Tonight should be considered a triumph for democracy, for stakeholder voices, and an example of what advocacy is all about. A few main points, that may have been lost in the shuffle, intentionally or not, need to be clarified and addressed:
· No one from PS 15 stated that the all of the children and families of PAVE are not from or part of the Red Hook Community. What was stated was that bus loads of children are brought into PAVE, and therefore the PS 15 building, that are in fact not from the Red Hook Community. This must be considered and discussed because PS 15 students’, Red Hook Community students’, resources are being taken away and their programming is being significantly impacted. This is a question of fairness. Fairness in policy and procedure as to determining and managing shared space.
· No one from PS 15 stated that PAVE teachers are unqualified. What we questioned, is why the Department of Education is seemingly privileging charter schools over public schools when their teachers are not held to the same standards as public school teachers, and are in fact less experienced and far fewer of them hold Master’s Degrees. This does not mean that any one teacher is better or worse, it simply speaks to the question, “Why do policies and rhetoric subordinate those that are tested, successful, and committed?” The staff at PS 15, and at public schools across the city, work diligently to provide excellence in education to their students and there is no questioning their qualifications and experience, yet somehow current policy and rhetoric seems to minimize and disregard them. No one questions the commitment, education, and purpose of PAVE teachers; and from the teachers who were there along side of our students’ parents tonight as you stood with yours, we respect your service and commitment to children and education as much as we respect ours. We do not privilege one over the other; we simply want to be treated and considered equally when it comes to the perspectives and policies of the Department of Education.
· To the woman who so passionately spoke about how only 1 PAVE staff member spoke, and basically attacked PS 15 teachers and questioned their place in the Red Hook Community: First of all, at the PEP meeting on Monday, you stated you were from Co-Op city, so how dare you question the geography of our dedicated teachers? For the record, many of our teachers and staff members are from the Red Hook community; again, how dare you and where are you from? Secondly, Robertson spoke, Cooper spoke, and the Parent Coordinator spoke; by my count that is three PAVE staff members who spoke, not one. Finally, it seems your strategy, and one shared by many members of the PAVE community, and the charter school movement in general, is to attack public school teachers. Our parents and teachers stand united and are committed to each other and our shared interest, their children, our students. Let’s put this in perspective: the woman, a teacher from PS 15 who spoke, the one with the baby strapped to her body that several PAVE members were screaming at while she spoke, has been a teacher for over ten years. She has served and has been active in the Red Hook community for nine years. She comes in early. She stays late. She goes above and beyond for her students who, along with their parents, adore her. She arrived at school this morning at 7:15, left at 4:00 and returned at 5:30, even though her and her baby are suffering from a cold. She sat in the auditorium for well over two hours and was just dropped off at her home at 9:30, without even having eaten dinner yet. If anyone doubts not only her commitment, along with all of the teachers who were there tonight, but also her moral imperative to give a voice to the children she serves everyday and express the impact PAVE has had on them, then frankly your sincerity should be questioned. Our teachers care about their students immensely, and for you to stand there and question their motives, words, intentions, character, and success; to try to somehow tarnish or question their right and their privilege to speak about the impact PAVE is having on the students they are entrusted with everyday, it is beyond cynical. One should be concerned if our teachers weren’t there speaking out, if they weren’t standing with parents. We work together, we share a prized interest, and your efforts to minimize parts of us or to divide us will not work.
· We want to take special note of Mr. Robertson’s attempt at 48 Laws of Power #37, “Create Compelling Spectacles”. Good try. We loved how you tried to make your grand entrance and have Rana Khan, Director of Operations, turn over her mic and slot on the agenda to you. Those crazy little things called rules! They always get in the way. But, I guess that was a win-win for you, because if they didn’t let you speak and break the rules, then you could publicize it and claim that you were not heard. Never mind the fact that you could have contacted them to speak yourself as PS 15 parents and teachers did. Of course that was only half of your spectacle… it was so obvious to all of us that you would go forth with announcing tonight that you have ‘found your own space’; wow…that is really convenient. Again: Where is it? How long? Are you building from scratch? What took you so long and why should we suffer for it? Uh. Ummm. Uhhh. Umm.
· To the DOE, we demand answers: How is the extension evaluated? Who will be heard and when? What will be considered? What part do the stakeholders have in all of this? Will you reevaluate your formula for shared space based on the information that was provided concerning the reality and injustices of the shared space formula; what it includes and what it doesn’t?
Thank you to District 15 Community Education Council for trying to open a dialogue and engage those impacted by educational policies. If we have two asks tonight they are:
1. Hold Pave Academy and the Department of Education to the agreement they made with our community, the promise they made to our students; two years temporary housing in PS 15- that means out by June 2010.
2. Work and seek to reevaluate the formula for shared space so that Community Public Schools, like PS 15, are not negatively impacted by the shared space policy. It may be too late to curb the impact at our school, but if we can prevent this from happening to other school communities, it is our moral imperative to do so.