Serious pushback from parents has sent the city Department of Education back to the drawing board to revamp its strategy for bringing greater racial diversity to middle schools in central and Southeast Queens.
Two angry, confrontational meetings between DOE officials and parents were apparently enough to force the city to rethink its timetable for changing the student admissions policy in School District 28, an alligator-shaped area that stretches from Queens Boulevard to the Belt Parkway.
Among the changes under consideration, according to several officials familiar with the DOE’s thinking, are:
• extending the deadline beyond June, the end of the school year, for a final report on community suggestions on how to increase diversity,
• adding a Jewish representative, a major constituency in the northern half of the district, to the so-called working group that is charged with writing and approving the final diversity report. The names of the members of the working group have not been made public; and
• increasing the number of scheduled public workshops where details of a diversity plan were supposed to be worked out by parents, teachers and administrators.
Four worksops had been planned, starting last month. But none have been held.
A DOE spokeswoman declined to comment specifically on the proposed changes, but acknowledged a revamp is underway.
“There will be an update to the Diversity Plan timeline and we will communicate the details once they are finalized,” said a spokeswoman.
Since last summer, District 28 has been a lightning rod for the effort by Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to refashion city schools to more closely reflect the racial makeup of its 1.1 million-student population.
Among parent groups, doubts are high about the city’s plan for finding a “community led” solution to the diversity problem.
“What I don’t like is when we are told how to do things and what is right for us,” said Vijay Ramjattan, head of District 28’s Community Education Council, the parents’ advisory group.
“They’ve not changed the jurors; all they’ve done is change the trial date,” said Jason Fink, a spokesman for Queens Parents United, an opposition group that formed last year. “The core of the problem remains.”
At issue is whether the city will impose what groups like QPU call “forced transportation” — meaning the busing of 10-to-14 year-old students to faraway schools to satisfy an as-yet-undetemined racial formula.
Still, getting the city to rethink its approach appears to be an early-round victory for doubting parents.
“I don’t think they expected my community to come out and speak its voice,” said Ramjattan.
“We’re rattling them, and that’s a good thing,” said Fink. “No question, they started to modify what they were saying.”
District 28, which includes Forest Hills, Rego Park and Jamaica, was chosen to be part of a $2-million, pilot diversity project to serve as a guideline for the rest of the city.