Education Council Urges DOE to Rethink Girls Prep Solution

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Last night Community Education Council 1 passed a strongly worded resolution, listing "100 Reasons Why Girls Prep Charter School Should Not Expand in District One Schools." In a 15-page document, they argue all three scenarios proposed by the Department of Education would hurt neighborhood schools on the Lower East Side, forcing them to eliminate critical programs.

Read the full text here: Download Gpcs-reso

The resolution states, "the flagrant and systematic failure to consult with the public is typical of the self-proclaimed Department of Education, whose arrogance and complete disregard for the intent of the State Law to give voice to the District communities, has resulted in a failed planning process…"

While an official decision on where to put Girls Prep's Middle School is still weeks away, the DOE narrowed its options this week in announcing that P.S. 184, the Shuang Wen School, is no longer being considered as a possible location. Separately, Ronnie Shuster, the principal of P.S. 94, a special needs school, agreed to accommodate the middle school on the 5th floor of the building they share with Girls Prep on East Houston Street. At last night's meeting, P.S. 188's principal Mary Pree (the building's third tenant), appeared to have mixed emotions. 

On one hand, Pree said she's relieved P.S. 94 isn't being pushed out, and she acknowledged the solution "perhaps takes the heat off the moment." But she expressed concern the solution is only temporary, and warned that hard choices have only been put off for another day. Pree called the ordeal divisive and destructive. While the details of the new arrangement have not yet been worked out, it appears certain P.S. 94, serving autistic children, will not have room to grow in its current location.

Raccah cec Miriam Raccah (pictured), the founder of Girls Prep, said she's "pleased we can show our kids we can share, to demonstrate the unity we need to have as educators." Parents of Girls Prep students also spoke out, arguing that charter schools are entitled to the same resources as traditional public schools. She also said it only makes sense to allow "a successful school" to grow.

Parents from P.S. 188 and P.S. 20, another school that could be forced to give up space, said they are not opposed to Girls Prep expanding in the neighborhood so long as local schools are not harmed in the process. One parent, responding to Raccah, said "sharing" sounds great, but the "person asking to share is usually the one doing the taking."

Throughout the night, parents asserted "Girls Prep doesn't need space. Girls Prep needs a home." There was no direct reply when it was suggested the charter school change the request for new classrooms by asking for a building of their own. The Community Education Council agrees Girls Prep should have its own facility – one that doesn't force other schools to make sacrifices. Lisa Donlan, Education Council president, hoped parents would embrace the resolution.

But a parents' coalition was uncomfortable with the outright rejection of Girls Prep's expansion in the district.They have been working closely with State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senator Daniel Squadron. Both elected officials were instrumental in pushing through the renewal of mayoral control of the schools. Both have emphasized their support for Girls Prep's expansion, while blasting the DOE's handling of the situation.

Silver and Squadron insisted on adding provisions to the law, giving members of the community a greater voice in education decision-making. Donlan has argued the Girls Prep controversy shows those measures have not been effective. In a letter to the DOE this week, Squadron said "parent participation is not only the law… but also the most appropriate way to evaluate how best to meet the needs of all schools."

In its resolution, the CEC calls on the Education Department to launch a "comprehensive needs assessment" in District 1 before deciding whether to grant the Girls Prep request.