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Queens Chronicle

Gifted & Talented proposal for PS 122 may prompt legal action

A proposal to subtract Gifted & Talented seats angers District 30

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Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:15 am, Thu Mar 21, 2013.

Parents from PS 122 are eyeing legal action against the Department of Education’s recent proposal to downsize the institution’s Gifted & Talented program.

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.

DOE representatives said at a District 30 Community Education Council meeting earlier this month that the pairing down of the classes is in response to the schools chancellor’s regulations that say PS 122’s elementary students have the right to stay for middle school. Taking away G&T classes would make room for general education, the DOE said.

As is, the school accommodates elementary students for general education and middle- school students only if they test into the Academy. Parents and CEC 30 panel members have said it’s known that PS 122 is not a kindergarten through eighth-grade school and that parents don’t expect their children to stay in the school unless they participate in G&T classes. The DOE disagrees.

“We believe they are capriciously, arbitrarily and incorrectly applying the chancellor’s regulation to this school,” said Deborah Alexander, who has a son who would automatically transfer into the Academy in the sixth grade.

A concern is that by offering general education through the eighth grade the school would lose its arts and science rooms, growing from 102 to 129 percent building occupancy in 2019.

“The proposal would almost certainly make the school more crowded,” CEC 30 co-President Isaac Carmignani said.

Parents will work with Advocates for Justice, the law firm that successfully blocked the city from putting Success Academy Charter School at Brownsville Academy High School last month.

“They say the chancellor’s regulation is implemented because of equity,” said attorney Laura Barbieri, of counsel at Advocates for Justice. “This ‘equity’ word is problematic for us.

“First of all what does it mean?” she asked. “Why is it applied now? Why applied to a school where the gifted and talented program is number one in the state?”

Barbieri added that the proposal reduces G&T classes in the district, which is in odds with a stated DOE objective to expand the program.

“These are all viable reasons why there might be a successful action against the DOE,” she said.

Parents are gathering plaintiffs and will hold a conference call with Barbieri on Friday, when they will decide whether to file a petition with New York State Education Commissioner John King or a preliminary injunction against the DOE or a combination of the two.

Parent Teacher Association co-President Claudia Lieto-McKenna, who has a child in general education at PS 122, believes the G&T proposal is an effort by the DOE to empty IS 141, which is the middle school PS 122 elementary school students matriculate to. The open classrooms would leave space for a new school.

“I think they have their eye on 141,” Lieto-McKenna said.

Former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, who runs Success Academy Charter Schools, has put in two bids for charter schools in the Astoria area, Lieto-McKenna said.

Success Academy Charter Schools did not return phone calls by print time.

Last Tuesday, Alexander, along with a few other parents, spoke at the Panel for Education Policy meeting in Brooklyn in the hopes to speak directly Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. The chancellor refused to address the speakers directly while on the panel, which is protocol. In the past he has met with the parents. Alexander hopes he will work with them again, adding that legal action is a last resort.

Parents and the CEC have held many meetings including a 600-person rally on March 6. Tomorrow about 150 individuals will ride in a school bus to Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan to voice their opposition to the DOE proposal.

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