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Friday, February 23, 2018

New York State Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato : The DOE MUST NOT Close MS 53 or PS/MS 42

New York State Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato
Official Point Of View 
The DOE has got it all wrong

As some of you may know, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) announced in December that they plan on closing 14 schools- two of which are on the Rockaway Peninsula, PS/MS 42 and MS 53. Since becoming the assemblywoman for this community, I have been a strong advocate for education and have worked with the DOE on numerous issues, however not one included the potential closure of schools within my district. As a native of Far Rockaway, and a graduate of then IS 53, I am extremely disappointed in the DOE’s lack of communication with parents, students, and myself.

There has been tremendous community support against the closure of both schools. While my Assembly District only encompasses MS 53, many constituents (school staff and students) are also affected by the possible closure of PS/MS 42. My office has been inundated with phone calls from teachers, students, and parents alike requesting to stop the closure of these schools. In addition, hundreds attended the public hearings, myself included, to voice their concerns about the proposed closures. Sitting at the hearings and listening to the passion behind the students and teachers only affirms that the DOE has got it all wrong. The closure of a school places hardships on students that should never be a student’s concern. As a former PA president, I can attest that trying to solve the myriad challenges of education is hard enough on students, teachers and families, without the possibility of closing a school where they have learned and felt safe for years.

The fact is both schools have grown as renewal schools; they should have been compared to other focus schools in focused districts as opposed to the city as a whole. Specifically, MS 53 has met many of their bench marks and has had great success while still facing MANY obstacles of students who are: 67 percent economically disadvantaged, 20 percent English Language Learners (ELL), and 37 percent of students with learning disabilities. The DOE must continue to invest in our existing neighborhood schools to both ensure full growth in our students and our surrounding community. With the expected downtown Far Rockaway city investment we know we are going to grow-why close a school when we should be investing now? It’s obvious city agencies don’t communicate.

This past Friday I wrote to Chancellor Fariña and the Panel for Education Policy (PEP) requesting that the decision to close MS 53 is rescinded from the PEP meeting on Feb. 28, and is reevaluated. These are our children, and their education is worth fighting for.
As we are just beginning this year my goal is to not only continue to fight on behalf of our community, but to continue the relentless constituent service, legislative advocacy, and community problem-solving that myself and my team has strived for over the past year. This is an amazing community, like no other in the world. I am so lucky to be raising my children here with my husband. The diverse and beautiful peninsula we call home deserves all the hard work, energy and vision we can muster. Please let me know how I can help, what concerns you have, and what your ideas are for the future. I have a feeling we’re going to do great things together in 2018.

PS/MS 42 Must Stay Open

Sunday, February 18, 2018

NYC Chancellor Farina Visits PS/MS 42 To Push Her Closing; Queens BP Melinda Katz Says Don't Close 42

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña (at far left) was on hand at PS/MS 42 to share her vision for replacement
schools being proposed at the site. Photo by Ralph Mancini
The picture above shows a Carmen Farina who is not happy. We don't often get to see this side of her. But there it is. See the Superintendent's announcement:

This flyer certainly shows that Carmen is not listening to the protest. This letter even goes into appointing a new principal for the "new" school, as if it was going to happen.

This time, it's those pesky people who decided that PS/MS 42Q in Arverne, Queens should not be closed who caused Carmen's distress. See

"NYC School District 27 Fights To Keep PS/MS 42 in Arverne, Queens, Open"


Katz Joins Fight Against MS 42 Closure

BY TRONE DOWD, Queens Tribune, February 23, 2018
Melinda Katz
"Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has come out in support of the faculty and parents of students at Arverne’s PS/MS 42 who are protesting the city’s proposed closure of the school.
In a letter obtained by sources familiar with the situation, Katz “requested the withdrawal of the proposal to close PS/MS 42 from the Panel For Educational Policy on Feb. 28.” Katz joined her colleagues in government—Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park), Assembly members Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway) and Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica)—in their opposition to the closure.
“This school has made great strides to improve as part of the renewal schools program, and I believe we should afford them further time and our support to succeed,” Katz said in the letter. “At minimum, the item should be held over until we can further evaluate the progress the school is making as indicated by this year’s assessment. This will allow stakeholders additional time to share their concerns with the Department of Education.”
As previously reported by the Queens Tribune, the Rockaway school was one of 14 Renewal School closures proposed by the DOE in December, citing low performance on citywide test scores, stagnant graduation rates and the lack of college readiness among students, despite capital investments from the city. However, several teachers have pointed out that PS/MS 42 was included on that list, despite its steady improvement across the board over the past four years. This includes reduction in student suspensions, near-perfect faculty attendance and increased test scores. In fact, PS/MS 42 saw the highest growth in both ELA and math test scores from 2014 to 2017 out of all 20 Renewal Schools.
“If the DOE’s intention to close PS/MS 42 was because of low test scores, it is unsupported by the facts,” the letter stated.
On Feb. 8, members of United Federation of Teachers (UFT) took to Queens Borough Hall to protest the school’s closing, hoping to bring the borough president on board in their opposition. UFT Chapter Chairman John Krattinger told the Queens Tribune that the DOE was “completely out of line” with its decision. Teachers and parents have since met with the borough president’s office as well as attended a public hearing with the DOE in Manhattan."
After the February 8 joint meeting, the protest quickly gathered political support, parents, teachers, and students, in opposition to Carmen's ill-timed, inappropriate announcement that 14 schools would be closed.  Seconds after the flyers went out on this blog, facebook, and Ednotesonline, articles appeared in The Wave that the protest against the closing of  PS/MS 42 had been seen and the protest registered across the internet.

Suddenly, barely two days after Leroy Barr gave a rousing speech on February 13 at the school, along with other UFT top brass, Carmen's Department of Education issued a press release that called all parents  (and NO ONE ELSE) to a meeting at the school to discuss the lies that were being thrown out to the public about the pending closure. Parents boycotted this meeting, and thus Carmen was embarrassed to sit at a table with her two foot soldiers and maybe 3 other people. Thus the sour face in the picture at the top.


The Renewal Program is Carmen's mistake, and she had to "retire" because of it.

Renewal Schools Give New Job Opportunities To NYC DOE Higher Ups Who Have Proved Their Worth

Despite Too Many Questions of Improprieties, Carmen Farina is Named Deputy Chancellor For the New York City DOE (7/14/2004)

Carmen Farina: Politics Wins With Her Appointment as Deputy Chancellor in New York City

As I have written many times on this blog (hey - it's my blog), I have some experience working with Carmen Farina, the current Chancellor, when I was a parent at PS 6, and I have seen her autocratic leadership at work. She works on her wish list without consulting experts in the area or data to support what she wants. This is, in my opinion, a very bad mistake when you have $22-+ billion dollars to spend and more than a million lives at stake. I am actually very grateful to her for training me in Great Books, and allowing me to volunteer for an after school program as a teacher. Great Books is a wonderful program; and, I am also very grateful to her for agreeing to give me every monday the lunch period at PS 6 so I could discuss empathy and altruism with 4th and 5th graders who signed up for my lunch club. We had a wonderful time! We even created a business plan for a new product which I believe should be brought to market. (But I still wish Carmen would have allowed me to bring in service dogs, she would not allow it). That was then and this is now.

Do you know what the parents think about all this closing PS/M42 chatter? See here:

Arverne Protests PS 42 Closure At Queens Borough Hall

Concerned parents and faculty from PS 42 in Arverne gathered outside of Queens Borough Hall on Thursday to picket the closure of a school that the city has said was struggling.

More than 40 teachers and parents held signs and shouted “save  42” and “Farina’s gotta go” to bring the public’s attention to the matter. One parent told the Queens Tribune that the protest would be the first of many.
The school was one of 14 closures that the city announced in December, citing low-performance on citywide test scores, a failure to improve graduation rates and the lack of college readiness among students, despite capital investments to change their status. The closures would force more than 3,900 students to transfer to a new school at the start of the 2018 academic year, and more than 400 teachers would be out of work.
But according to United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Chapter Chairman John Krattinger, PS 42 was among the city’s most improved.
“The [Department of Education] is completely out of line with this decision,” he said. “We have shown progress over the last three years. Of the 20 kindergarten to eighth grade renewal schools, we’re the only one with a ‘good’ rating. The other 19 have ‘fair’ ratings. And you’re going to close us? No, I don’t think so.”
The UFT chairman also pointed out that suspensions during the school year have dropped considerably, with 32 incidents so far this year compared to 174 during the 2013 to 2014 school year when the renewal school program began. Teacher attendance at PS 42 has also been the highest among renewal schools at 97.3 percent.
Krattinger said that he and his colleague are scheduled to have a  meeting with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz next Wednesday. Other Queens elected officials – including state Senator James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park), Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks – have all gone on record in support of the efforts of frustrated parents in the hope of preventing the city from going through with the closure.
On Tuesday, there will be a joint hearing with the DOE and the community. Krattinger told the Queens Tribune that the community is ready to show out in full force.
“It’s going to be a raucous time,” Krattinger said. “They don’t know what they’re in for.”
The Queens Tribune reached out the Katz’s office for comment on the school closure, but did not receive a response on the matter.
Betsy Combier
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials 

PS/MS 42 Reboot?

A variety of concerns regarding several aspects related to the potential replacement of PS/MS 42 were tackled at a last-minute hearing held Thursday, Feb. 15 in the school’s cafeteria.
The Arverne site was one of a few stops outgoing Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña made yesterday Feb. 15 in meeting with groups of teachers and parents in four of the five boroughs.
While at PS/MS 42, the Department of Education (DOE) leader spoke to a largely empty room with the exception of three parents, a handful of agency staff members and a spokesperson from Councilman Donovan Richards’ office. [from the Editor: parents boycotted this meeting!]
She assured her miniscule crowd that no charter schools would be added to the current location if a proposal to shut down PS/MS 42 comes to fruition during an upcoming voting session on Feb. 28.
Fariña did confirm that separate elementary and middle schools would succeed the current K-8 institution with both having a heavy bent on technology.
Widespread trepidations about students being forced to attend schools on the mainland were also broached, as the guest speaker stated that parents would have “choice” in determining where their children would attend school in September.
On that note, it was noted that students from nearby MS 53 would also be welcomed to enroll at the new middle school if the Far Rockaway-based venue doesn’t survive in two weeks.
“I’m assuming that most parents will choose to stay in the building. But it will have two schools, two principals…they will be autonomous schools with two separate budgets,” reported Fariña.
The elementary school, she said, would be modeled after PS 62 in Richmond Hill and mentioned that the school’s principal, Angela O’Dowd, would serve as a mentor to the new staff.
The middle school, on the other hand, would follow in the footsteps of MS 137 in Ozone Park.
An additional area of focus that Fariña touched on was the DOE’s commitment to create more vibrant afterschool programs with the Rockaway YMCA on Beach 73rd Street being referenced as an ideal spot.
“One of the things I was telling my crew here is that The Y is underutilized. So, if any of you know why it’s not being utilized particularly by our teenagers, let me know so we can do something about it.”
In addition, Fariña communicated that additional space would be set aside at schools throughout District 27 to accommodate three year-olds in New York City Pre-K programs.
As for other reasons to morph the current K-8 setup into two different locations on the 488 Beach 66th Street footprint, the 74-year-old agency official explained that the city can’t afford to sit and wait for the state to step in and “tell us what we have to do.”
Fariña’s 12-minute speech was followed by a Q&A session during which the chancellor’s team of experts replied to issues including whether or not the incoming teachers would not only be qualified to succeed in their roles, but if they could also “relate” to the student population.
DOE representative Melissa Harris responded that an “exhaustive” round of interviews would take place. Earlier in the gathering, Fariña also maintained that all current PS/MS 42 teachers would be invited to reapply and that some would be afforded priority status.
Rhonda Williams was especially vocal about her worriment on whether performance levels would indeed surge as a result of new personnel and, quite possibly, a new curriculum.
Both Harris and District 27 Acting Superintendent Michael Dantona claimed that the DOE has garnered positive results in the past with these types of conversions.
New principals for the proposed schools may be announced in about a week, according to members of the DOE panel.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

NYC School District 27 Fights To Keep PS/MS 42 in Arverne, Queens, Open



We respectfully submit to the PEP our petition to reconsider the closing of PS/MS 42Q in Arverne, Queens. WE MUST NOT BE CLOSED!

See the proposed list of schools to be closed/truncated on February 28, 2018 at the PEP meeting

PS/MS 42Q has served the community for over 100 years and has seen Dr. Jonas Salk himself graduate.

Now we are called a “renewal” school. But we fought hard and were proud of the very measurable progress we have shown over each of the last few years.  Yet despite our efforts and successes, the Department of Education has announced that they are closing our school. The Arverne community and teachers are not about to stand idly by as our school is repurposed as a centerpiece for gentrification. A closer look at some of the many factors that appear to be driving this decision indicate there may be reasons beyond what the city has cited. We must not allow fake news to force the closing of PS/MS 42.

PS/MS 42 is also a Title 1 School, and as such must have extra scrutiny by the Department on progress and parent/community involvement. This never happened.

· Of ALL NYC K-8 renewal schools PS/MS 42 has shown the LARGEST percentage of growth between the NYS ELA and Math exams from 2014/2015 to 2016/2017, at 16%.
This must mean growth and improvement lie outside the deciding criteria.

·Of all the K-8 Renewal Schools only PS/MS 42 received a Student Achievement rating of 'Good'.  All other K-8 Renewal schools received a rating of 'Fair.'  So clearly student achievement was not a deciding factor, either.

·One K-8 Renewal School started with 9% of students proficient on NYS Math exams in 2014-2015.  During the school year 2015-2016 they were able to make 1% increase. However, in 2016-2017 they DECREASED by 1%. Showing NO net growth from 2014-2015 to 2016-2017 yet they are slated to remain open. Why?

·At P.S.165 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, just 9% of students are proficient in mathematics, and enrollment has dropped 51 percent, but the school will remain open. While PS/MS 42Q has shown growth in ELA and Math and enrollment has not dropped but still will be closed. So declining enrollment must not be part of the deciding process.

·PS/MS42 has a very strong Parent Advocate in Queen Maakeda who was instrumental in securing a 6 Story $50,000,000 State of the Art Middle School in addition to the existing building, in September 2011.

·In recent years Arverne by the Sea, a housing development begun under the Bloomberg Administration, in an attempt to spur gentrification, built a number of new homes in the area, each worth over half a million dollars. They made their own community, shops, YMCA and a super Stop & Shop. The only thing missing as part of the stand-alone community, is a school. (in the following article it states they were promised an 800 seat elementary and a 300 seat middle school….. EXACTLY the number of seats that PS/MS 42 has now, no other school in the Rockaways has this). The new school will have the exact same number of seats as PS/MS 42, so why close PS/MS 42?

·We received certificates of appreciation in May 2017 applauding our excellent improvements:

·12/18/2017, 5 Days before the Holiday Break, Mayor DeBlasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina announced they will be closing the school to make 2 stand-alone screened schools (under the criteria for entrance to these types of schools the surrounding community children will struggle to gain admittance).  These “new” schools will then stand ready to serve the more affluent Arverne by the Sea.

·Note the announcement was made AFTER the mayoral election and the Chancellor’s resignation followed soon after.

·In September 2005 MS180 in Rockaway was closed and became the Scholars Academy. After the school was closed all local kids were placed in other schools NONE of the children who originally attended MS180 were admitted into Scholars.


We greatly appreciate your attention and urge you to reconsider this matter.

 Thank you,
Jamie Haberstumpf   and

John Krattinger

Contact: Kevin Morgan 347-410-3061 or 
Queen Makkada 347-456-6518

The 74 posted an article asking whether or not there was any real planning going on in the de Blasio administration:
Executive Superintendent for Renewal Schools Aimee Horowitz and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City visit a ninth-grade Living Environment class at Richmond Hill High School in Queens. Richmond Hill is one of 94 troubled schools selected as a Renewal school where the de Blasio administration is focusing resources and leadership to raise achievement. (Photo by Charles Eckert-Pool/Getty Images)

Fool Me Twice? New York City Rejects Research Critical of Renewal Schools

We all know that the New York City Department of Education is a political institution controlled by the Mayor, all of his partners, and subject to his whims and fancies. Racial  segregation  and misconduct (see herehere, and here, for a few more examples) are rampant throughout the NYC DOE. And, there is nepotism, workplace harassment, disability discrimination, bullying, civil rights violations and denial of due process all over the place.

In my opinion, when Carmen Farina was removed from PS 6 in February 2001 (that is a fact), and she went to District 15 to wield her authority and create havoc there, she and Bill de Blasio started cooking up the reign of error she has shown as Chancellor since Bill took office in January 2014. Many friends and I begged Bill not to appoint her Chancellor. Obviously, he wasn't listening.

Carmen is a master at subterfuge and deliberate miscommunication.  But the opposition to Carmen Farina and her outrageous policies are not unified, even though New Yorkers are familiar with her games, at least I am. But she is the person who oversees the scams and sham policies and offices, including the ridiculous and dangerous puppets on the NYC "school board", the Panel For Educational Policy.

Why are the members of the PEP dangerous? Because they vote on financial matters without any understanding of the consequences on the parents, students, staff, and/or community whose lives and welfare depend upon the funds voted on, and they act without any accountability to the community they supposedly serve. A very clear answer to "why doesn't the Department do something?" can be found in the picture above. Carmen doesn't care who is speaking into the microphone for 2 minutes, she is not listening. All votes are a done deal before the PEP begins. Pouring your heart out does no good, if your goal is to have any PEP member up there on the stage listen to you or care what you think. In 2008, my dear late teacher friend Polo Colon and I attended the PEP meeting at Tweed, (see us at a 2007 meeting)and stayed until the meeting room was almost completely empty. Polo saw something on a chair for a PEP member, and said to me, "I'll be right back".

Polo went behind the table where the PEP members sat, picked up a couple of papers left on the chair, and brought it back to me. These papers were the script that had prepared answers to whatever questions were asked at the meeting. There was a warning, that no mere "opinions" were to be given by any member on the PEP. All the answers given in the script inferred that the person asking did not know what they were asking.

I was at the January 24th meeting (see me sitting on the left, next to the speaker) where people spoke about how there was no plan, no discussion, no parental involvement; we heard heartache and trauma about the closing/merging/truncating of schools. No one on the PEP cared. No one.

The way Carmen does things is to make a change, then give Notice, and tell people they can speak for two minutes before the PEP members vote. There is something very wrong about this process. In fact, it is backward. First should come the discussion. Second, the strategy to accommodate the community and the parents and kids. Third, to integrate the programs and strategies that will accommodate all parties. Then, as a last resort, if nothing else works, a vote to close/merge or join together the schools under review. Right?

It is completely wrong for Carmen Farina, Bill de Blasio, and all their nameless partners, to close PS/MS 42 in Arverne Queens. Of course, Carmen is not the only member of the "I'm gonna-destroy-public-education" club. Look t Chicago, where Mayor Emmanuel is also closing schools:

"Instead of doing the hard work to make these schools better, which in turn will strengthen communities, local and national officials are abandoning public schools and failing the most vulnerable children."
Save Chicago's Public Schools
NY Times, February 12, 2018

Now, we need a lawyer to file an Injunction and Order To Show Cause to stop the vote on the closure of PS/MS 42 on February 28, 2018. Are you a lawyer? Contact me at Please help the staff, students, parents and community of PS/MS 42 stay open!!!!!!!

Betsy Combier
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials 

We are a renewal school, serving our community and working hard to improve. In fact, our school is making steady progress in test scores and quality reviews, by the New York City Department of Education’s own measures. 

 * Of all New York City K–8 renewal schools, PS/MS 42Q has shown the largest percentage point growth from 2014-15 and 2016-17 in math and ELA combined, with 10.5 points in ELA and 6.5 points in math, for a combined 17 point increase.

* Of all the K–8 renewal schools, only PS/MS 42Q received a student achievement rating of “Meeting Target.” All other K – 8 renewal schools received a rating of “Approaching Target or Not Meeting Target.” 

* PS/MS 42Q had the highest percentage rating for rigorous instruction at 86% for all New York City K–8 renewal schools. 

* PS/MS 42Q has the highest percentage of teacher attendance, at 97.3%, of all K–8 renewal schools. 

* PS/MS 42Q has met five out of seven target goals, including effective school leadership, trust, collaborative teachers and student achievement. 

We also have a high level of community engagement, which sets us apart from many other renewal schools. Our school is a lifeline for the surrounding neighborhood, with community dinners for families, a service-learning model in which students read to seniors at a local nursing home and overall high community involvement. 

Ninety-six percent of parents say that teachers at this school work closely with families to meet students’ needs. Students say that they are learning a lot in classes at their school to prepare them for the next grade (96%). Students also say that most students try hard to get good grades (85%) and students behave well even when the teacher isn’t watching (56%).

That’s why parents, teachers, administrators and local politicians are working together to save our school. We’ve been working hard and are pleased to see our quality review metrics, school climate and student academic achievement all show improvement. 

Our school welcomes all students and serves a population that has greater challenges than at least 90% of the schools in New York City. We are proud of our mission and proud of our achievements. 

Please don’t stop our progress! We hope to continue working for all the students and families we serve. Look again at our school — we urge you to reconsider this closure. Twenty K-8 schools had lower passing rates in ELA than PS/MS 42Q. In addition, while PS/MS 42Q met its ELA achievement target, 19 of these 20 did not. Only one of these schools is slated for closure. Source: New York City Department of Education, School Quality Report, 2017.

Letter to Chancellor Carmen Farina from NY City Council Member Donovan Richards:

Harkening back to earlier era, struggling New York City school fights closure but faces long odds

Kevin Morgan, the Parent Association president at P.S./M.S. 42, is leading a fight to keep the
Rockaway school open

A decade ago, teachers picketed P.S./M.S. 42 R. Vernam in Rockaway, Queens and declared the campus unsafe. Parents said the building was in horrible shape — some areas reeked of urine — and they petitioned the education department to close the school and start over.

But when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, he had a different idea: Rather than shut its doors, he would revamp it. After three years in deBlasio’s “Renewal” improvement program, which injects troubled schools with academic supports and social services, P.S./M.S. 42 appeared to be making progress: Its test scores and quality reviews have steadily improved. Enrollment, while lower this year, has mostly been stable.
So when the education department announced plans last month to shutter P.S./M.S. 42 and 13 other low-performing schools, many in the school community were shocked.

“We think that this is a mistake,” said Donovan Richards, the local city councilman who said that when he met with schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña shortly before the announcement, far from declaring the school a lost cause, she praised its recent strides and discussed ways to celebrate them.
“You have this glimmer of hope and turnaround in the building,” he added, “and yet we’re reversing the progress.”
Now, parents, teachers and local political leaders are vowing to fight its closure. The coalition has launched an aggressive social media campaign, printed highlighter-yellow T-shirts declaring the school “strong and united,” and planned rallies at the school and in Albany, where the school’s supporters traveled Tuesday to make their case to state lawmakers.
On a recent morning, Kevin Morgan, the school’s parent association president, went to his local congress member’s office to appeal for help, and brought in a motivational speaker to inspire students as they drafted essays in defense of their school.
“It’s not fair,” he said. “They need to rethink what they’re about to do. How is this going to affect these children?”
The fight puts the mayor in the uncomfortable position of defending the closure of a low-performing school despite signs of improvement and vocal opposition from some parents — a scenario he railed against when running to replace then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. At the time, de Blasio blasted Bloomberg for disregarding the will of parents in his zeal to shutter and replace troubled schools without first giving them a chance to rebound.

Now, after investing $582 million in a program meant to offer bottom-ranked schools the second chance he said they had been denied, de Blasio finds himself coming to the same conclusion as his predecessor: Some underachieving schools simply can’t be resuscitated — at least not quickly enough — so better to pull the plug and start fresh.
“After a serious effort, we do not think, with their current structures, they can make it,” de Blasio said on NY1 the day the closures were announced. Still, he defended the turnaround effort, saying that, without it, “we would have continued to see closures without an honest effort to fix the problem.”
In the case of P.S./M.S. 42, the education department is proposing to replace it with two new schools — an elementary school and a middle school — in the same building.
It’s likely they will serve many of the same students as the school they’re supplanting, though some parents worry the new schools may deploy admissions criteria that will screen out some of P.S./M.S. 42’s current students. An education department spokesman said the new schools would not turn away any P.S./M.S. 42 students. The new schools may also employ many of the same teachers, under a contract rule that says at least half the positions in replacement schools must be offered to teachers at closed schools who apply and hold the right qualifications.
P.S./M.S. 42 boosters hope the new schools never have a chance to open. But they face long odds: Under de Blasio, very few schools on the chopping block have managed to escape.
Last year, the Panel for Educational Policy — an oversight board where the majority of members are appointed by the mayor — signed off on all of the city’s proposed closures. Even when parents at J.H.S 145 in the Bronx mounted a campaign to keep the middle school open, only five of the 13 panel members voted against its closure.
The city’s plan to shutter P.S./M.S. 42 follows a yearslong, grassroots effort to save it.
Today, one of the leaders of that campaign is an unlikely champion: a parent named Queen Makkada, who called for the school’s closure in 2010 when her two children went there. At one point, her daughter was attacked by a group of boys, and students were known to roam the hallways unsupervised.
Queen Makkada says P.S./M.S. 42 has struggled in the past, but is now showing improvement.

“We literally had first graders cutting class,” Makkada said. A joint city-state report from 2011 said teachers there “demanded little” from students and parents complained about unchecked bullying among students.
Makkada says things began to turn around when the current principal, Patricia Finn, took over about seven years ago. Finn did not respond to a request for comment.
The principal smoothed over relations with teachers, who have filed far fewer grievances under her than the previous administration, according to their union. And she forged relationships with skeptical parents, Makkada said. Last year, 90 percent of parents who responded to a school survey said the principal works to build community.
“All the stakeholders had to come together and change it,” Makkada said. “These parents went through the process to improve a failing school.”
At the same time that parents were getting more involved, the school facilities were getting an upgrade. In 2011, a gleaming new addition was built onto the building, and there are plans for a new $7 million playground, according to the city councilman.
The Renewal program, which launched in 2014, marked a new wave of investment in P.S./M.S 42. A community-based nonprofit — Family Health International, which goes by FHI 360 — brought much-needed mental health supports for students, including one-on-one counseling. The school day was extended by an hour. And the school has launched several initiatives aimed at improving school culture, including training students to help resolve conflicts among their peers, parents said.
Since 2014, the school has received improved “quality review” ratings from official observers, and its test scores have ticked upwards. In fact, elementary students at P.S./M.S. 42 earned higher scores on the state English and math tests last year than the average among Renewal schools that the city is keeping open. Its middle-school students perform just below that average.
And enrollment, a key factor that chancellor Fariña says the education department considers when recommending closures, grew by dozens of students the first few years of the program. This past year, its population declined to just over 660 students — but that’s still higher than before becoming a Renewal school.
Given the progress, parents don’t understand why their school is targeted for closure.
“This is ripping everything apart,” said Morgan, the parent-association president.
But despite the recent improvements, the majority of the school’s students still are far behind where they should be.
Only 17 percent of elementary students and 14 percent of middle schoolers passed last year’s state English tests — compared with 40-41 percent of students citywide. In math, 14 percent of elementary students and 6 percent of middle schoolers passed the tests, compared with 42 percent and 33 percent citywide.
Meanwhile, a stubbornly high share of students are chronically absent, despite a major push by the city to boost attendance at Renewal schools. More than 45 percent of P.S./M.S. 42 students miss 10 percent or more of the school year, compared to 36 percent among all Renewal schools and about 26 percent among all city schools, according to the education department.
“This decision to propose a school closure was made based on a careful assessment of the school community as a whole,” Aciman, the department spokesman, said in a statement. He added that community engagement is an important part of proposed closures, and said officials will respond to parents’ questions and concerns.
Officials will hold a public hearing at the school on Jan. 10, before the Panel for Educational Policy votes Feb. 28 on whether to approve the city’s closure plans.
Among the P.S./M.S. 42 parents who will ask the panel to spare the school is Willard Price.
He said teachers have given his son, William, extra help in math and handwriting, and principal Finn has invited him to eat lunch in her office when he felt overwhelmed by the cafeteria. Now, William earns high marks on his report cards and would like to remain at P.S./M.S. 42 for middle school, his father said.
“I think that’s messed up, trying to close the school,” William said. “This school is the only school I ever liked.”

Here are PEP members' emails if you want to share your thoughts ahead of time (recommended):
Peter Calandrella - Staten Island Representative

Isaac Carmignani

Geneal Chacon - Bronx Representative

April Chapman - Brooklyn Representative

T. Elzora Cleveland

Deborah Dillingham - Queens Representative

Michael Kraft - Manhattan Representative

Vanessa Leung - Panel for Educational Policy Chair

Gary Linnen

Lori Podvesker - Panel for Educational Policy Vice Chair

Ben Shuldiner

D. Miguelina Zorilla-Aristy


I will be posting any comments from PEP panel members or anyone else on this blog and my website, and I will hold everyone accountable for their actions. Then maybe to court we go, if the PEP votes in favor of closing.

Betsy Combier