from el diario

Latinos lament likely loss of Clemente name if P.S. 19 is closed

This story originally appeared in Spanish in El Diario, which supplied the translation.

Esteban Durán, an activist with the community organization El Puente, speaks at P.S. 19's school closure hearing last month. (GothamSchools)

P.S. 19, the Roberto Clemente School, is Annabel Cabal’s second home.

“Three generations of my family have been shaped by this school and I am grateful for the years I had here as a student and for what they’ve done for my kids,” said Cabal, who serves as the president of the school’s parent-teacher board.

For 40 years, the Clemente name has branded P.S. 19, paying tribute to a hero as famous for his humanitarian missions as for his baseball milestones.

Clemente, a Puerto Rican, became the first Hispanic baseball player to reach 3,000 hits, including 240 home runs. The former Pittsburgh Pirate died in an airplane crash on New Year’s Eve of 1972, while he was on route to take supplies to Nicaraguan victims of an earthquake.

On Thursday, the city’s Panel for Educational Policy is expected to approve the closure of P.S. 19. The Department of Education has categorized it as a low-performing school. A number of heated protests and meetings have taken place around the proposed closure.

Aside from stirring debates, the shuttering of schools also seems to do away with their names. P.S. 19 could disappear and be replaced with another school, all in the same building on 325 South 3rd St, in Brooklyn.

But the Roberto Clemente name would not necessarily transfer over.

Angel Salón has lived for 38 years in “Los Sures,” the Spanish nickname for the south-side streets that run through Williamsburg.

“All of my kids have been students at P.S. 19 and this school is part of my family,” he said. The closing would be a low blow, he said. “If they do it, the meaning of his name also fades because it is a tribute to great athlete who died for a just cause.”

Maria Morales, the parent coordinator at P.S. 19, agrees. “[The closing is] a slap at our heritage. Like Clemente, we have struggled and came here to be good examples in this country.”

Local elected officials who represent the neighborhood, including City Councilwoman Diana Reyna and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, see the closure of P.S. 19 as an attempt to acommodate a charter school that caters to newer residents — at the expense of the long-established Latino community.

Antonio Reynoso, Reyna’s chief of staff and a former student at the Roberto Clemente School, called the move “part of systematic displacement” of Latinos from Williamsburg.

“The city is not concerned about preserving the local character of our neighborhoods. If the building is not called Roberto Clemente, then it doesn’t represent the character of the Latino community,” he said.

Esteban Durán, an activist with the community organization El Puente, said that public spaces named for Hispanics like Maria Hernández — who is believed to have been killed by drug dealers after standing up to them — and Roberto Clemente are important markers of a community’s identity.

“Losing them would negate what millions of Latinos have contributed to this country,” Durán said. “It would be a defeat that would reflect how politics and economics have infringed on our culture.”

The DOE does not have a policy on the naming of schools. A spokesman for the department indicated that a community could propose a name for a new school. Chancellor Dennis Walcott would have the final word.

The fate of P.S. 19 rests on a panel stacked with mayoral appointees. The Clemente name — all of the cultural and historical significance it has — could have a fairer day if the community goes to bat.

Meanwhile, Clemente’s family is also lamenting the potential closure of a school bearing his name.

Vera Clemente raised her voice when she heard that the closure of a public school could also mean the loss of a tribute to her husband.

“My husband still lives in the minds of children and youths,” she said. “It is a shame that organizations honoring his memory and values are disappearing.”

The goodwill ambassador for Major League Baseball has traveled the world to honor Roberto Clemente’s memory. “In so many places, there are installations bearing his name,” she said. “The community is always proud and feels that his legacy is a part of them.”

Even when they have read about him, “children always want to know more about how his life was, and also how he was able to be so successful in baseball,” she added.

Their son José Roberto Clemente expressed sadness at the news about P.S. 19 and said his family would  back any movement to save the school’s name.

“Right now we are working on a project with the MLB to unite all of the schools and sports leagues named after my father,” he said. “It would be sad to have one disappear.”

The association in formation would continue Clemente’s legacy of generosity and could offer scholarships for students and and support services for victims of natural disasters.

El Diario is New York City’s oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper. Read more education news from El Diario.

union power

Charter teachers won big in nation’s first strike. What now?

PHOTO: Yana Kunichoff / Chalkbeat
Teachers from Acero charter schools in Chicago protest stalled negotiations Oct. 24, 2018, as they readied to vote on authorizing a strike.

Some 500 unionized teachers joined in the nation’s first charter strike last week, and succeeded in negotiating wage increases, smaller class sizes and a shorter school day. Their gains could foreshadow next year’s citywide contract negotiations — between the Chicago Teachers Union, with its contract expiring in June, and Chicago Public Schools.

“The issue of class size is going to be huge,” said Chris Geovanis, the union’s director of communications. “It is a critically important issue in every school.”

Unlike their counterparts in charters, though, teachers who work at district-run schools can’t technically go on strike to push through a  cap on the number of students per class. That’s because the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act defines what issues non-charter public school teachers can bargain over, and what issues can lead to a strike.

An impasse on issues of compensation or those related to working conditions, such as length of the school day or teacher evaluations, could precipitate a strike. But disagreements over class sizes or school closures, among other issues, cannot be the basis for a strike.

The number of students per class has long been a point of contention among both district and charter school teachers.

Educators at Acero had hopes of pushing the network to limit class sizes to 24-28 students, depending on the grade. However, as Acero teachers capped their fourth day on the picket line, they reached an agreement with the charter operator on a cap of 30 students — down from the current cap of 32 students.

Andy Crooks, a special education apprentice, also known as a teacher’s aide, at Acero’s Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz school and a member of the teachers bargaining team, said that even having two fewer students in a classroom would make a huge difference.

“You really do get a lot more time with your students,” Crooks said. “And if you are thinking about kindergarten in particular, two less five year olds really can help set the tone of the classroom.”

In district-run schools, classes are capped at 28 students in kindergarten through third grade, and at 31 students in fourth through sixth grade. But a survey by the advocacy group Parents 4 Teachers, which supports educators taking on inequality, found that during the 2017-2018 school year, 21 percent of K-8 classrooms had more students than district guidelines allowed. In 18 elementary school classrooms, there were 40 or more students.

The issue came up at last week’s Board of Education meeting, at which Ivette Hernandez, a parent of a first-grader at Virgil Grissom Elementary School in the city’s Hegewisch neighborhood, said her son’s classes have had more than 30 students in them. When the children are so young and active — and when they come into classrooms at so many different skill levels — “the teachers can’t handle 30 kids in one class,” she told the board.

Alderman Sue Garza, a former counselor, accompanied Hernandez. She also spoke before the board about classroom overcrowding — worrying aloud that, in some grades at one school in particular, the number of students exceeded the building’s fire codes. (Board chair Frank Clark said a district team would visit the school to ensure compliance fire safety policies.)

While the Chicago Teachers Union aren’t technically allowed to strike over class sizes, the union does have a history of pushing the envelope when it comes to bargaining.

Back in 2012, when the Chicago Teachers Union last went on strike, they ended up being able to secure the first limit on class sizes in 20 years because the district permitted the union to bargain over class size.

They also led a bargaining campaign that included discussion over racial disparities in Chicago education and school closures, arguing that these trends impacted the working conditions of teachers.

“Even if you can’t force an employer to bargain over an issue, you can push them to bargain over the impact of an issue,” Bob Bruno, a labor professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, explained.

The Chicago Teachers Union also emerged from its 2012 negotiations with guarantees of additional “wraparound services,” such as access to onsite social workers and school counselors.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

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