Two groups of parents and educators that have been pushing for a broader plan to desegregate Upper West Side schools registered disappointment in a rezoning plan from the local school board. We’ve posted their full letter below.
The District 3 Equity in Education Task Force and the NYC Public School Parents for Equity and Desegregation want and the city to consider a school admission process on the Upper West Side called “controlled choice” that takes into account things like race, language and socioeconomic status in determining school placement. While a person’s address would matter, it would not be the only thing that matters, as it is now. All public schools in the district would be open to all families. The Equity group explains controlled choice in more detail here.
The plan from Community Education Council 3, the UWS version of a school board, was outlined in a letter to the city on Oct. 18. That plan is not final — only the city can propose zoning lines — but it holds substantial weight because the CEC3 can reject city plans if it doesn’t agree with them.
That letter outlined a plan that explicitly attempts to desegregate the southern end of the district by shifting zoning lines, but it rejected controlled choice, at least for the time being. To the Equity groups, that was a mistake: “we disagree with the CEC that its rezoning plan is a ‘desegregation’ plan; it does not represent the interests of low-income families of color throughout the district.”
CEC3 President Joe Fiordaliso responded to the groups’ letter in an email to us excerpted below:
Let me start by saying that the Council shared its thoughts with Chancellor Farina in our letter of October 18 but the letter is just that. As much as I would like to present or posture otherwise, CEC3 doesn’t have the authority to introduce or pass its own zoning plan. We need to sit here like everyone else and wait for DOE to do its job and formally propose something. I’m as frustrated as anyone by DOE’s inaction and continue to prod DOE every day to act on behalf of our district.
With regard to the specifics in this letter, let me start by saying I respect the advocacy efforts of this group and the passion of many of the individuals involved. That said, we have reviewed “controlled choice” multiple times and found more questions than answers. Their claim that CEC3 has “never pursued answers” is patently false and frankly disingenuous. In fact, I submitted a lengthy note to this group last May with specific questions about operational and logistical aspects of how this diversity model would work in District 3 – I have never seen answers. Moreover, in my capacity as President, I established a Diversity Committee last July to more fully examine many of the issues this group is discussing and establish a forum to work on them collaboratively. Unfortunately, this task force has repeatedly declined CEC3’s invitation to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to them. Going back even further, to the 2013-2015 Council, which I also presided over as President, we invited this task force to present on “controlled choice” which they did. Following that presentation there was no groundswell of support from the Council to pursue “controlled choice” further. Despite the task force’s thinly veiled references to “leadership of the CEC” and “undemocratic” processes, the FACT is that if a majority of the Council ever wanted to pursue “controlled choice”, I – as President – would be obliged to support and facilitate it. The fact that no majority on the Council has ever emerged, and that no groundwell of support has ever emerged from PTA’s SLT’s, principals, and parents generally, is NOT a referendum on democracy or my leadership. Instead, it would seem to speak to the merits – or lack thereof – of “controlled choice”. The fact is that I’m extremely proud of my record of achievement as President of CEC3 over the past six years. I’ll stack my record up against anyone’s.
With regard to PS241, CEC3 is working to respond to DOE’s plan to close the school and merge it with PS/IS76. We have been overly critical of DOE on this issue and are committed to making the schools in the northern portion of District 3 successful. Based on their letter, the group seems misinformed on this issue. CEC3 doesn’t have power to prevent DOE from merging 241 with 76. To my dismay, DOE is proceeding with this move. CEC3 DOES have power over zoning and we intend to use it to make sure that if the merger does proceed, all of the schools wind up stronger and that 241’s STEM program is preserved.I’m not going to respond in detail to baseless accusations about violations of the Open Meetings Law – these have been debunked and no violations occurred.
The next meeting on the school rezoning plan is set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Joan of Arc complex, 154 West 93rd Street.
See the full letter below.