Statement by NYC City Council Member Helen Rosenthal

RE: UWS school rezoning, CEC D3 meeting

November 22, 2017

I am Helen Rosenthal and I represent those in NYC City Council District 6 which overlaps with CEC school district 3 below 96th street.

I am going to speak to the rezone plan that affects that part of the district although I believe the overall sentiment should be equally applicable to all schools in the district. I work closely with the schools in my council district, including the PAs, and the principals, and some teachers.

As part of these active and ongoing conversations, I try to fund as many needed and wanted programs as possible.  Some of those are cultural programs and partnerships with local institutions, some are reading or math or other academic enrichment programs. I trust the expertise of principals, educators, and parents who are in their schools every day.

Frankly, my relationships with each of these schools and many parents existed prior to my role as a city councilmember. As a long-standing community member, I’ve been active on educational and zoning issues beginning during my tenure on the community board and as Chair of CB7.

I thought carefully about this rezone plan and its several iterations. I’ve spoken with many people – residents, current school families, incoming school families, and administrators. I or my staff  attended zoning meetings and read emails for the past 2 years. But the reality is that the community has been thinking and discussing this issue for much longer than that. 40 years of history and context goes into this final zoning plan.

I’ve been transparent from the get go, have stated at CEC meetings and written in my eblasts to the community, and I will say it again now – a rezone plan must address 3 issues:

  1. It must Support Educational excellence;
  2. It must Create more diversity with our schools; and
  3. It must address capacity issues in our schools

The plan that addressed  those three criteria is the plan that I would support.

I believe this latest iteration from the DOE does that and I urge the CEC to vote yes. Here are the detailed reasons, in the same order, why:

Educational excellence will be promoted in a number of ways. The re-siting of 452 and the Dual Language middle school will open up:

These re-sitings provide new enrichment, afterschool, sports, and academic  opportunities and an increase of UPK classes.  PS 75 can maintain its NEST Program and PS 166 its G&T program. I fully recognize the disruption a 452 re-site is on current families. I struggled over the impact of this disruption, but the benefits of a re-site for the school itself and for the district as a whole will be positive; and am thankful and relieved that the DOE committed to a bus for the length of time any current family is in the school. It will leave from one communal location and drop off at one communal location.  

Continuing with Educational Excellence, the re-siting of 191 will offer substantial opportunities from a state-of-the-art facility as well as a new G&T opportunity for the district.

I met with representatives of the PS 191 SLT, including a newly re-zoned PS191 pre-K parent to discuss their ideas for a “Maker model” program for PS 191. Supported by the principal, it is a multidisciplinary approach to integrating math, science, and reading by using state-of-the-art technology in creative ways and with a hands-on approach. It’s group-oriented to help cement the interaction of the students within the school. “Maker Model” will make full use of- and take advantage of- the state-of-the-art new facility. They will dedicate a lab classroom for the needed equipment and technology. The school and parents are excited and I am proud to announce here that it will be a new program at the school starting next year.  We are working to obtain funding for a pilot at 191 this Spring. The DOE has also started an extensive pre-K outreach campaign for school enrollment.

I intend to meet with the administrations of PS 84, 166, 87, 452, 9, 75, 247 to see how I can best support their communities around the re-zone. Whether that is with outreach to newly zoned communities, programming, after school, or capital dollars to add to a building’s facilities.  

Diversity is addressed in this plan through the re-sitings and new lines drawn around PS 452, 191, 199, 84 and 75. There is still a lot to be done on this issue, but this plan is a solid beginning.

PS 452, 191 and 199 will now each have equal enrollment goals of 15-20% low income students, rather than one school shouldering the burden of concentrated poverty. That is a powerful and significant change and cannot be underestimated for its transformative effect. I have heard from many parents who are ready to attend, engage and be part of this transformation.  

The people in this room had nothing to do with zone lines that perpetuated a school--PS191-- with concentrated poverty.  No one here is personally responsible for it, but we can take collective responsibility for righting a wrong. We have a wonderful opportunity here with the new Riverside Center space coming online to do that in a way that creates an equitable and fair system between those 3 schools.  It is an opportunity we cannot let slip by.  

Lastly, Capacity  - including current overcrowding, underenrollment, and projected enrollment -  is being addressed through the growth of PS 452, the Riverside Center school’s increased space, the shrinking of 199’s zone, new lines around 9, 166, 75, and flexible space now created at PS 84 achieved by moving out the middle school.  With the DOE’s commitment letter addressing potential overcrowding at PS 87, I believe the concerns were heard. The commitment to cap sizes and cap the number of classrooms as well as assurances on cluster rooms at 87 is included in the plan and is satisfactory for now but must be closely monitored.

I encourage the CEC to vote YES on this rezone plan and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work with the CEC, the DOE, and parents in the community to ensure every part of the plan is a success.