Today Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Bushwick) and Assemblyman Rafael Espinal (D-54th Kings) joined Cypress Hills Local Development Corp. (CHLDC), teachers and parents of I.S. 171 to protest the Department of Education's (DOE) decision to co-locate another middle school within the Cypress Hills school.
“I.S. 171 has been deemed developing by the DOE and has made significant improvements in the areas of student performance and progress. The school should be commended for making positive gains and should be given the opportunity for recent restructuring to fully pan out,” said Senator Dilan. “Quantity over quality is not a redeemable educational policy, nor is it grounds for co-locating a second school within I.S. 171. ”
According to the Department of Education, the intent of the proposed co-location is to provide parents and students a “new school option” in the community. Nowhere in the proposal’s Educational Impact Statement does it cite the need for improving the educational performance or experience for the parents and students of I.S. 171 Abraham Lincoln.
“A co-location at IS 171 would ultimately be a disservice to teachers and students. This proposal would overwhelm the facility, the faculty and inevitably disrupt the classroom experience. Students and faculty need a comfortable learning and teaching environment to get the best results,” said Assemblyman Espinal.
The plan calls for splitting what the DOE cites as an “underutilized” I.S. 171 building—already at 68 percent capacity—and operating two schools with a targeted building utilization rate of no less than 67 percent. At an October 8, 2013 public hearing, Senator Dilan joined more than 500 parents, students and residents to voice their opposition to the plan.
Even after making their case at the hearing, and meeting with officials of the DOE’s Division of Portfolio Planning, CHLDC, who operates the Middle School Student Success Center at I.S. 171, feels the case against the co-location has not been investigated nor acknowledged. Furthermore, according CHLDC Executive Director, Michelle Neugebauer, the success of its students is being completely overlooked.
“With a 92 percent attendance rate, I.S. 171 students are deeply engaged in learning and are thriving in a supportive school climate. It is a true ‘community school’ where 300 students on a daily basis are served in our afterschool program and 175 young people and parents are involved in evening and weekend educational and weekend programs such as ESL classes,” said Neugebauer. “I.S. 171 is working.”
The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) is expected to vote on the co-location on Wednesday, October 30.