Twilight Zone (Updated)

Lukewarm reception for revised Lower Manhattan rezoning plan

Deputy Chancellors Kathleen Grimm and Marc Sternberg hear feedback from parents on plans to rezone schools in District 2.

The Department of Education’s third — and likely final — proposal for rezoning in Manhattan’s District 2 received a lukewarm reception from Lower Manhattan parents at a public hearing Monday night.

DOE officials retracted some of the more controversial elements of the department’s rezoning proposal but warned that some overcrowded schools would not see relief, prompting grumbling from parents who had come to urge the officials to build more schools in the district.

In the revised plan, unveiled this week, Tribeca’s popular P.S. 234 and the Greenwich Village’s P.S. 41 and P.S. 3 will not be rezoned. Two of the original proposals, which called for the rezoning of schools in Lower Manhattan, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village, were unanimously rejected by the District 2 CEC earlier this month.

Now, the rezoning’s only major effect would be to trim some Lower Manhattan school zones to create a zone for the Peck Slip School, a new elementary school that is set to open in Tweed Courthouse next fall.

City officials, including deputy chancellors Marc Sternberg and Kathleen Grimm, said the change in plans was a response to vocal opposition from parents at P.S. 234, who argued that altering the school’s zone would change its character. But Sternberg and Grimm stressed that the tradeoff is that their latest proposal would not meet demand for school seats in the neighborhood. The parents had urged the officials to build more schools rather than shifting students among existing ones.

“You’re right to ask for more, but we don’t know if we can give you more,” Sternberg said. “We are looking for solutions where the money falls short, as it most certainly will.” 

“I consider it much better than the previous proposal,” Tribeca parent Einar Westerland told the audience. But Westerland, whose 10-year-old son attends P.S. 234 and whose 3-year-old will enter kindergarten next fall, said he recognizes that the new plan for his school, which has a long wait list for admissions, will not change the demand on seats.

“I support the CEC suggestion that parents who are wait-listed be given some preference — to be put through a lottery system and sent to some arbitrary section of the city is not acceptable,” he added, referring to a part of the CEC’s proposal that would call for students who are zoned for the overcrowded schools but cannot finds seats to be given preference in the general lottery for schools.

CEC officials said the addition of the as-yet unzoned Peck Slip elementary school, which would incubate in Tweed Courthouse, the DOE headquarters, before being placed somewhere in Downtown Manhattan, would do too little to alleviate the district’s endemic overcrowding.

“We’re growing faster than we can build our way out of the problem,” council member Michael Markowitz said. “Peck Slip alone is not enough.”

The Department of Education presented this revised proposal for rezoning several schools in Lower Manhattan. Click image to expand it.

Kelly Shannon, principal of P.S. 41, and Lisa Siegman, principal of P.S. 3,  told officials at the meeting that they are happy preserve the schools’ shared zone in Chelsea and Greenwich Village. help both those schools managed enrollment in equitable ways so that every zoned family is given a spot in one of the two schools. Currently families in those areas can chose which school to attend, but the DOE’s original proposal would have split up the two schools.

About 30 of the parents at the packed meeting came from P.S. 116 in Murray Hill, which had not been affected by any of the rezoning plans but is also facing overcrowding. A new school set to open in 2013 is meant to siphon off over-enrollment there, but P.S. 116 parents have been waging a campaign to find relief sooner. Last night, they urged the department to open a new elementary school, for the area earlier than planned as an alternative to adding more kindergarten seats to their school.

Meera Wagman, whose son is in kindergarten at P.S. 116, urged officials to allow the new school, P.S. 281, to incubate in a satellite location while its building is under construction. P.S. 281 is scheduled to open in 2014.

Crowding at the school has put a strain on space, she said. “It’s unsafe, and it’s a bad environment for learning.”

“We have serious concerns about the incubation you’ve proposed,” Sternberg said, responding to a proposal the CEC put forth two weeks ago when it vetoed the rezoning plan. “But we are not ready to foreclose on it. We hope to find a solution that’s good for everybody. We may not.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.