents say, adding that if they can’t keep up with the rigorous program they are put in classes more suited to them.
“Some parents feel there has been a bait and switch,” District 30 Community Education Council Co-President Isaac Carmignani said.
The proposal aligns PS 122 and PS 150 with the newer G&T programs at PS 166 and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Coalition program at PS 85, both in Astoria, which do not have automatic transfers into accelerated classes between fifth and sixth grades.
Even so, many parents at those schools thought middle school seats would be provided for their children and have bought houses and apartments based around that promise, said CEC Co-President Jeff Guyton.
One idea, which Guyton says is already a done deal in the DOE’s mind, is adding an academically screened program at PS 126. The screened program would offer an advanced curriculum, but not provide G&T- certified teachers.
“That’s not acceptable to the parents,” Guyton said.
There were about 25 parents at the meeting — a few holding signs with slogans including “Teach by Example: Keep Your Word” and “G&T classes for G&T students” — but much fewer than the hundreds who filled the CEC meeting a month ago.
In fact, the PEP meeting drew fewer people than usual. A parent from Brooklyn said the drop in attendance stemmed from Hurricane Sandy.
In that vein, Brooklyn PEP representative Kelvin Diamond asked that all proposals relating to his borough be postponed until January to give people time to recover — eight were held off until December — but his idea was voted down, with Walcott saying “the city does go on.”
Last month’s DOE budget talks had been pushed back when the budget officer came down with a bad case of pneumonia. Manhattan Representative Patrick Sullivan said although he gave his sympathies, he did not understand why budget presentations could be postponed but other proposals could not.
A spirited back and forth ensued with Walcott ending it by telling Sullivan to “stop being so dramatic.”