Yesterday, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) announced that it would be backing down from its controversial plan to phase out P.S. 194, the Countee Cullen Literacy Academy, in Harlem. The original plan proposed to phase out the school over the next few years to make room for a Charter School. The new plan, which still has some unresolved issues within, allows the school to remain open and accept new students but also creates space for a new Charter School to be installed.
“My office has been involved in the fight to preserve this school since day one. The DOE had run three principals through the school in four years and was blaming disappointing progress reports for the proposed closure, their ‘solution’ to a problem which they in fact created. While I am still unhappy about the potentially detrimental proposal to bring a charter school into a public school, taking needed resources away from our public schools and continuing a tradition of negligence, I am happy we have reached somewhat of a middle ground. I believe that our public schools must be strengthened and quality education be made available to all, not just to those children who are lucky enough to win an entrance lottery into a Charter School. Nonetheless, I think that this compromise may be a step in the right direction, especially with the provision that local families will have a priority in the lottery process,” said Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright.
A major issue was a lack of notification to and involvement of concerned parties when this proposal to phase out P.S. 194 was announced. Although the DOE has made improvements over previous outreach efforts, the time frame for notification is still not enough of a buffer to ensure that parents, teachers, administrators and community members are made aware of the consequences and ramifications of such closures. To ensure that proper notification takes place, Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright has introduced legislation (A.1291) which would require a one year notification prior to any closure, consolidation or phase-out of existing public schools.
“I am hopeful that the DOE and the Harlem community can reach a consensus on Charter Schools and their proper place in the educational framework of our neighborhoods. I am committed to resolving the differences which still exist and ensuring that parents have an equal and powerful voice in the decision making processes which govern our schools,” said Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright.