Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza came to Elmhurst for another town hall-style meeting under the tensions related to the Department of Education’s new diversity initiative.
Protestors lined up outside IS 5 in Elmhurst wearing T-shirts that read “Fire Carranza” and chanted loudly, “Fire Carranza! Fire the racist!”
The gathering inside, hosted by Community Education Council 24, was held in the school’s auditorium where more than 350 persons gathered for the hour-long Q & A session. The mood inside during the March 2 event was much less intense than outside as those in attendance listened to Carranza answer concerns especially on diversity and safety.
The first question was on the hot issue of the hour, the coronavirus, and how the city Department of Education is handling the problem.
“We are working hand in glove with the [Center of Disease Control and Prevention] and the Mayor’s Office to help protect our children against this new illness,” said Carranza. He said he had met with Mayor Bill de Blasio to discuss the coronavirus and further stated that the city advises parents, staff and students to wash their hands on a constant basis.
There was a question asking if Carranza was going to cancel certain programs.
“There is no plan whatsoever to get rid of gifted and talented programs despite what people might have heard. Show me the evidence and we can talk about it. Until then, there are no programs being cut.”
Ending all G&T programs was one recommendation of a panel appointed by the mayor to address education issues.
There were some protesters from Success Academy in Jamaica and Rosedale advocating for a new middle school location. Carranza acknowledged them, stating that he “is for them and will support Success Academy in their mission.”
The DOE recently offered the academy a defunct religious school, Our Lady’s Catholic Academy on Rockaway Blvd. in Ozone Park. According to Success officials, it would cost millions to renovate and wouldn’t fit enough students. The DOE then looked at other possible sites.
Members of the districts 25 and 26 school boards also attended the town hall, along with Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Bob Holden (D-Middle Village).
Two major questions were saved for last. The first asked if the DOE will hire more safety officers. Carranza was adamant that more safety officers are key to school safety but he is not in favor of armed security. “I am not in support of making a school look less like school and more like a jail,” Carranza said. “Armed officers are not a panacea. We need to work closely with the NYPD to ensure improved safety.”
The last question for Carranza was “Why are you trying to push diversity and integrate our schools?” The DOE is working on a plan to diversify middle schools in District 28. “There is no such plan to integrate,” Carranza said. “I am simply taking the city’s least diversified schools and helping them introduce more diversity of various kinds.”
The meeting concluded, and while most seemed satisfied others wanted more answers.
“Systemic grade fraud is still a big problem,” said Holden. “The chancellor didn’t really touch on that issue even though he promised an investigation.”