New York

City says three separate closure protests won't derail PEP's vote

A snapshot from one of two Panel for Educational Policy meetings about school closures in 2011. Boisterous protests against school closures have long been accused of lending a circus-like atmosphere to the annual meetings where the Panel for Educational Policy votes on closures. This year, though, the opposition will actually have three rings. Three separate groups are planning protest actions during tonight's PEP meeting, where the citywide school board is set to vote on — and presumably approve — 23 school closures and truncations. (Changes to two schools were taken off the table yesterday.) City officials have vowed not to let the protests disrupt the panel's proceedings, suggesting that panel members and protesters alike could be in for a long and potentially combative night. Last year, the panel approved 22 closures in two separate meetings that each lasted well past 1 a.m. In 2010, the panel's vote on 20 school closures took place just before 4 a.m., after more than 10 hours of protests and public comment. Tonight, the United Federation of Teachers, which has orchestrated the most substantial protests in the past, is planning to start its protest outside Brooklyn Technical High School but then constitute an alternate event, a "People's PEP," at P.S. 20, an elementary school with a 600-seat auditorium six blocks away that the union has rented for the evening. Union officials said teachers from the schools up for closure would be invited to give presentations about their schools at the P.S. 20 meeting. Another group that has been active in opposing the closure proposals, the Coalition for Educational Justice, is taking a different approach: Instead of walking out from the meeting, CEJ members and those active in affiliated groups, including the Alliance for Quality Education and the Urban Youth Collaborative, are marching in protest to it. After a 5 p.m. rally, they'll walk five blocks east on Dekalb Street to Brooklyn Tech, where they will continue to protest against the city's proposed closures. A press advisory for the CEJ event warns that protesters will use the "people's mic" to amplify their voices during the panel meeting. And they won't be alone using that strategy. A third protest set for tonight is by "Occupy the DOE," which grew out of the Occupy Wall Street movement that popularized the human microphone tactic.
New York

After protests, panel approves charter school co-location plans

Protesters opposing Department of Education proposals brandished hand puppets before the Panel for Educational Policy. In the start of what has become an annual ritual, the Panel for Educational Policy Wednesday night listened to hours of rowdy public comments opposing the city's policy of placing charter schools inside existing school buildings, then signed off on plans to do just that. The panel gave the go-ahead to a Success Charter school co-location in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, an affluent neighborhood where many parents and elected officials have said the school is not wanted. Panel members Gbubemi Okotieuro, of Brooklyn, and Patrick Sullivan, of Manhattan, each raised issues about the co-location plan for the Success Charter school, which did not originally apply to open in the area. Marc Sternberg, the Department of Education official in charge of new schools, said the department had determined the neighborhood had experienced an "explosion of kindergarten enrollment" and needed more elementary schools. "It was made clear to us by SUNY that the charter school could be opened in District 15," Sternberg said, referring to the state organization that authorizes charter schools, which approved the Success Academy school for nearby District 13 or 14. Sullivan was the only panel member to vote against any of the plans, casting a "no" vote on the Cobble Hill co-location and abstaining from several other votes. The panel also approved plans to open a charter high school in the old Boys High School building and a second Success charter school in P.S. 59, both in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. It also signed off on a plan to expand Esperanza Preparatory Academy, a dual-language school in East Harlem that shares a building with a citywide gifted school, TAG Young Scholars, whose parents had opposed the change.
New York

As protests rage, city assures schools that the day must go on

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