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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Former Students at Boys and Girls High School Win their Lawsuit For Being Treated as Garbage

By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter, NY POST
October 14, 2008 --

City officials have agreed to pay for the education of hundreds of students who claim they were prevented from attending regular classes at their Brooklyn high school and otherwise encouraged to drop out, The Post has learned.

The preliminary settlement was spurred by claims from former Boys and Girls HS students that they had been assigned shortened schedules and noncredit-bearing classes or else warehoused in the auditorium of the Bedford-Stuyvesant school beginning in 2002.

Once they fell behind, some students said they were told they were cut from the school's register or pressured to pursue a General Equivalency Diploma.

"It seemed to me like they just wanted me to get out of their hands," said Darrius Spann, 20.

Now working as a security guard, Spann said he spent much of the 2003-04 school year in the school auditorium with as many as 80 students.

His classmate Roger Hutchinson, now 19, said he similarly reported to the auditorium for much of 10th grade - where he and other students spent hours filling out math worksheets under the watch of school deans.

"I was really totally discouraged - I wasn't caring about anything," said Hutchinson, who, like Spann, said he eventually dropped out in order to work.

Both are now hoping to attend Apex Tech - one of the trade schools that the city will pay for under the terms of the agreement, which could affect as many as 500 students enrolled at the school between 2002 and 2008.

The settlement of the suit, filed in 2005 by the group Advocates for Children, is expected to get final approval at a Nov. 14 hearing.

City Law Department officials said they couldn't comment until after the hearing.

Advocates For Children

Complete Class Notice

Noticia Breve en Espanol

Boys and Girls Settlement Form

Schedule A to the Stipulation of Settlement

Preliminary Order

Councilman Addabbo Jr. Holds a Meeting on Mayoral Control...The DOE Boycotts

Shown, from left, are Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, state Sen. Shirley Huntley, CEC 27 president Andrew Bauman, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (photo by Ben Hogwood)
DOE officials boycott school control hearing
by Ben Hogwood , Assistant Editor,Queens Chronicle

Councilman Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) hoped to assemble a collection of politicians, parents and Department of Education officials for an in-depth conversation about the mayor’s grasp on the city’s school system.
Instead, only a handful of Democratic legislators came out to a meeting Addabbo staged at St. Barnabas Church, in Howard Beach, on Monday to address a similarly small group of moms and dads.
According to Addabbo, not only did the DOE instruct representatives not to attend, but it also blocked the councilman from holding the meeting in any of the public schools, because it was more about politics than education.
Addabbo is running against state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) for the District 15 seat and said he invited all Queens delegates to attend the meeting on mayoral control. “We were looking for a good conversation,” Addabbo said. However, he pointed out that he was notified earlier in the day that DOE told principals, parent coordinators and regional heads not to show up. “For the DOE to deem this political I thought was wrong. It’s a wrong focus they had.”
A DOE spokesperson said Addabbo could not use public school facilities to hold the meeting because he is involved in an election. The chancellor’s regulations do not allow candidates to use a school for a meeting within 60 days of an election.
Incidentally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the head of the school system, has endorsed Maltese in the race.
Maltese said he did not receive an invitation to the meeting, but would have attended if he had. “If he’s holding a meeting on mayoral control, since it is the legislature that acts and only the legislature that can act, the fact is we should have been there,” he said.
And while an e-mail notifying reporters of the meeting used Addabbo’s campaign literature, the councilman said all invitations to guests were on his council letterhead and advertisements in newspapers were funded with city money.
Despite the conflict, the discussion, generally, focused on the topic at hand. Complaints ranged from the lack of communication parents have with DOE to little checks and balances involved with decisions being made in schools.
The legislature handed Bloomberg the reins of the school system after years of dissatisfaction with the former system, where 32 community school boards ran each school district. The law will sunset, and schools will revert back to the old system, unless the state legislature addresses it by June.
Betty Braton, chairperson of Community Board 10, said the DOE does not present its budget to community boards like every other city agency. “This is our city, our schools, our tax dollars,” she said.
However, Addabbo said that under the old system, when school boards ran the schools, there was no accountability and no transparency. “The boards were an entity to themselves,” he said. “Their windows were opaque. You couldn’t see in.”
With the DOE, he added, at least the public can see where the money is being spent, as it is part of the city budget.
But Andrew Baumann, the president of Community Education Council 27, said the windows into the DOE are just as dark now. Principals get to run the schools without public input and if a principal isn’t friendly, too bad, he said.
State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), who is co-chairperson of the Senate’s School Governance Task Force, said principals are too often coming from the New York City Leadership Academy, with little or no experience in the education system. As a result, they have very little interaction with parents.
Members of PTAs were exasperated with mayoral control and recited a list of concerns they had with the mayor and the policy. Andrea Mercatante, the president of P.S. 207 PTA, in Howard Beach, said in five years, there will no longer be a PTA because the system completely shuts out parents.
Though she is president, she is not allowed to go into the school before 8:30 a.m. to get her mail and cannot be there past 2:35 p.m. “We’re seen as a distraction,” she said. The PTA previously sponsored a 10-week after-school program, paying teachers $30 an hour, but Mercatante could not go on to the property to make sure the teachers were present.
“We’re not allowed to do bake sales. Why? Because the chancellor says bake sales are not healthy for students.”
Others called for a return to community schools, as too many students have to be sent out of the area due to overcrowding. “You live near a school, that’s the school you go to. Somewhere along the line we’ve lost that,” Addabbo said.
Complaints aired included the mayor shaking up the system three times in six years and the fact that when a new mayor is elected, that person could reorganize the system yet again. “You’re always going back to the start,” said Tracy Schnepf, a vice president of the parent association at P.S. 47, in Broad Channel.
But some remembered the way things ran when school boards were in control and didn’t want to go back. Barbara Brumberg, a former educator from Howard Beach, said she was sorry parents felt left out, but believed mayoral control would be easier to improve than the school board system.
“There was so much feather bedding, so much waste that nothing got done,” she said of the previous system.
Pam Baumann, wife of Andrew Baumann, disagreed and said she much preferred the school boards. “If you couldn’t get help from the principal, you could go up the food chain,” she said. “Now there’s no food chain.”

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