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Education Department Confirms Girls Prep Reversal

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More on the Girls Prep situation/saga. The New York Times now has confirmation from the Department of Education that the LES charter school is delaying the first day of school, originally scheduled for this coming Monday.  As we reported earlier today, Chancellor Joel Klein has decided against using his “emergency powers” to get around a state ruling blocking the DOE’s expansion plan. Excerpts from Jennifer Medina’s story, posted on the Times’ web site a short time ago:

…a spokeswoman for Mr. Klein said Friday that the city was reversing course and would search for another space for the charter school, pushing back the first day of school for the 125 Girls Prep students by as much as a month. The chancellor’s decision to use emergency powers provoked outrage from many parents and elected officials, including State Senator Daniel Squadron, who has been a reliable supporter of Mr. Klein’s…

But the DOE officials are making it clear they still believe their plan to accommodate Girls Prep, P.S. 188 and P.S. 94 in the same building can work:

“After consulting with Girls Prep, P.S. 94 (a special needs school), local elected officials, parents and advocates, we feel it is incumbent upon the department to exhaust all other options before issuing an emergency declaration,” Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the chancellor, said in a statement. “We still believe that P.S. 188 is an appropriate option as they have adequate space available and it would not result in a single special-education student being moved.  But if we can identify alternative space for one year — whether private or public — we feel it would be the best outcome for all involved. So it is our hope that we will have this matter resolved for these students as soon as possible.”…

(In a statement released later in the day, Chancellor Klein sounded a bit more defiant: “Given the threats of litigation and continuing uncertainty, we are working with the Board of Girls Prep to find a stable solution for these young women.  At the same time, we remain prepared to exercise our emergency powers should that become necessary.”

In her response, Girls Prep’s acting executive director also acknowledged the prospect of legal proceedings led to the reversal:

Officials from the school say they hope to find space within the next several weeks, ideally at another location on the Lower East Side. (Perhaps the recently vacated Catholic middle school is a good fit?) “The threat by Advocates for Children to challenge an emergency declaration has created an unacceptable level of uncertainty for us, so we are being forced to find another option,” said Cristina Garcia-Coleman, the acting executive director of Public Preparatory Network, which oversees the charter school. “We have already identified several potential locations.

Kim Sweet, Advocates for Children executive director, confirmed (in an interview with Gotham Schools)  that the organization informed the DOE it eould seek a restraining order to block Klein from exercising emergency powers. Rebecca Shore, the organization’s litigation director, told us a few moments ago the group is pleased the DOE decision has been reversed.

At the same time, she said, there’s a lot that remains unclear. In spite of the DOE’s contention that no students would be displaced due to GP’s expansion, Shore indicated it’s still unknown where 4th graders from P.S. 94 will be going to school this fall. She said the department is not  communicating with parents and not making decisions in a transparent manner.

More reaction is coming in tonight. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has released the following statement:

I am pleased with the Department of Education’s announcement that it will withdraw plans for an emergency powers strategy that threatened to harm special needs students. DOE’s decision to exhaust all options and investigate alternate locations is a wise and prudent move.  I look forward to working closely with the Department to ensure that this process continues in good faith and with robust community consultation. All entities involved must come together to find a solution that best serves all of the children impacted by our City’s ongoing overcrowding challenges.

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  1. St. Patricks on Prince Street is closing, a potential site? It would keep the usage of the building closer to its intended purpose. As opposed to condos overlooking the Church.

  2. Great suggestion, KW.
    Let’s hope they are listening now!

    Many different options like this one have been presented to the charter school, by a number of agents over the past year. Sadly none of the options had the same appeal as Chancellor Klein’s generous offer of public school space for $1/year, all expenses included.

    NYS Charter School law created charter schools to serve as incubators of innovation to find new and better ways of educating our most needy students.

    Yet schools like Girls Prep have become part of the status quo that raises test scores by selecting out the most at risk students – English language learners, special education students, the poorest students and those in homeless shelters.

    We need all of our public schools to work for all for our students- not favoritism and a two tiered system that takes in our tax dollars yet leaves out boys, local kids, immigrants and other high needs students.

  3. “Yet schools like Girls Prep have become part of the status quo that raises test scores by selecting out the most at risk students – English language learners, special education students, the poorest students and those in homeless shelters”.

    Where did you get that from? First and foremost, Girls Prep is a charter school and the students are selected by LOTTERY. They are not at risk students who are selected to attend the school. Secondly, my daughter is a student at that school and she is already English speaking in regular ed, she is not a homeless shelter resident and she is not poor. Maybe if the opponents of Girls Prep occupying the building knew all the facts before they jumped to conclusions and didn’t assume how things were, the girls would be in school now.

  4. Rho,

    I apologize if my syntax was not clear- you and I appear to be saying the same thing (although I apparently managed to state it awkwardly;
    the most needy students are not represented in a proportional way at GPCS, as at many charters.

    Charters in general, and GPCS in particular, do not attract or retain significant numbers of students w/IEPs, who are English language learners, who live in temporary shelters and are eligible for free lunch, compared with local or citywide averages.

    The facts:

    According to data from 2008-9, only 5% of Girls Prep students received special education services, compared with 23% of students at PS 188.

    2% of Girls prep students were limited English proficient, yet 17% were LEP at PS 188.

    In 2008-09 there were five homeless students at Girls Prep (2%), and 46 homeless students (12%) at PS 188.

    50% of the students at Girls Prep were poor, or eligible for free lunch, compared to 97% of 188 students.

  5. Lisa

    Thanks for the facts. Let’s not forget the most important difference between Girls Prep and PS 188 – the students are chosen by lottery at Girls Prep.

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