Parents listen to local principals at a school rezoning hearing last month.

Editor’s note: Andrew Chu, the father of a 3-year-old, is part of a group of parents working to solve the rezoning challenge in the South end of the Upper West Side. He wrote the column below to explain why some parents believe a “split-sided zone” is the best solution to deal with issues of overcrowding and segregation. Our most recent article on the rezoning proposal is here.

By Andrew Chu

We are parents. And we have a very difficult question to answer.

The question is not what to do with PS199 or PS191. The question is not whether to move the lines or share the zone or, as proposed by myself and a small group of parents, to split by grades across now two and eventually three schools. The question is not even about diversity. While all of these questions are central to our children’s futures, there is one question underlying them all. And that is, how do we define excellence in education?

As parents struggling to answer this question and all others that stem from it, we are all doing what we think is best for our children. And getting that right is extremely hard.

As parents trying to ensure a positive future for our children, we are constantly wrestling against all odds, despite the fact that not all of these odds are within our control. From putting rubber stoppers on corners of tables to choosing reputable schools with proven track records, we try as best we can to continuously shift these odds incrementally in our children’s favor.

And why wouldn’t we? It is only natural to want what’s best for our children.  It is only natural to want them to get into a good school, get good grades and get involved. It is only natural to want them to share the company of other families who share those very same goals.

But what if.

What if, in limiting the odds in our child’s favor, we’ve somehow limited something else that is just as precious?

What if, in ensuring that our child goes to a good college, goes on to a good career and then goes on to something even better, we have overlooked something that is just as vital along the way?

What if, in pursuing our own definitions of education and excellence, we’ve shifted the odds too far?

Given what is at stake, coming to a definition of excellence that we are comfortable with is of an understandable degree of importance. It’s also not an easy thing to determine.

Lacking any single, universal barometer of excellence, we, as parents, can only work with what we have, making leaps of logic and faith based on admittedly imperfect information. Having said that, there are some metrics that have seemingly gained broader acceptance than others. High test scores, national awards and even, regretfully, demographics are some typical metrics that we have taken on as proxies for excellence.

Without any more revealing data than what is available and lacking any better proxy to date, this seems to be the best definition a majority of us can agree upon.

But is this the best that we can do?

In assuming this definition, in shifting the odds so our children have the best chance of attending those institutions deemed excellent based on these limited measures, what are the potential risks?

If we assume an institution is excellent based on the aforementioned measures, is it then safe to assume an institution which is missing one or more of those measures is not? If we direct all our energies at preserving those institutions which have accumulated these metrics over time, do we risk isolating and abandoning those that have not? And perhaps, most critically of all, if we assume that the children within these institutions are capable of excellence, is it just to assume that children that are not within their walls are not equally capable of excellence?

Is it right to presume that, while a family may not have the means, the access or the prestige to attend such an institution, they are any less willing to achieve or any less likely to excel if given the proper resources to do so?

In pursuing a definition of excellence in education based on the qualities of the institution rather than the qualities of our children, does this best serve our children? Or the institution? For what is the true measure of excellence in education if not to reach out beyond our typical enclosures and nurture excellence in all its forms and variance?

If we accept this definition going forward, then, in the same way we shift the odds to protect our children, we incrementally shift the odds in favor of systems and processes and structures that protect this presumed definition of excellence at all costs.

But what, indeed, are the true costs of doing so?

What if, in shifting the odds to accommodate this presumed definition of excellence, we had excluded a representative segment of our district? What would be the risks involved with this separation? I believe the following quote from a teacher in Hartford, CT most clearly describes the potential costs of doing so:

“I think that children can overcome the stigma of poverty. I think children can overcome the stigma of their ethnicity. But what they cannot overcome is the stigma of separation. That is like a damned spot in their being, in their self-image. And that’s what segregation does to children. They see themselves as apart and separate because of the language they speak, because of the color of their skin, the origin of their parents.”

This is the cost. This is the collateral damage of collectively shifting the odds.

Is this a truly excellent outcome? Does this cost fit neatly within our presumed definition of excellence?

So what to do?  Not an easy question or an easy answer.

But, perhaps, we can start with the uncomfortable process of introspection. Forget the rhetoric. Forget the camps, the titles, the roles. Just collectively and individually consider our own values, our own principles.  What do we stand for? What do we strive for? Then perhaps, after this reflection, we, as a community, can make a decision as to how we *choose* to define excellence in education.

Alternatively, we can continue to methodically shift the odds in favor of certain institutions that exhibit these traits, and, over time, naturally limit access to those very same institutions as they become more and more taxed.

If given a choice, would you accept this definition and this outcome?

It is my sincere hope that my son enters a school system which not only tolerates diversity, and the naturally varied discourse that comes with that, but wholly embraces it as an integral part of its own definition of excellence.

I have hope that the New York City Public School System, rather than being the most segregated in the country, could instead be the most transformative.

The hard work put forth by a small group of parents from within our community was never intended to force a proposal upon others, but rather to present it as an option and a choice.  This option, in summary, is as follows:

Starting in 2017, all incoming Kindergarten students currently zoned for either PS199 or PS191 would enroll at PS191 (or an incubated PS342) as a zone-wide “Super Class”. These students would have a crucial opportunity, over the next 3 years, to grow together as a community prior to moving to PS199 for grades 3-5. For parents with current students at PS199 or PS191, your child would graduate from their current school with zero disruption. For parents with younger siblings about to attend PS199, sections could be formed specifically for siblings at PS199 to maintain continuity. These “Sibling Sections” would reunite with the larger “Super Class” when they all enter grade 3 at PS199. (See map below.)

Admittedly, for this choice to work, it would necessarily take all of us to commit, because, without the collective support of the community as a whole, any such decision of this magnitude would inevitably be met with strife and discontent. However, I must believe that applying our collective energies towards realizing this solution must be more favorable than the trauma and discord resulting from our current battles.

So an option and a choice has been presented which could potentially resolve multiple concurrent issues. By distributing demand across PS199, PS191 and, eventually, PS342, this proposal could immediately address overcrowding at PS199. By increasing seat utilization at PS191, it could guarantee all children a spot in Kindergarten rather than subject them to the 50/50 odds of a waitlist or lottery. By directly addressing the perception of “winners and losers” with the elimination of zone lines altogether, it avoids the heartache and trauma of future rezoning processes. By allocating our students based on grades rather than class, color or geography, it could take a small but momentous step towards reversing decades of de facto segregation. It could achieve all of these and, what’s more, depending on the definition of excellence that you prescribe to, even provide a more excellent education than what some of us are grateful to have today.

However, in the end, after this option and this choice has been presented and duly considered by all stakeholders, it is then at the discretion of the community itself to determine our path forward.  If we collectively decide this choice, this more expansive definition of excellence, and all the potent possibilities that it brings, is not for us and that we, instead, prefer the status quo, then, ultimately, we have no one else, absolutely no one else to blame, not the DOE, not the CEC, not 191, not 199, not each other.

We have no one else to blame for the impact this decision will have on our children but ourselves.

split zone diagram

COLUMNS, SCHOOLS | 119 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:


      Your call for the Greater Good is admirable, but have you met your “neighbors”?

      • Ghost of John Dewey says:

        Teachers College, Columbia University is where some of our finest educators are trained and where much of our curricula derive. TC was also the home of one of our country’s most celebrated educators, John Dewey.

        What do our future finest first see as they enter TC’s main hall? The following quote is inscribed high above,

        “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy”

        This quote is from the first page of John Dewey’s first major work published, School and Society, in 1899. It is of such great importance, that Teachers College wants it to be the foundation of our educators’ thinking and practice.

        Thank you Andrew for your courage. Parents also need to be more expansive in their thinking – and these essential questions you have chosen are a great start.

        Whatever dialogue we engage in, whatever educational model we choose, let’s try to keep our community’s outlook broad and our biases narrow. The reverse will only tear us apart.

        An excerpt from which the quote derives:

        We are apt to look at the school from an individualistic standpoint, as something between teacher and pupil, or between teacher and parent. That which interests us most is naturally the progress made by the individual child of our acquaintance, his normal physical development, his advance in ability to read, write, and figure, his growth in the knowledge of geography and history, improvement in manners, habits of promptness, order, and industry — it is from such standards as these that we judge the work of the school. And rightly so. Yet the range of the outlook needs to be enlarged.

        What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy. All that society has accomplished for itself is put, through the agency of the school, at the disposal of its future members. All its better thoughts of itself it hopes to realize through the new possibilities thus opened to its future self. Here individualism and socialism are at one. Only by being true to the full growth of all the individuals who make it up, can society by any chance be true to itself. And in the self-direction thus given, nothing counts as much as the school, for, as Horace Mann said, ” Where anything is growing, one former is worth a thousand reformers.”

      • Donations needed says:

        Ms. Cumbo has raised 5,799 dollars so far to provide 60 P.S. 191 kids with an Alvin Ailey dance residency. She needs only 244 dollars more to be funded. Let’s come together and help make this happen!


        Other projects too


      • Andrew C says:

        dannyboy, thanks, I have met some and i’m open to meeting more, particularly those that are open to having a thoughtful discussion about this.

    2. Angeline says:


      If there were no waitlist at PS199, would you have the same overarching desire for split schools? Hypothetically speaking, if the Amsterdam Houses were rezoned for PS199 for 2016 and your building zoned out, would you have the same goals?

      Speaking for myself, I do not have any grand goals. I was happy to have a public K-5 school with good scores that my kids could attend. Good scores are not the be-all and end-all but seemed like a reasonable way to pick a school as we are not given any other data.

      It is disturbing that community who are not yet parents at our school and other advocates who are not members of our direct school community have come this far in breaking our school apart.

      Any pairing involving PS199 will be an experiment with unpredictable results. Who will be accountable if it fails?

      • Idiocracy says:

        Wow. It is amazing to assume that if your child were somehow mixed with kids that were upper class and mostly white and asian, that it may somehow taint your child.

        That you would fear this exposure and inclusiveness… So, if the Amsterdam houses were included in ps199 then it is an experiment? Only by keeping the bloodline of 199 pure can we achieve the dream of uber children?

        Perhaps the failed experiment is having segregated schools in which parents at 199 are so fearful that they might start trying to reverse Brown v BOE.

        And this idea that “well you are not in the school, so how dare you try to make changes to it” is both pretentious and outside the spirit of public education.

        Clearly all you want is the student body of a posh private school but with the price of a public school. That’s awesome. But, the fact that as a byproduct you have a school barren of resources (191) makes it a bit of a fantasy.

        • Idiocracy says:

          sorry, first line should read NOT “mixed with kids”

        • Angeline says:

          Who’s afraid of mixing? Not me. My point was that I bet the support for pairing would evaporate if indeed, ALL of the Amsterdam houses were zoned to PS199. I have no issue with mixing, nor do I have an issue with PS199 being zoned for the Amsterdam Houses and not just the Annex. My issue is with the advocates of pairing who are looking for the “right” mix.

          • Angeline says:

            The experiment to me is splitting a school into K-2 and 3-5 without the support of its parent body, educators or SLT or PTA.

        • Angeline says:

          If a NYC public school admits students based on the rules in place, educates them according to DOE metrics and is successful to the point of having wait lists – let me ask what good does it do to destroy that school? For the good of the waitlisted? For the common good as defined by me or you or Andrew?

          PS199 was not a sought after school years ago – are you suggesting that its success can cause a neighboring school to fail if they do not draw from the same catchment?

          • Idiocracy says:

            Let me exaggerate ever so slightly: imagine 199 was 0% low SES minority and 191 was 100% (not much of an exaggeration ). 199 was doing great, whereas 191 was not.

            199 argues why should we integrate 191 student body. It is not our fault. We are going to the school on our side of the tracks. 191 you have kids from your side of the tracks. Any mixing would just be a social experiment…this was probably the exact commentary in most of the country as the supreme court was deciding Brown v BoE.

            Couldn’t one argue that any change is bad. What if they built a huge housing project inside 199 catchment. Wouldn’t that destroy the school? Surely overall scores would regress. Incidents would go up.

            Again, culturally I thought we as a nation already come to a decision on the adverse effects of segregation.

            Substantively the effects are the same whether the segregation is intentionally motivated or merely an arbitrary product of drawn zone lines (or even which side of the tracks the Amsterdam houses are on).

            • Idiocracy says:

              It is no one at 199 fault this happened, but it is socially irresponsible to fight for de facto segregation.

            • Angeline says:

              Brown was the right decision but much of the desegregation attempts across the country produced short term integration but we are now back to segregated schools in some areas. So, the answer for me is I don’t know. I have been accused of inaccurate historical analysis so can it possibly be that if we just do what was done to 199/191 in the 60s-80s that history will not repeat itself? What has changed now to make a repeat of that experiment a success?

              I only speak for myself when I say that I would prefer a rezoning of 199 to include more of the Amsterdam Houses than a split k-2 and 3-5 scenario? Would the proponents of the split school plan give up their current 199 zoning so that 199 includes more of the Houses?

            • Andrew C says:

              Angeline, thanks for the thoughts. I think we are on a similar page with respect to the need for broader support. Like prior discussion, this thing or other solutions frankly can’t work well if they are top-down. Hypothetically, if there was broader support, ultimately inclusive of PS199 parents and the administration, I think that would be a meaningful difference vs. the 60’s example. On the other hand, if it’s presented to the community and the community says “no thanks” then we’ve at least done our due diligence.

              As for switching Amsterdam Houses, it’s something worth thinking about, but once things get down to “trading” this building vs that I fear we get into a similar dynamic as we did with the original DOE proposal.

              As for the hypotheticals of no waitlist or moving Amsterdam houses vs our buildings, hard to say! But if 199 had no overcrowding and both 199 and 191 were more representative of the demographics of the broader southern district then those are two big issues that split-siting could potentially address and in that regard, maybe this unique solution to the current set of concurrent issues might not be needed!

              But, unfortunately, these issues do exist, so question is what options are available to address them. Split-siting is one, others have been proposed as well, let’s get them on the table and collectively figure out our best course of action.

      • Future wait lister says:


        I certainly get your concerns, but quibble with the idea that people zoned for 199, but not yet actually in the school, aren’t entitled to a voice in the process. Those of us facing the reality of a 125 person wait list (a roughly 30% chance of admission after sibling grandfathering) have a stake on solving our problem as much as current 199 parents have a stake in solving overcrowding and 191 families have a stake in wanting the best for their school.

        Especially because, as I understand Andrew’s plan (I’ve been going to the meetings) current 199 families would stay in 199, and there’s a plan to allow siblings of current students to attend “sibling kindergartens” at 199. Pairing would primarily impact families with no kids yet in the system. Some of those might find a 100% chance of a seat at a merged-zone school a more promising option than a 30% chance of getting into their current zoned school.

        Why not engage and see if 199 can have its concerns addressed rather than simply trying to shut down debate?

        • Angeline says:

          Sure, everyone has a say. All the forums and meetings are open to the public. Many of the speakers are not current parents. We are debating all the options.

          PS199 does not belong to me, it doesn’t belong to anyone. I have no more right to go there than parents who don’t have their children there.

          But whose voice has the greater weight? I suppose not the current crop of parents who put in countless volunteer hours, not our principal, not our SLT and not our exec board. There are PS199 parents who like the paired idea, sure. But is that a majority of the community? And how do we determine this?

          I am frustrated by what I feel is the greater weight given to parents who are worried that their kids will not get a decent seats over the stakeholders above.

          The paired solution may work well in the short term. But long term, what happens to the 2 schools when they are compared to the other good schools in our district that are K-5 and continuous? Would someone moving into the community deliberately pick a k-2 and 3-5 solution? This paired solution is also a bandaid.

          • Future wait lister says:

            Sorry to harp on this, Angeline, but what is the stake that current parents have, if no one is touching their right to send their kids to 199? Why does that weigh more than parents whose kids may actually be impacted by the long term plans?

            And – likewise – who would move to a district where only 1 in 3 kids has a shot of getting into the zoned school? Andrew’s solution might be a better (if imperfect) option for those actually confronting this reality.

            Certainly school administrators and teachers should have a voice, agreed. They should be engaged in the process of finding a solution that works for all the kids in this community.

            • Angeline says:

              Future parents may or may not choose to send their kids to PS199, no matter what they say now. I have known families who choose to move either before K or in lower grades, chose charters, chose G&T, citywide, privates. So there is always a discounting factor.

              There are parents at 199 who know what it is to be at a good K-5 school. I have had the good fortune to volunteer alongside parents who have been at the school 12 years! We might be there for 11 years. We have a strong sense of community partly because some of us have been together for so long. Our opinion of what works should be given significant weight over what is unproven and may only work to achieve temporary diversity.

              If pairing is implemented and increases participation from the 191 zone, tell me if there would be any sense in getting it to stay a paired school forever?

            • Future wait lister says:

              No question that 199 is a great school, and you and your friends deserve a lot of credit for your role in that. But it’s a great school that can no longer adequately serve the population it’s designated for, and that will continue as long as people can move into whatever the zone is.

              I think the value of your experience in building and maintaining a great school should not be discounted – should, in fact, be heavily utilized in any attempt to carry those successes forward.

              But I also don’t think that your (justifiable!) pride and attachment to the school can rationally justify discounting the preferences of parents whose kids _will_ be impacted, when yours won’t be. Why should we be bound to the way previous iterations of parents have preferred things?

              Things change, and the school may have to change with them. The one thing we all agree upon is that the current situation is untenable all around, no matter how great a school you’ve helped build.

            • Future wait lister says:

              I should add, as to your hypothetical… That would be an amazing outcome. I guess we’d have to figure out the best way forward if we ever got so lucky. Or some future generation of parents would.

    3. Doug M says:

      serious question: at what point in the ballooning of 199’s student population does the fire code kick in? i assume the DOE can ignore its own guidelines, but not FDNY’s limit on how many people a bldg can safely hold.

      • Evelinairis says:

        As a parent at PS 199 and a fourth grade teacher, I think the idea of split sites forbthe three schools: 199, 191 and 342 is brilliant When I think of a school having only three grades and more classes of each of those grades — it is HEAVEN for a teacher. So much sharing, so much creativity, so much success as it has been done in Brooklyn and elsewhere A once in a life time opportunity for children to travel together through a couple of different settings.
        I wasn’t able to attend many zoning meetings, but did hear a parent worried about getting her kids to two schools. I get it. But I do it because of the ages of my kids and because ten, fifteen extra minutes out of my day is not even a hardship, sacrifice compared to giving them an opportunity for best education. If only this site splitting had been available for us. It is truly a high high quality ideA for ANY mix if kids who could benefit: Purple, white, orange or green.

        • Andrew C says:


          Thanks for your feedback. On the point on logistics, I totally agree and I get it, too.

          But here is the thing, I have to believe that, if the community was committed enough, we could solve even this issue creatively. In fact, through some initial brainstorming, a small group of us had posed some ideas such as a shuttle bus running a loop between the schools 30 min before and after the opening and closing bells.

          Or having “chaperoned drop offs” where siblings could be walked between schools with the assistance of crossing guards and either volunteer or paid chaperones.

          These are just really nascent thoughts, but I think just are the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we could collectively come up with if we were actually focused on solving issues like these rather than how to slice the various pies.

          Thanks for your thoughts!

      • ben says:

        They are, apparently, already having safety concerns at 199. During a recent fire drill, at least one child, held back at a stairwell while others worked their way down the approved method of exit, asked if, during an actual file, they would have had do stand still at the stairs while others were able to leave. So wrong on so many levels, and none of them have to do with economics.

    4. Sherman says:

      I read this article four times and I still have no idea what this dude is trying to say or what his point is.

      • john says:

        Agree! His proposal might make sense, but this letter is long-winded and poorly structured!

        • Andrew C says:

          Apologies for the length! It’s admittedly not the typical list of bullets or summary points that make for easier reading. That can be found at our petition at http://www.bit.do/taleoftwoschools

          The point here is to empathize with the concerns of many parents who are understandably doing what they feel is best for their children. The question posed is, is there a broader way to define what is best for our children and what would be the impact of taking on that broader definition as our own?

          Finally, a proposal is presented as an option, not a demand or a mandate, simply an option, which I believe would not only address a lot of the pressing issues at hand but would be a way for our community to express this broader definition of what makes an “excellent” education for our children.

          That’s it in a nutshell. Hope it helps.

    5. Elena says:

      “WHAT IF there were a critical number of
      District 3 parents like you? We could
      finally have schools that are
      excellent AND integrated. Let’s start
      with P.S. 191 and P.S. 199, two schools
      that were paired in the past. Your split-school
      design makes sense to this former principal. Elena

    6. I'm in, you're not says:

      The 199 PTA are the most disgusting group of people I have ever encountered. This includes their leader, a 199 parent and the cec president. They are unrelenting in their efforts to kick their neighbors to the curb, and take an “I’m in, there’s no room for you” position even though their neighbors are zoned to 199 and have the same claim to their school.

      Cec president fought hard when his daughter was on 199 waitlist. He wanted no part of 191. He and the 199 PTA now want to reduce the k classes to five and prevent others from returning to their zoned school, while allowing grandfathering. They want to turn 199 into their own club . This will lead to overcrowding in many of the other district 3 schools such as 87, 452 and 9, etc. the cec is supposed to advocate for all district 3 schools , parents and children, not just 199.

      I beg the cec to not go along with their president, and do what is best for the district. We can’t have a cec that advocates for just one school.

    7. Ben says:

      Unfortunately, I think you lost anyone who cares at your second “What if…”

    8. But hang on. says:

      I couldn’t follow most of the points this fellow was making. Perhaps an editor would have helped?

      Upshot is he wants to send many more 4-5 year old olds to a school designated persistently violent and dangerous. That’s the main idea I think.

      “What if…..”

      ….ps191 just got its s#%* together and wasn’t almost bottom in terms of test scores, safety or respect – and provided a safe environment.

      Maybe that would be a better focus than your vague idealistic but over-written vague concept of what you think our concept of “educational excellence” should be.

      Go ahead. Choose a school for your child that’s dangerous and has low test scores. That’s your right for the rest of us. We choose a safe, respectful, proven environment for our kids.

      • dannyboy says:

        Perhaps these points will be clearer for you:

        The tragedy of the commons is a term, coined originally by William Forster Lloyd to denote a situation where individuals acting independently and rationally according to each’s self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource.

        • What finite resource?! says:

          Except safety, respect and good test scores are not a finite resource. It’s not a zero sum game where if one school excels another must deteriorate.

          Better luck next time with your overwrought quotations.

    9. Leah says:

      Let’s not forget to mention the opportunistic people involved here who manage to make anything into an opp for financial gain: our friendly neighborhood lobbyists who kind of care about education and care a lot about power and money! That adds another level of complexity to this situation.

      • dannyboy says:


        Cooincidentially, I just now Commented on an earlier Post:

        This is what things look like when money is supreme.

    10. Self Evident says:

      superzone = white flight 2.0

      • Idiocracy says:


        If the only reason you are here is because you managed to shelter your white children, I’m sure such people will be missed. There is cheap real estate and like minded people in Idaho I hear.

    11. idiocracy says:

      It seems like 199 should draft its own version of the southern manifesto (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Manifesto).

      And if Strom Thurmond were still alive today, I’m sure he would be right there with many of the current “vocal” 199 parents that have attacked others who are not “in their community”.

      • 199 PTA exposing their selfishness says:

        The Declaration of Constitutional Principles (known informally as the Southern Manifesto) was a document written in February and March 1956, in the United States Congress, in opposition to racial integration of public places.[1] The manifesto was signed by 101 politicians (99 Southern Democrats) from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.[1] The Congressmen drafted the document to counter the landmark Supreme Court 1954 ruling Brown v. Board of Education, which determined that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. School segregation laws were some of the most enduring and best-known of the Jim Crow laws that characterized the American South and several northern states at the time.

    12. Robin says:

      Andrew, this is a great idea. I fully support this change for the zone.

    13. Ken says:

      The idea has been studied. A superzone would essentially cause everyone to register for 199 and create a longer waitlist.

      Moreover, Mr. Chu’s suggestion does not take into account the reality of PS191’s persistently dangerous school rating as imposed by the NYS Education Department giving anyone assigned to that school a mandatory right to opt out of the assignment as long as the designation takes place.

      • Andrew C says:


        Thx for the comment. I think you may be confusing the superzone lottery with this proposal. In the split-sited proposal, there would be no lottery and thus no preferred school. All schools would, in fact, be a part of the same system, just separated by grades rather than geography.

        Hope this helps.

    14. concerned says:

      That’s nice, but none of this is justifies sending children to a school with violence, including sexual assault.

      I cannot “owe it to my community” to send my daughter to an elementary school that has been deemed unsafe. I do not owe it to anyone to think that is ok, and to think it is at all acceptable for an elementary school child to be in a school where sexual assault, weapons, and violence in general is reported at elevated rates.

      I am not a policy maker or a DOE worker. It is their job to fix that school and make it safe. It is my job as a parent to send my child to a safe school. Not to mention a school with a good library, art programs, and good test scores. I won’t feel guilty about that just because it’s trendy and politically correct to say I do.

      • dannyboy says:

        “I am not a policy maker or a DOE worker. It is their job to fix that school and make it safe. It is my job as a parent to send my child to a safe school. Not to mention a school with a good library, art programs, and good test scores. I won’t feel guilty about that just because it’s trendy and politically correct to say I do.”

        I guess you like to take, take, take.

        Give, cooperate, help, participate…not so much.

        • Parent says:

          Dannyboy. In these and other discussions all you do is berate people for thinking about their kids and for chastising your neighbors for being selfish. Do you have a practical plan for solving the community’s school problem? Have you contacted the DOE to express frustration over the housing situation? Please add to the discussion with some productive comments. Otherwise you are not helping a soul.

          • dannyboy says:

            I am attempting to do just what you ask: to help your soul so that you quit fighting each other in the name of your children, plainly mirroring your aggressive leaders.

            Grow up and “Parent”!

        • Concerned says:

          Actually no. I don’t just take take take. I work in healthcare and in my very busy job I provide care to underserved populations, meaning people on Medicaid or without insurance. Between my job and my kids I don’t have time to get involved in running schools. I want my kids to be safe and not attend a school which violence. I don’t feel bad about it. Again, I don’t owe it to my community to put my kids in danger just to make you feel more pilitically correct.

      • Andrew C says:


        I empathize with your view. From the designation and the rumors, it’s easy to have a perception of what PS191 is. But at the same time, many families from all over the community currently send their children there for universal pre-K with no issues.

        I guess in that regard, I would just urge you to consider whether the possibility exists that the label may not be completely representative of the whole truth or, if even representative of a piece of the truth, whether that element could be improved with broader support from the community.

        As for the DOE, I think, while they are without a doubt at fault for a lot of the existing crises, to say this responsibility falls entirely on them understates our ability to impact change as a community. If the community feels strongly about something then this has huge sway with both the DOE and CEC. After all, as public servants, they work for us.

        As for feeling guilty, no need to feel guilty. You do what you feel is best for your child. That’s really any one can ask of any parent.

        • J says:

          Andrew Chu,

          You ask us parents to “consider whether the possibility exists that the [persistently dangerous] label may not be completely representative of the whole truth.”

          We parents need more than a feeling that it’s a “possibility” that 191 is a good school. We need to feel confident that the school we send our kids to is safe and good.

          Confidence is essential to success here. Any plan that fails to gain the confidence of the community of parents at large will fail.

    15. This is where we're going says:

      CEC final plan:

      Reduce 199 zone to only include homes of CEC President and PS 199 PTA officers.

    16. Spades says:

      A few questions, comments:

      (1) Mr. Chu, what school is your child zoned for under the current boundaries? What would it have been in the redrawn (not superzone) proposal?

      (2) I appreciate your sentiment, but this is a ridiculous statement: “We have no one else to blame for the impact this decision will have on our children but ourselves.” How is the DOE not held responsible for the quality of PS 191? How is the DOE not responsible for failing to adequately build schools or exercise the option it had to purchase space to build a school in/or around the Trump buildings? How has the DOE not allocated significant and substantial financial resources to 191 above and beyond that receive by performing schools and why is NO ONE asking – no demanding – for that before suggesting a mass experiment of combining 191 and 199? I’m so tired of this debate questioning the moral compass of a 191 parent/199 waitlister v. a 199 parent. People – demand more of your DOE.

      (3) Has anyone spoken to a teacher at PS 199 about why it would be a good or bad idea to split schools by grade? I don’t have a child at 199, but I understand one of the reason literacy at PS199 is strong is because younger students are paired up with 5th graders as reading buddies. What happens to the quality of education when that type of experience is eliminated? What do the teachers think? Similarly is educational outcome and/or safety impacted by having siblings of various ages in the same physical school?

      (4) Certain 199 parents are being accused of sheltering their kids from diversity. Maybe the case, but I bet you it’s more about sheltering your kid from a crappy education. Similarly, I also question the new found championing of diversity by 191 parents. I suspect a strong portion of them don’t really care about having a black kid, next to a brown kid, next to a white kid. What they care about is getting more resources and PS 199 PTA money to their school so that their kids can go to an achieving school. So please, just call a spade a spade. Don’t assert this moral superiority. Just demand better resources for your schools and accountability of your DOE. Beg the 199, 87 and 452 PTAs to share funds. Please. Please. Please. Enough of this redrawing lines nonsense to solve a larger and more fundamental problem.

      • Andrew C says:


        Appreciate your thoughts and can understand your frustration. To answer your question my son is zoned for PS199 currently but would have been zoned to PS191 in the DOE’s original proposal.

        I think you make some good points in that the DOE is certainly at fault for a lot of what has happened. My statement with respect to blame is actually, I believe, much in line with your conclusion that people demand more of their DOE.

        The fact is, it’s a fine line between demanding more of the DOE and blaming the DOE. If we simply blame them and do nothing about it, then we, at the end of the day, are ultimately at fault for their inaction. B/c the DOE, the CEC, the SLT’s, etc. are ultimately supposed to represent the interests of the community. If the community is reticent in its wants and desires, then who are we to blame any of those groups for forming their own views and motives in its absence?

        As for resources, I actually agree on that point too. One benefit of split siting is that resources are naturally spread across facilities rather than having to “beg” other neighboring schools for support.

        On asking 199 and others, that is something that I believe the CEC will continue to investigate.

        Finally, on being zoned in or out, I think, if anything, the initial DOE proposal was symptomatic of something larger, i.e. the inability of our current school system to scale. PS199 may be a very strong school but it is also a quickly diminishing resource. If families currently zoned for PS199 face either a 50/50 chance of a waitlist or some other incremental chance of being zoned out in later years, is this at the best service of our community?

        Isn’t it worthwhile to think about this issue more broadly and try to figure out how we can take some of the progress that PS199 has made and scale that up rather than scale that back?

        • Spades says:

          You ask: “Isn’t it worthwhile to think about this issue more broadly and try to figure out how we can take some of the progress that PS199 has made and scale that up rather than scale that back?”

          Yes it is worthwhile. But your solution won’t “scale that up” rather it will “scale it back.” Do you think the magic of 199 will immediately cause the birds to chirp and that problems will be solved. No. It won’t. And my guess is collective academic quality will go down in the near to medium term.

          No more stop gap measures. Rather, 191 parents, just like 199 parents before them will have to work hard to improve a school over years and over time. It’s not reasonable that, for their hard work, the 199 community has to just do it all over again? How can the DOE ask that of them? And how can their neighbors assume there is an unlimited amount of sacrifice certain members of the community can make?

          Now that reality has come home, PS 191 parents should perhaps understand that they have to do what the 199 parents already did – build a good school from the ground up, with DOE and parent buy in. Not just by piggybacking or passing the buck onto 199.

          As for the 199 overcrowding, reduce the 199 footprint, including by zoning any new buildings in the neighborhood to 191. Those new residents can become part of the 191 community. That will help Andrew’s cause and solve the overcrowding at the same time.

          • Andrew C says:


            I guess here is where we can agree to disagree.

            In my view, scaling down or scaling back is the current trajectory PS199 is on whereby 50% of the existing zone is threatened with being zoned out and those that remain are subjected to 50/50 odds of being on a waitlist or not.

            To me, this looks a lot more like scaling down than an alternative whereby all families now have greater certainty as to where they go to school and, in addition, other families who may have otherwise been forced out of the system either by waitlists or rezoning now have a chance to participate. Who knows, one of those waitlisted or zoned out could have been a great PTA president if not for a stray flip of the coin.

            As for the hard work PS199 has put in, no arguing that. However, given the original rezoning proposal and your recommendation to “reduce the footprint”, who’s to say that any of the buildings or families left off the map haven’t put in their fair share of work to make PS199 what it is today? Where has there hard work, in some cases over multiple generations, gone to?

            Finally, I do take issue with your “shape up or ship out” mentality. While PS199 has put in hard work, they are also undoubtedly a beneficiary of how the zoning lines have been drawn to date. A “shape up or ship out” mentality does nothing to address the stark reality that, particularly with the PDS designation, one of PS191’s largest issues is one of perception. In fact, the “shape up or ship out” mentality exacerbates this issue by placing the entire blame of PS191’s current situation on them and solely them and encourages those who hold this mentality to leave them to their own devices because they somehow “deserve” it.

            Finally, no, i’m under no illusion it would take hard work and no, “birds would not be chirping” on day one.

            But given that we are all already putting excruciating work in effectively a free-for-all zero sum game to date, my personal preference is for the former rather than the latter.

    17. Eddie says:

      I appreciate the writer’s passion, but that was really long winded…

      The bottom line is, it is great to be idealistic about diverse schools and equal education for all, but once it is your own child’s education at stake, your idealism quickly fades away. I do not want my child to be a guinea pig.

      When we moved on the UWS a few years ago while our child was in nursery school, we evaluated countless factors. We were planning to send her to public school and read about the long waitlists at PS 199 and decided that, all things being equal, we wanted no part of that. The situation has only gotten worse. I’m not sure if any of the proposed solutions are going to change this situation.

      • Andrew C says:


        Thx for the comment, I don’t view it as idealistic so much as rational. We have a series of conflicting constraints, incentives, issues at play. Splitting by grade is one possible option to align several of those incentives.

        With respect to the waitlist getting worse since you looked at it, I think one of the benefits of splitting by grade is the greater capacity it frees up to directly address the existing waitlist issue. If this was no longer an issue then maybe future parents in our position may actually give the public school system a chance.

    18. idiocracy says:

      199 Parents and the community have long shunned 191 before it was deemed persistently dangerous.

      Two ways of looking at it:

      1. This only validates what you already knew about the school. Assuming you personally did not research and investigate the school, I can only guess that you knew it was persistently dangerous (prior to designation) because of what the students look like.


      2. You are using this label to justify the status quo. or justify not having to send your kid there. If the label is removed in August, would your argument fall apart? no. most likely you will try to find more creative ways of justifying a separation between the schools.

    19. Problem won't go away without action says:

      Only 43% of children, without a sibling at PS 199, zoned to PS 199 received placement at the school this past year. 57% of these zoned children and their families had a torturous summer on the PS 199 wait list, with almost 30 eventually locked out of their zoned school, violating the Chancellor’s regulations.

      Now the PS 199 PTA and the CEC president either want to reduce the number of kindergarten classes at PS 199 to five for the 2016-2017 school year, or rezone almost half the 199 zone to PS 191, a school on the NYS persistently dangerous list. A plan will be voted on in three weeks.

      If the number of kindergarten classes at PS 199 is reduced to 5, only 25% of zoned children, without a sibling at the school, will receive placement at the school next year. Due to the efforts of the CEC president and the 199 PTA, 75% of the zoned children will be denied access to the quality education at their zoned school.

      If the CEC rezones almost half the area out of the 199 zone, hundreds of families will be disenfranchised from the quality education their current zoned school offers, and will be rezoned to a school on the NYS persistently dangerous list.

      The plan in the above linked article offers not only the best, but the only reasonable option, to alleviate the overcrowding at PS 199 while at the same time provide quality education to all children in the PS 199 zone, not just the ones lucky enough to win an increasingly unattainable lottery. This also greatly benefits the children in the 191 zone.

      Here is the link again to the most recent rezoning article.


      If you are or will be affected by the CEC president’s and the 199 PTA’s plan to deny hundreds of families the opportunity to attend their currently zoned school, please go to the CEC’s website and let them know how you feel, or if possible attend one of their meetings in the next couple of weeks and speak out. The CEC3 is supposed to advocate for the entire district, not just for the PS 199 PTA. Their website is:


    20. J says:

      You say “199 Parents and the community have long shunned 191 before it was deemed persistently dangerous.” This is very true. So what makes you think the community will be willing to send their kids to 191 under this proposal? Only if parents are convinced that 191 is a very different school than it has been for many years… with a very different student population and very different resources… only then will the broader community be willing to send their kids there.

      Dannyboy speaks for the community at large when he says “It is [the job of DOE and policy makers] to fix [PS 191] and make it safe. It is my job as a parent to send my child to a safe school.”

      Concerned is right when he says “I cannot “owe it to my community” to send my daughter to an elementary school that has been deemed unsafe.”

      You cannot expect people to welcome risking their children for a social experiment, especially when the experiment involves a DOE and school that clearly don’t have their acts together.

      • IDIOCRACY says:

        THE SOCIAL EXPERIMENT is already taking place. Pre-k at 191 is effectively a pairing of 199 & 191. I challenge you to seek out current 199 parents who have used 191 for pre-k and get their thoughts on the experience. Why can’t an equal experience be created at k? first grade? etc.

        One could argue that social experiment is being done at 199. Raising your child in a bubble in an ever increasing diverse society. Teaching them exclusion is better than inclusion. Perhaps that is the more risky experiment ?

        • J says:


          You might think 199 is a risky experiment, but parents in the neighborhood feel differently… parents are clamoring to keep their kids in 199, and other parents are clamoring to get their kids into 199.

          Who are we to trust if not parents?
          In DOE we trust?

          Duplicating the success of 199 would take foresight, something the city apparently lacks. (Why did the city approve Trump’s creation of a new neighborhood but they didn’t require him to build a school?) So the city is seeking a quick fix.

          Clearly the racial makeup of 199 is bad. (Only 2% black.) But that does not warrant destroying the school.

          DOE should be trying to duplicate the success of 199, while tweaking it, but without destroying 199.

      • dannyboy says:


        The quote that you attributed to me was posted by concerned, not me.

      • Idiocracy says:

        in Mississippi in the early part of the 1960s parents had very much the same concern. They didn’t want their children being part of a social experiment. They viewed the incoming children as persistently dangerous.sell dozens of private schools inexpensive were established throughout the state. so that they too could be safe from poor performing disadvantaged students. Certainly this is an option for many 199 families (finding private schools that shelter – inexpensive perhaps not). I have to imagine that the products of such schooling are not who you want your children to be.

        • J says:


          Parents who don’t feel confident in their zoned school have choices other than private school; they can move into new zones so they can send their kids to public schools they feel good about. This exodus will happen en masse if the DOE creates a new 191/199 zone that people don’t feel good about.

          And most of us here in NYC who send our kids to public school value diversity (and not just racial diversity, either). But there’s a limit to how many “poor performing disadvantaged students” (as you put it) that we want our kids to have in their classrooms. Children learn from their peers. Low performance tends to breed low performance, not to mention the dysfunction that often accompanies “poor performing disadvantaged students.” And “poor performing disadvantaged students” tax a school, which is why if there’s too many of them, the school tanks.

          Lastly, your analogy to the failures of forced busing in the 1960’s is spot on target. Zoning won’t work unless people feel good about it.

          • Future wait lister says:

            Back of the envelope… There are roughly twice as many kids at 199 as at 191 right now. A new school with both populations would be 2/3 199 kids.

            Would that kind of ratio be enough to ward off the flight you’re describing and help people “feel good”?

            Also, I’m no expert but my understanding is that during the so called “failure” of integration in the 60s and 70s, the achievement gap narrowed substantially without hurting top performers. The assumption that it wasn’t working did drive away many parents, leading to resegregation, but integration actually worked to help academics (and create more worldly students all around) if you look at the numbers…

            • J says:

              Future Waitlister,

              That’s a good question. Would a school with two-thirds 199 student population and one-third 191 student population be enough for people to feel good about? I would suppose it would depend on what 191 would have to offer in terms of programs, staff, classroom size, etc.
              I don’t know. With all the bad news we hear about 191, it doesn’t seem promising unless major improvements were made to 191.
              What do you think?

              As to forced integration in the 1960’s and 70’s, I’m sure there are success stories and failure stories. It’s probably impossible to accurately generalize, especially as to the short term. And it’s that kind of risk that parents don’t want to subject their kids to.

            • Future wait lister says:

              I think if the schools were merged, with those ratios, there’d be a lot for people to feel good about. With pairing you wouldn’t just get the 199 kids, but also the 199 reputation and parents (and resources). And 2/3 of 199’s teachers in each grade.

              As for the stats – I don’t think it’s anecdotal the way you’re describing, but can’t say for sure. It’s definitely been studied generally. I’m getting my impression from a great couple This American Life stories called “the Problem We All Live With, ” so not independently verified. Take them with as much salt as you’re inclined to, but worth a listen either way.

            • Deeper back of the envelope says:

              It would be about 175 kids from 199 zone vs 50 children from 191 zone, approximately 75% or 3 to 1 ratio. Also that doesn’t include others from the 191 zone who now might consider sending their children to the school under the shared site plan. To further help ease concerns, 199 can run both places since they have the better track record.

            • Future wait lister says:

              Does that include people on the 199 wait list who would now have seats to attend?

            • Idiocracy says:

              It is my understanding that a certain (significant) percentage of current 191 students are not zoned for 191. They are there because of seat openings. So imagine the ratio you are talking about for future classes would be potentially more favored towards 199.

          • Idiocracy says:

            I hope they do. Public school education in NYC is not for them. They can go ahead and flood another school (which they subsequently will complain is overcrowded).

            First, in public school there is a chance that in any given year there may be an influx of low performing, special need, or learning disabled children (by pure chance). You would just have to live with it or move. Now, you might say, the DOE has drawn the lines so that won’t happen at my school. Therein lies the problem. But, I digress.

            Also, what you are talking about (learning from others) is called scaffolding. All the scientific evidence suggests that placing more able students with less abled does not put them at a disadvantage. In fact, the process of teaching the less abled students is as valuable to the high achieving student as the material is to the low achieving student. Under your logic, being the top 10% of the class is a huge disadvantage because majority of class brings you down. The educational literature just does not support this. It may make logical sense to you (having x% low achieving students brings high achieving students down), but is just not supported.

            You are also way overestimating the ratios here (as highlighted in other posts).

            You may be right in that having poorer students (as opposed to wealthy students) leads to less PTA funding. But, you may as well try to purge all of 199 save for the wealthy under that logic. If we could just replace poor students in 199 with wealthy alternatives, wouldn’t 199 be even better? Again, sounds like posh private school is your answer.

            Your argument seems to be 199 is predominately wealthy, allowing any influx (not even of majority by any stretch) of low SES students is inherently damaging. One school for the wealthy another for the poor. It is how it is and how it shall always be.

            Even if the overall numbers go down, it is not a zero sum game. If my kid is a 4.0 students, but he is in class with a 2.0 GPA student; true, collectively their GPA is 3.0. BUT THERE IS ZERO evidence that you child will not still be a 4.0 student.

            • Citizen says:

              Spot on! So few people are talking about the research. And the math of averages seems to be lost on people. Thank you for putting it so eloquently. I hope people read your post (otherwise I suggest re-posting it the next time a similar thread pops up).

    21. Upper westside public school parent says:

      Bravo! That was the most objective, introspective and insightful argument that I have read to date as to why we, as a community, have to consider the needs of all children in considering the needs of our own. No person is an island unto himself. Thank you for your thoughtful piece, Mr. Chu

    22. J says:


      You are wrong when you say:

      “Your argument seems to be 199 is predominately wealthy, allowing any influx (not even of majority by any stretch) of low SES students is inherently damaging.”

      We don’t want a wealthy, privileged, elite school for our kids. We want a well-balanced, high-performing, safe, friendly school. And by well-balanced I mean all kinds of kids, but not too many kids with problems as to distract from good things, such a leaning, or as to present safety concerns.

      There is a tipping point where a school can’t function well. We want to stay far away from that tipping point.

      You do your point-of-view a disservice when you mischaracterize what most of us want. We are not elitists, we just want our kids to go to good schools.

      So please stop having such a low opinion of NYC parents. Most of us are good, open-minded, accepting people. Your rhetoric, however, expresses the opposite. (Even your screen name, “Idiocracy” expressed a close-minded, adversarial temperament.)

      As for your supposed statistics, we don’t need statistics to tell us that there are good, healthy learning environments and there are bad, unhealthy learning environments. Good environments promote learning and healthy mind-frames. Bad environments do the opposite.

      Lastly, I went to public schools (in another city) in the 70’s and early ’80’s. They were all mixed. Some of the black kids were bused from PJ’s. Other black kids were middle class. I had all kinds of friends and it was mostly wonderful. But many of the kids from the PJs presented more problems to the schools.

      We all know that kids from PJs tend to have higher dysfunction and that kids from PJs sometimes have special problems that can tax the classroom. I welcome kids from the PJ’s, but I would not want my kid to go to a school that has too many kids from the PJs.

      And yes, kids are influenced by their peers, despite what your supposed statistics say.

      • Idiocracy says:

        I think your comments said it all. wow.

        • Idiocracy says:

          currently constituted ps 199 is the least “well balanced” school in the district.

          It is #1 in:

          lowest % minority population &
          lowest % getting free lunch&
          lowest % English language learners

          The pairing will probably make ps 199 closer to ps 9 than to this “uncivilized” image that Sally (below) is suggesting.

          • J says:

            Sally didn’t say that.
            Again, your misquotes do your argument a disservice.

            • Idiocracy says:

              My bad. Saying they don’t have the same ideas in regard to civility, I’m sure I misinterpreted. They have different but equally valid sense of civility was clearly the implication.

          • sally says:

            Idiocracy, make fun of civility all you want. Lots of us think its a very important issue. And, like I said, ITS NOT ABOUT COLOR OR MINORITIES. But you would love to pitch it like that because that serves the narrative. Its about civility, really, and civility knows nothing about color or race. 161 has been designated a dangerous school, right? Are you suggesting that the reason it is dangerous is because of the color of the children there or the lack of shared ideas on civility? I don’t think it has anything to do with color.

            • Idiocracy says:

              I’m actually going to apologize. I believe that you did not mean “uncivilized” and I misinterpreted (although I would be careful using civil given the historical usage of that term). And that you really are not basing on race. But, I believe many are. It is not my narrative. People have been shunning 191 long before label of persistently dangerous.

              If once the label is removed. and incidents data show a safe school, if people still do not want to co-mingle, I think that may be evidence of racial undertones.

              My gut tells me that even when school civility has been corrected, attitudes towards the population won’t change. I hope I am wrong.

            • sally says:

              Idiocracy, if you are right, and you might be, that people would shun the school simply because of the color of the majority of the students, that would truly be a sad thing indeed. But in my experience, I don’t see much of that. I see most people wanting to embrace people of different colors. Sometimes it APPEARS that people are shunning others for their color when really they are just afraid of behavior.

              Fwiw, everyday on the UWS after school gets out from 65th to 72nd, there are tons of police. This just started about a year or two ago and it was done because of constant problems and fights that were occuring when school got out. I’ve encountered many comments from these kids while simply walking past them. These are REAL behavior issues and they are worrisome.

              I agree with someone who posted above that the majority of NY parents are truly good people. But that doesn’t mean they cannot be realistic and honest about what could be a bad environment for their children (i.e., dangerous school) where a single bully can ruin a child’s entire experience and even life. We, as parents are not going to put our children in situations where it is more likely to encounter situations like that. We are going to NOT want to be in them as much as is possible and choose as much as possible decisions which lessen that likelihood. It doesn’t make us bad people.

              What I’d like to see is attention being paid to why 191 IS a dangerous school and just what is being done about it. A zero tolerance policy would go a long way to righting the ship and possibly when parents of all stripes and colors see that, then just maybe that would not mind seeing their child attend the school.

            • 191 preK mom says:

              Serious question here, Sally. I know you mention police from 65th to 72nd Street everyday and the comments you’ve encountered from children in this area.

              Isn’t there a high school as well as several other schools in this same vicinity? How do you know the students are from 191? I’m not discounting your experience at all, just curious.

              (For what it’s worth, I’m inside 191 every single morning to drop off my child for pre-K, and I’ve never encountered anything that would make me question the safety of my child. Hopefully as other parents tour the school in advance of next fall, they will see the same thing.)

      • sally says:

        Very well said. So many people here want to make this a political football and feel good about themselves by pointing fingers at everyone. But its really just as you said: we want good things for our children and don’t want too much trouble and distractions from other children. That’s all its about.

        • J says:

          Thank you, Sally.

          As you probably know, Idiocracy is correct when he says people sunned 191 long before the “persistently dangerous” designation. But he’s not correct when he says it’s because of racism.

          Let me ask you a question, Idiocracy.
          If 191 were a high-performing school (like 199), but with the same high-minority racial makeup that it currently has, do you think people would shun it?

          I believe that, to most of us, the answer is a resounding no, we would not shun a high-performing high-minority school. Many of us would flock to it. My point is, we are not racists. In fact, we welcome diversity. But our main concern is good schools for our children.

    23. sally says:

      How did this issue become so complicated? It isn’t necessary to wax on about this and that. This issue isn’t about color. This issue is about one thing: safety and more specifically having our children around other children who share the same IDEAS (not color) with regard to CIVILITY. You all can go on all you like about this and that, but nobody is talking about the real issue because its not politically correct to do so. The school has a dangerous designation according to the state. Nobody wants their children to be a part of that. Life is tough enough. Deal with it. Isn’t about color, its about shared civility. Let’s keep it on point, shall we?

    24. J says:

      Yes, it’s not mainly about color. (Perhaps I didn’t make that clear in my prior comment?) But when the high-performing school is only 2% black, and it’s just up the street from PJs that are mostly black then color becomes an issue.

      But the main issues are school performance, over-crowding, safety, and student population.

      • sally says:

        There are so many things that are wrong with NYC schools. For starters, how is it “ok” for parents to contribute money to the school? That right there is a big injustice, but I understand it. Also, wealthy can afford tutors (and believe me, tutors are needed these days). Lastly, G&T?? WTF is that about? Know how much it costs to prep your child for the G&T test? Oh, that’s right, the DOE tells you not to prep your child… lol… The whole thing is corrupt AFAIK. But that being said, let’s not all pretend we don’t understand what this is about. I don’t want my child together with other children who don’t share the same idea of civility and I bet that a lot of children at 161 don’t and the dangerous designation supports that. And as far as color goes, I couldn’t care less. I’d love for my child to be with 95% black children who share my idea of civility, or latino for that matter. I couldn’t care less. And I bet that most people in this country feel the same exact way. But lets not pretend here. I have no patience for this. Schools should have a ZERO toleration of nonsense in the first place. Do you really think this stuff goes on in other countries?

        • Angeline says:

          Sally – I pointed out below that 191 (deservedly) gets funding that 199 does not. This gap is somewhat closed by our bigger classes, but the fundraising does not raise anywhere near the gap in funding.

          I hate to tell taxpayers that not only do they have to accept differential funding for societal good, but they cannot individually contribute some small amount to the school.

          If you have participated in fundraising locally for public schools, the seemingly large amount we raise is not from people writing huge checks but rather one dollar at a time.

    25. Like says:

      Thank you Andrew for taking the time to write this. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have the privilege of spending time with residents of Amsterdam House on a regular basis. They are kind, concerned about their neighbors and like a good laugh. They care about their children and grandchildren and want the best for them. Let’s start improving our community by integrating the Haves and Have Nots. I know that all will benefit.

      • J says:

        Yes, thank you Andrew Chu for your work and ideas.

        Yes, more integration between the “haves” and the “have-nots” would be wonderful.

        Can we do it in a way that will be acceptable to the “haves”? If not, they will flee.

        Can we do it without destroying all the good that is 199?

        • Future wait lister says:

          I truly do think this could happen without alienating the “haves,” J.

          People already in 199 clearly have a lot of reservations. But Andrew’s plan wouldn’t touch their kids, or their kids’ younger siblings. I’m sure they have strong opinions about what happens to the school (see my conversation with Angeline, above), but I think we should probably take at least as seriously the opinions of those whose kids would actually be impacted.

          The impacted kids in the 199 zone are the ones who are looking down the barrel of a 125 person waitlist for the foreseeable future. These people (like me!) may have an incentive to change the system to create two great schools through a merged district, with enough seats for everyone, rather than rolling the dice on a 30% chance of getting into 199. These are the “haves” Andrew has to sell, and there’s an incentive for them to buy in.

          And as we discussed earlier, with these ratios, and buy-in, I really don’t think we’re destroying 199 so much as building on its successes.

          What do you think? If your kid was in the bingo game next year, which option would you prefer?

          • Angeline says:

            It is no coincidence that the main proponents of the pairing solution live in a co-op.

            The families who send their kids to PS199 are rooted – usually not switching schools or homes lightly.

            Yes, it does seem to be an unfair lottery game to prospective families but remember, that much of our housing stock are rentals. If families do not get the school placement desired, it is not difficult to rent somewhere else with better placement prospects. Future prospective families may not even consider moving to the area – I can see a K-2/3-5 not being as attractive compared to the other k-5 schools in the city.

            Thr families who have bought in a co-op (not easily sublet/transaction fees on selling) – the pairing solution is driven by their fear. Fear of getting zoned out, fear of being sent to PS191 as is.

            I don’t have a ready solution but we should recognize the stakeholder interests for what they are.

            • dannyboy says:

              I enjoy reading the West Side Rag and Comments because I have a commitment to our neighborhood. That said, I find these PS 199 Comments really surprising, and have been getting a real education on what many of my neighbors are thinking.

              Angeline, you point out Real Estate as a real driver for parents. Others have pointed to race. And on it goes.

              What I find surprising is that there seems to be more divisions separating parents from building up schools for their children, than cooperation.

              That leaves me supporting the Split-Siting proposal. That would encourage the neighborhood to cooperate for all the children.

            • Angeline says:

              It would be accurate to say that this is a Princeton plan/paired solution rather than split-siting which is 1 school, 2 campuses (1 PTA, 1 principal, etc).

              The Princeton plan was in effect for almost 20 years, and it did not work for PS191/199 in the past. The 199 principal, Gary Goldstein, who presided over the near-closure and rebirth of 199 has said that there was no time in the day for teachers and administrators to cooperate or communicate. In this period, PS87 which was a K-5 school thrived and PS199 did not. You can say that the community is selfish for not putting aside the past. Is every family considering a move into the area selfish for looking for a good K-5 school, and not doing its part in making an educational experiment work?

              There will also be the challenge of figuring out funding. Title 1 funding for PS191 means that 191 is funded at about 40% more per student than 199. For all of our vaunted fundraising, that gap is not even close to being closed so luckily, PS199 has many more students per class.
              It is unclear how the math will work for a new K-2 a

            • dannyboy says:

              The answere to both of your questions (“You can say that the community is selfish for not putting aside the past. Is every family considering a move into the area selfish for looking for a good K-5 school, and not doing its part in making an educational experiment work?”) is

              Selfish, yes.
              Selfish, yes.

              I have never heard so many people come up with excuses for not doing anything that would, in any way, reduce their current entitlement.

              In a word…selfish.

            • J says:

              Once again, Angelina is right again.

              Dannyboy, generally, parents put the interests of their own kids over the interests of the community at large; our kids are precious to us and we are not willing to risk them for the community. This is how many (most?) of us parents feel. If you think that that is selfish, well, that is your prerogative.

              I’m glad you’re learning something about how your neighbors feel about their kids!

            • dannyboy says:

              Yes J,
              I have learned that many parents will rationalize ther self-serving privilege, because it is all done in the name of their precious child.

              And the hell with anyone else’s child.

    26. I respect Mr. Chu’s thoughts and views. Whether or not I agree with his specific proposals, I applaud his energy and hard work and desire for a long-term solution to a complicated and vexing issue.

      I respect anyone who comes to the table with thoughtful proposals and ideas. However District 3 is not interested in baseless personal attacks. Our community firmly rejected that toxic dynamic several years and hasn’t looked back since.

      I’ve been fighting for ALL public school families in District 3 since I joined CEC3 in 2011. In recognition of that fact, parents from across District 3 elected and re-elected me. I’d like to think that’s also why my CEC3 peers elected and re-elected me President.

      Anyone who’d like to speak further about my commitment to every kid in District 3 should feel free to call (212/678-2782), email (jfiordaliso@cec3.org), or find me at a CEC3 meeting.

      • dannyboy says:

        Hey Joe, where have you been for the last month? There have been 10 articles in the West Side Rag discussing this.

        Are you genuine in saying: “I respect anyone who comes to the table with thoughtful proposals and ideas.”?

        Or kinda self-promoting.

    27. Mitch says:

      Thanks for the interesting reading. We raised our 3 kids in the ‘burbs of north Jersey and moved to the UWS 22 years ago when they left the coop. Until 2 years ago two grandchildren attended a school in a poor neighborhood of Philly. They had to share their books with other kids. Now they are in Westchester and they have 2 books for most subjects. One for school and one to keep at home.

      Anyway, back to the subject at hand. My little story does nothing towards helping solve your school problem. The way I see it, move to the ‘burbs and come back to the UWS when your kids are gone.

      Good luck

      • dannyboy says:


        Thanks for providing a new perspective (“The way I see it, move to the ‘burbs and come back to the UWS when your kids are gone.”). Glad that things worked well for your family and it is generous of you to want others to benefit from your experience.

    28. Eleni says:

      Here’s an idea for overcrowding: invest more in the district’s northern schools like PS 84 & PS 163 which don’t have a high-income population NOR do they qualify for Title 1 funding.

    29. AGA.T says:

      wow! A group of us parents proposed this very thing to the PTA and Katie (then principal) during the time when PS 199 was pushing out The Center School to make way for 200 more children from the Trump Buildings. The idea was in no way considered, when it seemed obvious that a solution would be to combine the two sister schools to accommodate the lower grades and upper grades separately. At the time, the parent body could not conceive mixing the two communities, much to the dismay of the more seasoned parents who had older children who were part of making PS 199 the “gem” it became. I do hope this solution is pursued – it would seem to benefit both schools – elevate 191 which needs the parental support and funding, and 199 which needs to become a diverse body again.

      • dannyboy says:

        The only thing that I see of less interest to PS 199 Commentors than elevating PS 191 is diversifying PS 199.

        I continue to be astounded by the tranparent arguement put forward to reduce even an ounce of coveted entitlement.

        • J says:


          Do you think parents have faith that the DOE will create good schools? Well, we don’t. DOE has a bad track record. Maybe they’d create something good, maybe they wouldn’t, but we don’t want to bet our kids on them!

          PS199 is made great by the involvement of parents. Parents need to monitor the DOE’s every step. What you call “elitist” is actually parental involvement.

          • Isolationist 199 says:

            J, You make an important point about parental involvement, and the hard work of parents at 199 being responsible for the school’s success.

            However, the issue is how 199 is fighting hard to exclude others zoned for 199. The children zoned for 199 have as much as a right to attend 199 as the children currently at the school. “Sacrifices” like giving up a cluster room are being made in good schools all over the city. The hard stance the 199 PTA takes is wrong. Limiting people in the zone to a 25% chance that they get in their zoned school is wrong. The solution to isolate yourselves and make your area as small as possible is wrong. That’s why there is so much passion and drive to find a solution.

            • J says:

              Isolationist 199,

              You say “the issue is how 199 is fighting hard to exclude others zoned for 199.”

              Yes, I agree that that’s one of the big issues. And the lines that were proposed by the DOE are an affront. Trump Place seems to have taken control of the DOE in an attempt to muscle the older buildings out of the 199 zone.

            • J says:

              Isolationist 199,

              You say “[199’s] solution to isolate [them]selves and make [its] area as small as possible is wrong.”

              I don’t think 199 is to blame, but their attempt to remain intact won’t work because 199 is the only good public school in the neighborhood and 199 can’t house more students. People want to get in on the good thing that is 199. (And you can’t blame these people either.)

              Can you blame 199 parents for wanting to keep a good thing going rather than to have the community destroy it? What alternatives do 199 parents have? Should 199 parents put their kids at the mercy of the DOE? (The DOE has a terrible track record.) Sadly, 199 parents might have no choice.

              Ideally, the city would provide two more good schools in the neighborhood and keep 199 intact. But, oddly, the city doesn’t seem capable of this.

              So, yes, it’s wrong for 199 to isolate itself, but only because of the city’s failure to create additional good schools. 199 parents managed to create a great school, and the city’s failure to even build schools (yet alone staff them) will be 199’s demise.

              The city let Donald Trump and others build an entire new neighborhood, but the city did not build a school for this new neighborhood.

              So who is wrong?
              199 or the city?

          • dannyboy says:


            Nice attempt to revise my Comment, kinda’ Orwellian.

            I made no Comments about the Department of Education, that is your propogandist rationale for bad behavior.

            What I do find surprising is that the PS 199 “Community” Education Councis Parents want EVERYTHING to be GIVEN to their children, and NOTHING for the PS 191 children.

            These are PUBLIC SCHOOLS!

            • J says:


              If you really think the “PS 199 Community Education Council Parents want EVERYTHING to be GIVEN to their children, and NOTHING for the PS 191 children,” then you really think the worst of your neighbors.
              And it’s not true.

            • dannyboy says:


              You finally got me frustrated enough to exaggerate in my Comment. Now you are hanging on that as your Moment of Truth.

              Truth be told, you and your ilk are making a SPECTACLE of this decision.

              Your inflexibility looks disgraceful. It’s your ilk that are detestable, I’ve lived hear for more decades than you have been alive. You and your ilk are making the UWS look elitist and entitled.

    30. DOE should not run our school system says:

      Article about haves and have nots. Specifically mentions 199 and 191. Doe causes and encourages this. Read thus article.