In the spring of 2008, the Red Hook community was informed that a charter school would be placed in their longstanding successful school, P.S. 15, The Patrick F. Daly School. After the decision was announced, there was community outrage and then, only then, was a community meeting held for members to share their views. In line with the leadership and vision of both Bloomberg and Klein, the decision to place a charter in P.S. 15 was finalized, regardless of the community’s outrage, a decision seemingly already made. The agreement was that this charter school, PAVE Academy, would be temporarily housed in P.S. 15 for two years. This agreement, by the Department of Education and PAVE’s founder, Spencer Robertson, was stated repeatedly to parents, community members, teachers, the building’s administration and to the union.
In the spring of 2009, only a year into their stay, PAVE announced to the Daily News that they requested an extension to stay in P.S. 15 for up to an additional three years. Again, parents, teachers and community members expressed their outrage and questioned the transparency, due process, and accountability of the Department of Education. According to the DOE, no decisions had yet been made concerning the extension request, but it took pressure by parents and teachers throughout the summer demanding due process to get a fair hearing.
Communities across the city share in the plight of the P.S. 15, Red Hook Community. We have seen community schools across the city forced to building share with charters, have their resources drained, their space limited and their programs negatively impacted. Now beginning to emerge, we are seeing charters put in extensions to stay and further expand into buildings after already announcing an end date for their temporary stay as part of the presentation to, and agreement with, the school communities. Interestingly, the extensions seem to aim to afford these charters free space until the end of their five year state evaluations, even though five years of space was not what was originally requested.
The lack of transparency and due process is an outrage to our democracy and defiles the success and importance of our community public schools. There is no accountability, no one to hold the Mayor’s administration to any kind of agreement or standard because they have a clear agenda and they intend to execute it: close down half of the number of public schools and double the number of charter schools by the end of their third term. What is even more disturbing; they are propagating this agenda on the backs of successful public schools that have served their communities for years. P.S. 15, The Patrick F. Daly School, whose namesake lost his life serving the children of Red Hook seventeen years ago, is an AAA school being unfairly and forcefully pushed out by a charter school that has no success record, is staffed with uncertified and inexperienced educators, and whose students are largely bused in from outside of the school community. Last year, out of P.S. 15’s Prekindergarten graduating class, only two families chose to send their two children to PAVE. The housing of PAVE Academy in P.S. 15 is not serving the best interest of the children in Red Hook zoned for PS 15, and it has no place in Red Hook’s community public school.
The Bloomberg Administration paints the charter school movement as a way to service children whom public schools have failed while promoting and developing innovative programming. This is cynical and disingenuous. The charter school movement drains school community resources, sets up a system of privilege and subordination, divides communities, and disenfranchises citizens from a truly democratic system that was intended to listen to them and represent them, not impose an authoritative agenda on them. If this charter school movement was really about what was best for children, we would not see building sharing formulas that treat children as numbers and deny them the space to run enrichment and intervention programming. We would not see campus policies that sanction public school principals for not coming to agreements on space usage, while doing nothing to hold charter school leaders accountable to the same standard. We would not see due process skirted and phony meetings held. We would not see successful schools being squeezed out by charters, especially when those charters are not primarily servicing the students from that school and community.
Please join the Red Hook community, its families and teachers, as we fight to protect P.S. 15, The Patrick F. Daly School, and community schools across the city. Public education is the pillar of our democracy; it must be protected and preserved. We should be supporting and using our successful public schools as models, not overextending them and negatively impacting their programming. We should fix our public schools that are not working, not propagate a privatization agenda.