location location

City trades one plan to re-locate disabled students for another

The city is swapping a plan that would have relocated nearly 100 disabled students to a new building for a plan to disperse the students into special education programs throughout the city.

Under the Department of Education’s original proposal, roughly two-thirds of the students at P.S. 138, a school for severely disabled students, would have moved to share space with the American Sign Language and English Secondary School, a middle and high school that gives admissions preference to deaf students.

That plan was scrapped after P.S. 138 parents and elected officials protested that the new site posed safety risks and that students would not be able to get around the school easily.

Some parents are saying that the department’s new plan is not much better.

In an email sent to principals this afternoon, less than two hours before a scheduled public hearing on the previous relocation plan, the DOE announced that rather than move P.S. 138 students to a new location as a group, the students would distribute them among open seats throughout the city.

Mirandy Rodriguez-Brown, the mother of a 7-year-old student with autism who attends P.S. 138, said that the city has yet to give a good reason to justify re-locating P.S. 138 students at all.

“These children don’t handle change well,” she said. “They need consistency, they need familiarity. Some children will take a year to handle these changes; some children will regress.”

DOE spokesman Danny Kanner said that the new plan will allow P.S. 138’s students to attend school either closer to their homes or in programs that are more well-suited to the students’ instructional needs.

The plan was originally developed as a way to ease overcrowding in the Chelsea school building that currently houses P.S. 11 and the Clinton School for Artists and Writers, a middle school. P.S. 138 students would have moved out of their shared space in P.S. 33 to make room for the Clinton School, which would then move into that building. The second arm of the plan, moving the Clinton School to P.S. 33, remains intact.

Susan Kramer, a Clinton School parent who heads its relocation committee, said that the DOE is moving too hastily to alleviate crowding in P.S. 11 without thoughtfully addressing the needs of other students in the building.

“DOE is just really scrambling to placate one school and they’re kind of hurting two other schools,” Kramer said.

Kramer and other representatives from the Clinton School met last week with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott to present an alternate proposal that would allow P.S. 138 students to stay where they are, and allow the Clinton School to remain at P.S. 11 until the city finalizes a plan to give that school a new building. Under the parents’ plan, incoming kindergartners who would have been assigned to the overcrowded P.S. 11 would instead attend nearby P.S. 33.

Tonight’s public hearing was scheduled for public comment on the city’s original plan, in advance of a citywide school board vote scheduled for Wednesday. Because the plan was altered so soon before the hearing, Kanner said, the city decided to hold a question-and-answer session on the new proposal rather than cancel the hearing altogether.

A hearing on the issue has been scheduled for March 11, Kanner said, and a vote on the proposals has been postponed until the March Panel for Educational Policy meeting.

Here is the revised impact statement detailing the new plan for P.S. 138 students:

From: Panel for Educational Policy
Sent: Monday, February 22, 2010 5:11 PM
Subject: AMENDED PUBLIC NOTICE: PROPOSALS FOR SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN SCHOOL UTILIZATION

Amended Notice

February 22, 2010

Joel I. Klein

Chancellor

Re-siting of P.S. 138 (75M138) from School Building M033

I.       Description of the subject, purpose and substance of the proposed item under consideration and identification of all substantial revisions to the item.

This is a revision to a proposal to relocate the majority of the P.S. 138 @ M033 (75M138, hereinafter referred to as “P.S. 138”) program from school building M033 to school building M047.  P.S. 138 is an existing District 75 school that is sited in multiple locations.  M033 is located at 281 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan in District 2.  M047 is located at 223 West 25th Street, Manhattan, also in District 2. Since the proposal was initially posted on January 8, 2010, the Department of Education (“DOE”) has received several comments from P.S. 138 parents and local elected officials raising concerns about the limited number of wheelchair students that could be accommodated at M047.  As a result of these concerns, the DOE has revised its proposal.

In the 2010-2011 school year, rather than move P.S. 138 to M047, P.S. 138 will relocate most of the students currently located in school building M033 to other existing P.S. 138 sites, new sites, or other existing District 75 sites.  These moves will locate students closer to their homes, in buildings with age-appropriate general education populations, and provide greater focus on these students’ Individualized Education Programs (“IEPs”) and instructional needs.[1]

Of the 100 students currently served at M033:

·         Twenty-seven students would remain at M033.  Twenty of these students have IEPs that call for integration in a hearing environment that does not use sign language.  Seven of these students are already enrolled in inclusion classes at P.S. 33.  This site will now serve only students with cochlear implants and students in full inclusion classes.

·         Thirty-nine students would move to the main site of P.S. 138, located at M030 at 144-176 East 138th Street in District 5.  Twenty-eight of these students reside in Districts 4, 5 or 6; the M030 location is significantly closer to their homes than M033.  This site serves multiply handicapped and students with autism.

·         Thirteen students would move to the new site for P.S. 276, the Battery Park City School, located at 55 Battery Place in District 2.  This is a newly constructed facility opening in September 2010.  P.S. 276 is a zoned school that will serve PK-2 and 6th grade in 2010, expanding grades each year until reaching full scale of PK- 8th grade.  The P.S. 138 students moving to this location live in Districts 1, 2, and 3, and are age appropriate for the grades served at PS 276 in 2010. The program to which these students will transfer will be a new site for P.S. 94, an existing District 75 school with multiple sites.  All students moving to this site will be in 6:1:1 classes and are typically students with autism.

·         Eleven students would move to the new East Side Middle school building located at 331 East 91st Street in District 2.   This is a newly constructed facility opening in September 2010 that will house East Side Middle School, a District 2 middle school choice school.  The P.S. 138 students proposed for this location are age appropriate for middle school.  All students moved to this site will be in 12:1:4 classes and are multiply handicapped.

·         Ten students who do not live in Manhattan would be provided seats at schools in their home boroughs.

The DOE has proposed that the space vacated by the P.S. 138 sections that would leave M033 be used to house M.S. 260 Clinton School for Writers and Artists (“Clinton”), a District 2 middle school serving grades 6-8.  This proposal is the subject of a separate educational impact statement that will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy at its March 22, 2010 meeting, along with this proposal.  As stated above, twenty-seven P.S. 138 students, whose needs call for integration in a hearing environment that does not use sign language, will remain at M033.

The move of most sections of P.S. 138 from M033 will address the need to create additional elementary capacity in the West Village and Chelsea areas of District 2, by allowing Clinton to move from its current location in the M011 building located at 320 West 21st Street to M033.  The Clinton move will allow P.S. 11, an elementary school serving zoned students and District 2 gifted and talented students, and also located in M011, to expand.  The Clinton move is temporary while the DOE and School Construction Authority (“SCA”) acquire or construct a new facility for Clinton.  Once Clinton moves to its permanent facility, the space at M033 would be used to address District 2 needs at that time.

II.        Summary of all public comments received following the initial public notice.

The DOE received four written comments and no oral comments on the proposal to move P.S. 138 to M047.  Three letters were from parents who opposed the move. One letter noted the following: (1) the move of P.S. 138 students is a violation of their right to a free and appropriate public education; (2) the M047 site has bussing problems and bringing children with disabilities to this site will cause longer waits and increase congestion;  and (3) M047 is an old building with old elevators that will cause long waits for children in wheelchairs, thus violating their rights.  The second letter was from a parent of an I.S. 47 student.  In her letter, the parent stated that the loss of space at I.S. 47 in M047 to accommodate P.S. 138would be detrimental to I.S. 47 students.  The parent stated that progress has been made for hearing and non-hearing students at I.S. 47 and the school should be allowed to continue and to grow.  The third letter was submitted by a parent asserting opposition to the proposal for moral, legal and personal reasons.  She noted that the students at P.S. 138 have legally binding IEPs as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Also, the parent noted that the change could have an adverse effect on a child with autism.  She further noted that the M047 building is an inappropriate location for P.S. 138 students. The fourth letter was received from local elected officials, who felt strongly that M047 could not accommodate the additional wheelchair and mobility impaired students that were proposed to move into that location.

In addition to these written comments, thirteen speakers at the hearings for the Clinton relocation proposal on February 8 and 9, 2010 spoke about their concerns for the related P.S. 138 relocation proposal.  The comments included their concerns about the safety and accessibility of the M047 site for the proposed number of wheelchair students, as well as general concerns that the program would be located from a location where it has been successful for many years.

III.       Information regarding where the full text of the proposed item may be obtained.

The Revised Educational Impact Statement can be found on the Department of Education’s Web site:

http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/leadership/PEP/publicnotice/Proposals_March_Vote

IV.  Submission of public comment.

Written comments can be sent to D02Proposals@schools.nyc.gov.

Oral comments can be left at 718-935-4415.

V.       The name, office, address, email and telephone number of the city district representative, knowledgeable on the item under consideration, from whom information may be obtained concerning the item

Name: Kim Wong

Office: Office of Portfolio Planning

Address: 52 Chambers St

Email: Portfolio@schools.nyc.gov

Phone: 212-374-5049

VI.       Date, time and place of joint public hearing for this proposal.

Please note that the hearing scheduled at 225 East 23rd Street (M047) on February 22nd at 6:30 has been cancelled. The hearing scheduled at 281 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan (M033) on February 22nd at 6:30 p.m. has also been cancelled; however, due to the late notice, it will be conducted as an information session and question and answer period for all interested parties and not as a joint public hearing on the revised proposal.

The date, time, and place of the joint public hearing for the revised proposal are as follows:

March 11 at 6:30pm

281 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan

VII.     Date, time and place of the PEP meeting at which the Board will vote on the proposed item.

March 22, 2010
6:00pm

The Michael J. Petrides School

715 Ocean Terrace, Staten Island

Re-siting of Clinton School for Writers and Artists (02M260) and Co-location with Existing Schools in School Building M033

I.    Description of the subject, purpose and substance of the proposed item under consideration.

In the 2010-2011 school year, Clinton School for Writers and Artists (02M260, “Clinton”), an existing school serving students in grades 6-8, will move from its current location in Community School District 2 (“District 2”) to school building M033 (hereinafter referred to as “M033”), located at 281 Ninth Avenue in Manhattan, also in District 2.  M033 currently houses P.S. 33 Chelsea Prep (02M033, “P.S. 33”) and P138M (75M138, “P.S. 138M @ M033”).  This will be a temporary location for Clinton while the Department of Education (“DOE”) and School Construction Authority (“SCA”) work to identify and acquire or construct a new facility for Clinton.

Clinton is currently housed at M011 (“M011”), located at 320 West 21st Street in District 2, where it is co-located with P.S. 11 William T. Harris (“P.S. 11”), a zoned elementary school serving grades PK-5.  P.S. 11 will continue at this location.  The capacity made available by the Clinton move will serve elementary students from the P.S. 11 zone.

The 2008-2009 target utilization rate of M033 was 75%, and its target capacity is 576.  In order to accommodate Clinton in M033, the DOE is also proposing to move most of the P.S. 138M @ M033 program currently located at M033 to other existing P.S. 138 sites and other District 75 locations.  This proposal is the subject of a separate educational impact statement and will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy (“PEP”) at its March 22, 2010 meeting, along with this proposal.  P.S. 138M @ M033 serves children with hearing disabilities, autism or multiple handicaps.  Two classrooms of P.S. 138M @ M033 will remain at M033; these classes serve children with cochlear implants, whose Individual Education Plans call for integration in a hearing school environment that does not use sign language. M033 has sufficient space for Clinton, P.S. 33, and the two remaining P.S. 138M @ M033 classrooms to operate at full organizational capacity.

The move of Clinton will address the need to create space for growth in elementary school demand in District 2 by allowing P.S. 11 to expand. In M033, Clinton will expand enrollment by one section.

This amendment reflects a new date for the PEP vote on this proposal.  The proposal was originally scheduled to be voted on by the PEP at its February 24, 2010 meeting.  However, because this proposal is connected to the DOE’s proposal to re-site most of the P.S. 138 @ M033 program and the DOE has substantially revised that proposal, both proposals will now be presented to the PEP for a vote at its March 22, 2010 meeting.

II.    Information regarding where the full text of the proposed item may be obtained.

The Amended Educational Impact Statement can be found on the Department of Education’s Web site:

http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/leadership/PEP/publicnotice/Proposals_March_Vote

III.  Submission of public comment.

Written comments can be sent to D02Proposals@schools.nyc.gov.

Oral comments can be left at 718-935-4415.

IV.      The name, office, address, email and telephone number of the city district representative, knowledgeable on the item under consideration, from whom information may be obtained concerning the item

Name: Kim Wong

Office: Office of Portfolio Planning

Address: 52 Chambers St

Email: Portfolio@schools.nyc.gov

Phone: 212-374-5049

V.        Date, time and place of joint public hearing for this proposal.

Two joint public hearings previously took place for this proposal:

February 9 at 6:30pm

320 West 21st Street, Manhattan

and

February 8 at 6:30pm

281 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan

VI.       Date, time and place of the PEP meeting at which the Board will vote on the proposed item.

March 22, 2010
6:00pm

The Michael J. Petrides School

715 Ocean Terrace, Staten Island

[1]   Parents of those P.S. 138M @ M033 students who will be moving from M033 retain all rights afforded to them under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and state law.

Counselor Comeback

Years after laying them off, Newark brings back attendance workers to track down absent students

PHOTO: Newark Public Schools
Superintendent Roger León (center) with more than 40 new attendance counselors the district has hired.

A new school-attendance squad is on the job in Newark, ready to phone families and track down truant students.

More than 40 new attendance counselors and truancy officers made their official debut this week — part of a campaign by Superintendent Roger León to curb rampant absenteeism in the district. The linchpin of León’s approach is the rehiring of the attendance workers, who were laid off nearly six years ago amid questions about their effectiveness.

The employees — some new and some returning — will help craft school attendance plans, contact families, and bring truant students back to class with the help of Newark police officers.

They have their work cut out for them: Nearly a quarter of students have already missed about two weeks or more of school since September, according to district officials.

In his drive to boost attendance, León also launched a back-to-school campaign last fall and eliminated some early-dismissal days when students tend to skip class. At a school board meeting Tuesday, León said those efforts have resulted in fewer “chronically absent” students who miss 10 percent or more of school days for any reason. So far this school year, 23 percent of students are chronically absent, down from 30.5 percent during the same period the previous school year, he said.

“Right now, we’re in a really, really good place,” León told the board. “Having hired these attendance officers will get us where we need to go.”

A long to-do list awaits the attendance workers, who will earn between $53,000 and $95,531, according to a district job posting. They will create daily attendance reports for schools, call or visit families of absent students, and make sure students who are frequently out of school start showing up on time.

They will also be tasked with enforcing the state’s truancy laws, which authorize attendance officers to arrest “habitually truant” students and allow their parents or guardians to be fined. Newark’s attendance counselors will gather evidence for potential legal actions, deliver legal notices to students’ homes, and appear in court “when required,” according to the job posting.

The district is also establishing a new “truancy task force” to track down truant students, as required by state law. The task force will include both district employees and police officers who will patrol the streets searching for truants to transport back to school.

The teams will be “going up and down every one of our corridors and getting kids in school,” León said Tuesday, adding that they will eventually be provided buses.

Criminal-justice reform advocates across the country have criticized state laws, like New Jersey’s, which criminalize truancy. As a result of such laws, parents can face fines or even jail time and students can be put on probation or removed from their homes. Meanwhile, a 2011 study found that truant students who faced legal action were more likely to earn lower grades and drop out of school than truant students who did not face those sanctions.

While truancy laws may be on the books, districts have discretion in how they enforce them.

Peter Chen, a policy counsel for Advocates for Children of New Jersey, has studied absenteeism in Newark and said he did not know how the district’s new attendance workers would carry out the law. But he cautioned against “punitive strategies,” such as issuing court summonses or suspending frequently absent students, which can temporarily boost attendance but eventually drive students further away from school.

“Once the school is viewed as the enemy, as somebody who is out to get the student, it’s incredibly difficult to rebuild a trusting relationship,” he said. “And what we see time and again is that a trusting relationship between a school and a family or student is a critical component to building a school-wide attendance strategy that works.”

Superintendent León declined to be interviewed after Tuesday’s board meeting, saying he would answer written questions. As of Wednesday evening, he had not responded to those questions.

At the meeting, he did not rule out the possibility of the district’s truancy officers making arrests. But he said the police officers’ job was not to arrest truant students, only to protect the attendance workers.

“I need to make sure that any staff members that we hire are safe,” he said.

In 2013, then-Superintendent Cami Anderson laid off all 46 of the district’s attendance counselors. She attributed the decision to budget constraints and limited evidence that the counselors had improved attendance.

The district shifted the counselors’ responsibilities to school-based teams that included administrators, social workers, and teachers. Critics said the district was expecting schools to do more with less, and the Newark Teachers Union — which had represented the attendance counselors — fought the layoffs in court. An administrative law judge sided with the union, but then-State Education Commissioner David Hespe later overturned the decision.

León, who became superintendent in July, promised to promptly restore the attendance counselors. However, his plans were delayed by a legal requirement that the district first offer the new jobs to the laid-off counselors, some of whom had moved out of state. By the beginning of February, all the positions had been filled and, on Friday, León held a roughly 90-minute meeting with the new attendance team.

To create lasting attendance gains, experts advise schools to consider every aspect of what they do — their discipline policies, the emotional support they provide students, the quality of teaching, and the relationship between staffers and families. Simply outsourcing attendance to designated employees will not work, they warn.

Superintendent León appears to agree. In an interview last year, he said he expects all school employees to join in the work of improving attendance.

“The last thing that needs to happen is for people to walk away saying, ‘Oh, attendance is going to be solved because now we have the attendance counselors,’” León said. “No, everyone has to worry about attendance.”

Newark Enrolls

After changes and challenges, Friday’s deadline to enroll in Newark schools finally arrives

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
A student fills out an information sheet at Central High School's booth at the citywide school fair in December.

Newark families have just a few hours left to apply to more than 70 public schools for next fall.

At noon on Friday, the online portal that allows families to apply to most traditional and charter school will close. After that, they will have to visit the district’s enrollment center. Last year, nearly 13,000 applications were submitted.

The stakes — and stress — are greatest for students entering high school. Each year, hundreds of eighth-graders compete for spots at the city’s selective “magnet” high schools, which many students consider their best options.

This year, those eighth-graders have to jump through an extra hoop — a new admissions test the magnets will use as they rank applicants. District students will sit for the test Friday, while students in charter and private schools will take it Saturday.

That’s news to many parents, including Marie Rosario, whose son, Tamir, is an eighth-grader at Park Elementary School in the North Ward.

“I don’t know nothing about it,” she said. District officials have been tight-lipped about what’s on the new test, how it will factor into admissions decisions, or even why introducing it was deemed necessary.

Students can apply to as many as eight schools. Tamir’s top choice was Science Park, one of the most sought-after magnet schools. Last year, just 29 percent of eighth-graders who ranked it first on their applications got seats.

“I’m going to cross my fingers,” Rosario said.

Students will find out in April where they were matched. Last year, 84 percent of families applying to kindergarten got their first choice. Applicants for ninth grade were less fortunate: Only 41 percent of them got their top choice, the result of so many students vying for magnet schools.

This is the sixth year that families have used the online application system, called Newark Enrolls, to pick schools. Newark is one of the few cities in the country to use a single application for most charter and district schools. Still, several charter schools do not participate in the system, nor do the vocational high schools run by Essex County.

Today, surveys show that most families who use the enrollment system like it. However, its rollout was marred by technical glitches and suspicions that it was designed to funnel students into charter schools, which educate about one in three Newark students. Some charter critics hoped the district’s newly empowered school board would abolish the system. Instead, Superintendent Roger León convinced the board to keep it for now, arguing it simplifies the application process for families.

Managing that process has posed challenges for León, who began as schools chief in July.

First, he ousted but did not replace the district’s enrollment chief. Then, he clashed with charter school leaders over changes to Newark Enrolls, leading them to accelerate planning for an alternative system, although that never materialized. Next, the district fell behind schedule in printing an enrollment guidebook for families.

Later, the district announced the new magnet-school admissions test but then had to delay its rollout as León’s team worked to create the test from scratch with help from principals, raising questions from testing experts about its validity. Magnet school leaders, like families, have said they are in the dark about how heavily the new test will be weighted compared to the other criteria, including grades and state test scores, that magnet schools already use to rank applicants.

Meanwhile, León has repeatedly dropped hints about new “academies” opening inside the district’s traditional high schools in the fall to help those schools compete with the magnets. However, the district has yet to hold any formal informational sessions for families about the academies or provide details about them on the district website or in the enrollment guidebook. As a result, any such academies are unlikely to give the traditional schools much of an enrollment boost this year.

District spokeswoman Tracy Munford did not respond to a request Thursday to speak with an official about this year’s enrollment process.

Beyond those hiccups, the enrollment process has mostly gone according to plan. After activating the application website in December, the district held a well-attended school fair where families picked up school pamphlets and chatted with representatives. Individual elementary schools, such as Oliver Street School in the East Ward, have also invited high school principals to come and tell students about their offerings.

American History High School Principal Jason Denard said he made several outings to pitch his magnet school to prospective students. He also invited middle-school groups to tour his school, and ordered glossy school postcards. Now, along with students and families across the city, all he can do is wait.

“I’m excited to see the results of our recruitment efforts,” he said. “Not much else is in my control — but recruitment is.”