GET TO KNOW THE SCHOOL AT THE HEART OF THE REZONING CONTROVERSY: PS 191

ps 191

PS 191 on West 61st street has been in the news lately as the Department of Education has proposed a plan to rezone the southern section of the Upper West Side. Several families that would have been zoned for PS 199 would instead be zoned for 191 under the plan.

Some parents have balked at sending their kids to 191, in part because it was tagged as a “persistently dangerous school” this year, but the school administration has said that designation was a mistake.

There will be a few chances for parents to learn more about 191 and come to their own conclusions in the next few weeks.

On Thursday Oct. 15, the community board’s education committee will host principal Lauren Keville at a meeting at PS 191, 210 W 61st Street (Amsterdam Ave).

This Saturday, Oct. 17 at noon there will be another hearing on the rezoning, also at PS 191.

And Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña is coming to PS 191 for a town hall meeting on Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m. Hopefully some parents will ask her about the department’s mixed messages on the “dangerous” designation. Submit questions for Farina at CEC3.org.

Principal Keville also said at a recent meeting that she’s got an open door policy and would be happy to meet with parents. So call the school at 212-757-4343 and try to set something up.

NEWS, SCHOOLS | 54 comments | permalink
    1. Noreaster says:

      Oooh, Carmen the Arrogant will actually grace us with her appearance? Amazing. Will she arrive in the Popemobile?

    2. Conspiracy Theorist says:

      Step 1. Work for multiple leaders (a senator some governors) in the armpit state with your buddy until the politicians leave their post in disgrace.

      Step 2. Lobby for developers, construction, engineering, and transportation companies in NJ and NY (file lobby forms in NJ). You start one firm, your buddy works for another.

      Step 3. Get appointed to a local community board by a local leader. You on one board, your lobbyist buddy on the other. It’s grassroots messaging time.

      Step 4. Lobby for TRC Engineering, which does PCB testing and get your kids’ school as one of 5 city wide pilots. Give reports to the PTA and the community board about the pilot and lead a vote on a referendum to build momentum for your client. Get your board to host a PCB hearing for the City Council, which promptly passes two laws. Your client gets over 10 million dollars in contracts to remit throughout the city. You and your lobby buddy low five each other every time the school construction authority signs another contract with a client of yours (millions every year for multiple clients).

      Step 5. Get the board to pass 9 resolutions (on traffic cameras) for the client that you (then your buddy) lobby for.

      Step 6. After saving your school from dangerous PCBs, get elected as Co-President. A few months later, work with same old lobby buddy to take a “wait and see approach” to the demolition of your school. After all, the guy who appointed you both to your respective boards – is being funded by the broker for the deal (CBRE) – and he’ll eventually become mayor.

      Step 7. Get paid 120k a year to lobby for Better Education 4 Kids, an pro-charter PAC in a partnership with StudentsFirst NY (with Michelle Rhee and Eva Moscowitz on the board).

      Step 8. Influence the creation of a new middle / high school so that your kids (and all of those connected to you) are golden for the next 7 years.

      Step 9. Co-Chair the Ed Committee on your board. Work with other lobby buddy on his board to pair down 199 zone. Promise angry parents it will all be okay once 191 is off the list. The plan is more of the same for 191…. Great! Even more kids in the area will apply to Moscowitz’s Success Academy.

      Step 10. Figure out if you are going to rename your lobby firm yet again since your former partner will be rejoining you after resigning as Christie’s Transportation Commissioner amid a Federal investigation (David Samson / United Airlines) and ethics violations (hushing a Bridegate investigation).

      Step 11. Become leader of the new Middle / High school and repeat…

    3. Pamela says:

      make 191, 199, 452, and the other new schools that will open up down there, admittance based on lottery. Everybody wants to send their child to a safe and academically strong school. Unfortunately, there is not enough room. So if you want to go to public school and want it to be fair, establish a lottery for all the schools.

    4. UWSmom says:

      The school says the persistently dangerous label is a mistake. Do they have any data to support that? People are being asked to enroll their 4-5 year old children. I’m going to need more than just their word that it was a mistake.

    5. ConcernedResident says:

      Is the meeting tomorrow at 191 or at Joan of Arc (154 West 93rd)? The CEC3 website says it is at Joan of Arc from 9 to 11.

      • Talksback says:

        The meeting tomorrow, Oct 15 is at PS 191

        • Kim Watkins says:

          I saw a comment about the location of tomorrow’s Zoning meeting and want to make sure that everyone knows that it will be held at Joan of Arc, 154 West 93rd. The public hearing on Saturday 10/17 is at PS191 at noon. Write me if that isn’t clear!

      • Meetingattendee says:

        The oct 15 meeting is at Joan of Arc. It is the zoning committee business meeting

    6. Why we need a better zoning proposal says:

      As stated many times here and in comments to the DOE/CEC, 199 is overcrowded relative to 191 simply because families understand that 199 provides a better opportunity for success than 191. This is not a criticism of the teachers or families at 191, it is just that 199 has more money from parents and a stronger historical foundation. Unfortunately, the DOE’s plan does not consider balancing this disparity at all; income parity, for example, is not considered at all. The DOE/CEC needs to come up with a plan that addresses this disparity or families will just continue avoiding 191 and seeking 199 (or 87, 7, and 452). Below is a useful article on the fundraising gap between NYC schools. Notably, the highest fundraising schools are generally the highest rated in NYC. 199 brought in $342,379 vs. $3,190 for 191 in the last year covered in the article. http://www.thenewyorkworld.com/2014/08/06/pta-2/

    7. Talksback says:

      My question is:

      How do parents find it safe enough to send their children to PS 191 for Pre-K but turn around and decide it is unsafe thereafter?

      I am curious if it has anything to do with the difference in demographics between Pre-K and the rest of the grades.

      • Anin says:

        Pre-k doesn’t mix with the rest of the school. They use the small playground on Amsterdam, not the big yard, for example. And it used to be 1/2 day so no lunch. Not sure if that’s changed with Free Pre-k for all.

      • Anin says:

        Pre-k doesn’t mix with the rest of the school. They use the small playground on Amsterdam, not the big yard, for example. And it used to be 1/2 day so no lunch. Not sure if that’s changed with Free Pre-k for all. And yes, then the demographics change.

      • TwoKidsAndaDog says:

        Pre-K is full day now (8:10-2:30pm) with an after school program available until 6pm as well. During the day and after school, pre-k kids are kept entirely separate from the rest of the grades, even kindergarten. Pre-k kids eat lunch in their classrooms, where there is also a bathroom.

    8. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      So is the issue that wealthy leftists do not want to send their children to school with children from the housing projects?

      • Jeff Berger says:

        DING DING! We have a winner! Please accept your prize!

      • Neighbor says:

        The school has been designated as persistently dangerous. Would you send a 4 or 5 year old starting kindergarten to a persistently dangerous school? You wouldn’t have to. If anyone requests a different placement the DOE has to find another school for them. Expanding the zone isn’t about getting rich white kids into 191. Everyone knows that won’t happen. It’s about keeping kids out of PS 199 so those children still have space for art and music rooms.

      • Why we need a better zoning proposal says:

        Kind of. All people (wealthy or not wealthy) would prefer their children go to a school with better resources than a school with less. Instead of opening up 199 to more people with less income as would be done under the super zone proposal or using more fair zoning lines, the DOE proposal creates a more narrow wealthy zone around 199 (the new Trump Towers school). Notably, one of the most reasonably priced buildings in Lincoln Towers (303 West 66th St) was the only one zoned out.

        • lis says:

          303 West 66 is not part of Lincoln Towers.
          I believe it was built around the same time?

          It was originally a Mitchell-Lama middle-income building – not part of Lincoln Towers (which was just a regular rental with middle-income residents, musicians, teachers, professors etc)

          My understanding is that 303 West 66 is no longer Mitchell-Lama.

          • UWSer says:

            None of it is Mitchell Lama anymore. Why these apartments were built, or what buildings PS 199 was built to serve, is irrelevant. They were built 50 years ago. The neighborhood as it is today has to be considered. The school zones should either simply be based on proximity or be an effort they increase socio-economic diversity. The current proposal fails both of those criteria.

      • Sherman says:

        Exactly!

        No politician will say this out loud.

        Neither will any PS 199 parent or any School Board member.

        However, the issue is mixing wealthy (or at least middle class) white kids with poor minority kids from the projects.

        • 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

          If this were happening in a southern or Republican-leaning state, I bet many of these same parents would be calling them “racists” and “rednecks”.

    9. PS 191 parent says:

      Keep in mind that parents were unwilling to send their kids (post pre-k) to PS 191 long before there was this “persistently dangerous” label. The label has given them a way to legitimize their concerns about the demographic makeup (which of course affects test scores, etc.) of PS 191.

      You have to ignore all the BS of walking too far. There are plenty of families who subsequently moved out of PS 199 zone after their children were admitted (which was the plan all along), yet still walk their kids there this great distance. All of a sudden NYC is not a place we walk?

      The reality is, ps 199 zone is a wealthy area. They do not want their kids going to ps 191 because of who currently goes there. Period.

      Is this a legitimate concern? Maybe. It is a low achieving school. But it is partially such through segregation.

      Yes, it sucks for you that you bought somewhere thinking you were going to ps 199. Yes, it sucks for you that the doubling of your real estate values may take a slight ding. maybe not.

      I’m not sure if a superzone is the answer. Keep in mind many families currently at ps 191 dont want to leave. It is not clear that kids from Amsterdam houses would want to choose ps 199.

      I certainly can’t say that the way they drew the lines were fair either. That is something that should be examined. And if you are at Lincoln towers (or similar building) don’t make the 2.5 million apartments at Trump seem like the wealthy, when your apartment is worth a mere 2.1 million. Please.

      • Parent says:

        It would not be a random lottery. It is called controlled choice. That means that they try to give parents choice, but since not everyone can have what they want, there is a lottery when more people want a given school than there is room. If families want 191, they will likely get it if there are not more families choosing 191 (over 199 and 342) than 191 can handle.

        There are currently only about 35 kids entering 191 every year. We are not talking about a lot of kids within a very very large zone.

      • TwoKidsAndaDog says:

        Ditto.

        • TwoKidsAndaDog says:

          Oops, the “ditto” was for prek_mom. My child also currently attends Pre-K at PS191 and I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the program, the teachers, the staff/adminstration, or the school.

    10. preK_mom says:

      With respect to UWSmom query, I send my almost 4 year old everyday to the preK at 191. My child is safe, happy and loves the school. The label was an unfortunate mistake. Not for a second have I doubted my child’s safety.

      • Anon says:

        Again someone says the label was a mistake. Do you have any facts or figures to back this up? It’s supposedly based on the number of incidents the school reports. What were the mistakes that resulted in the persistently dangerous destination?

        • Mistakes in stats says:

          There was just a news story in the Dailynews how Bratton, then of the LAPD, “…misclassified 14,000 violent crimes between 2005-12, listing the assaults as minor offenses and skewing crime figures downward.”

          When offenses get classified into neat little boxes (e.g., getting hit in the balls with an errant football ==> sexual assault) one can imagine the many ways in which persistently dangerous was a mistake.

          • Anon says:

            The data for the persistently dangerous designation is compiled by the principal and the DOE. Britton isn’t doing this.

            • stats says:

              My point was that, when you categorize offenses into neat categories, you can make problems seem worse or make problems seem better.

              This is miscategorization (hit in groin = sexual assault) is why people are saying data and label are wrong.

    11. Kids in both schools says:

      I’m in a unique situation where we have children in both ps 191 and 199 schools. Having moved here recently, our middle school kids were assigned to 191 and our grade schooler attends 199. All our children enjoy their schools. 199 seems great, but we find the administration and teachers at 191 absolutely wonderful and genuinely enthusiastic about their jobs and working with the kids. The magnet program is wonderful and we’re excited about the integration of real world experiences in their curriculum. There are a lot of great programs being implemented there, not just academic.

      The kids have all made wonderful friends at both schools and the older kids feel completely safe in their school and never see any disciplinary issues above the norm. They are quite happy there.

      We were concerned when we got the notices regarding the persistently dangerous designation, and honestly we were also quite surprised based on what we and the kids have seen in the school. We chose not to request a transfer.

      I did speak to the administration about my concerns and they gave me an example of a first grader opening a classroom door and accidentally hitting the child behind the door in the forehead, which was classified as “assault with a deAdly weapon” by the state – which is ridiculous in my opinion. She said the incidents which counted against them were primarily in first or second grade and were mostly by one or two students. Throwing erasers and such is considered assault with a deadly weapon. In my opinion, the system failed this school and it gets an unfair bad rap. I wouldn’t keep my kids there if I felt for a second they were in danger.

      • Anon says:

        Wouldn’t hitting another child with the door be classified the same at ps 191 as at any other DOE school? Likewise if a hit to the groin is sexual assault at one it’s sexual assault others. Yet 191 is the one classified as persistently dangerous. There must be more of these incidents there than at other schools.

        • Kids in both schools says:

          Perhaps… or perhaps they are more honest in their reporting, or perhaps Title 1 schools are more scrutinized by the DOE or discriminated against where a similar incident in a more affluent school would simply be ignored or rightfully deemed an accident.

          Bottom line to me is that I believe my kids in 191 are in great hands and are, in deed, safe.

          • Pffffft says:

            There are tons in Title 1 schools in NYC. The rest of them are designated “persistently dangerous”. PS 191 didn’t even fight the designation. claiming this is somehow the DOE being out to get poor kids when most DOE schools are filled with poor kids is ridiculous. 191 reported more incidents than other schools.

          • your kid is safe? says:

            What about the great test scores at 191? Are you happy with that as well?

    12. buster says:

      This plan does nothing to help PS 191 resources or diversity, as Board of Ed has conceded it is not confident it can convince parents zoned out of PS 199 to have their kids attend PS 191. Also, Board of Ed conceded that a further shrinking of PS 199’s zone would be required in a few years. So the proposed plan does not achieve any of its goals. If this plan is approved, every one on the West Side should make sure to vote out de Blasio and his Board of Ed in the next election.

    13. Uncle Matt says:

      I attended last night’s meeting about overcrowding and was completely appalled. For so many reasons.

      Much of what I heard last night and much of what I am reading in these comments just reeks of the same shamelessness displayed by the Center School folks when overcrowding and the rezoning debate boiled up back in 2008. Here is a quick recap of some of the hypocrisy and stupidity displayed last night:

      Once again, our inept DOE is WAAAAY behind the 8-ball in getting ahead of the problem. Apparently they are the only living beings on planet earth who didn’t know about NYC’s burgeoning population of young families so they have done no projections and have built no new schools. Instead we need to use the existing supply of school space which was been expanded upon since the 1960s.

      The rampant use of the word “segregation” by 191 parents was just plain disgusting, inappropriate and shameless. I truly hope those remarks were made be people being ignorant rather than strategic.

      Also incredibly appalling was hearing elected officials take the mic at “Q&A” only to stroke one another and then grandstand about “inequality” and certain schools being for “sons and daughters of millionaires and billionaires.” Excuse me? I know plenty of house poor families on the Upper West Side who struggle to make it all work financially just so that they can send their kids to a good school.

      Even better was other officials insisting 191 be removed from the “persistently dangerous schools” designation. As if a school that had numerous recent sexual assaults and physical assaults resulting in injury (and several involving weapons)does not qualify as “dangerous?” But if we remove the designation the school will be better? Really?
      This is all about as sensible as the DOE promoting kids through the school system who cannot read, which we know happens way more than it should.

      I also loved how Farina feigned empathy concerning the high school process, citing that her daughters both “went through the whole painful process,” as if they didn’t get to go to whatever public high school they wanted.

      Fact is that the DOE and PS191 need to be held accountable to make PS191 an environment where parents can feel safe sending their 4 and 5 year old kids. And developers AND the DOE need to be held accountable for building or funding additional schools for our exploding neighborhood population. I think a lot of bureaucrats should lose their jobs for allowing this situation to get to where it is, especially given what we saw in 2008.

      I really hope this does not take a turn for the ugly the way it did last time. Please think about that before blogging conspiracy theories about parents who want nothing other than for their kids to attend a safe, and well-functioning school.