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February 9, 2012
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.
January 17, 2012
Bloomberg and protesters grapple over MLK's education legacy
Mayor Bloomberg was greeted with boos as he tried to tie the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. to his own education policies Monday during a speech at the city's largest celebration for the slain civil rights hero. A small group of parents and students gathered outside the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House in Fort Greene to protest what they said were school policies that King would oppose if he were alive today. Once the 26th annual Brooklyn Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. began inside BAM, the group joined with other activists and continued their protest inside. The event featured live music and speeches from several elected officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The protesters, who also included teachers from the Occupy the DOE group and activists from the Alliance for Quality Education, sat quietly through those speeches, but the jeers began raining down from the balcony levels as soon as Bloomberg was introduced. Bloomberg didn't hesitate to address his hecklers. "For those of you who want to express yourself, there's a time and a place for everything," he said. "Just remember that we're here to honor a man who valued education."
December 15, 2011
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.
November 17, 2011
As protests rage, city assures schools that the day must go on
An ad for today's Occupy movement protests The city stepped in this afternoon to stop Occupy Wall Street protests from derailing the school day. Fueled by a message posted on the protest movement's website, rumors spread earlier today that the schools would be dismissing students early. "National Day of Action" protests in Lower Manhattan, which have grown increasingly tense over the course of the day are timed to the movement's two-month anniversary and come soon after a city crackdown. The protests are set to spread to subway stations across the city at 3 p.m. and to the steps of the Department of Education's headquarters at 4:30 p.m. City officials quickly acted to quash the early-dismissal rumors. On Twitter, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson and the DOE's official account both sent messages assuring followers that the school day would proceed as planned. Wolfson said early dismissal was "never discussed." And Chancellor Dennis Walcott emailed principals to tell them not to dismiss students early "as a result of any protests." "Rumors indicating that school will be closed early are false," Walcott wrote in an email with the subject line "Today is a full school day." Middle schools, which have long been scheduled to dismiss students early because of parent-teacher conferences, did end classes early as planned. Later this afternoon, two Occupy-affiliated protests are scheduled to converge at the DOE's Tweed Headquarters, where a protest 10 days ago attracted a large crowd.
August 2, 2011
Slideshow from D.C.: Protest signs at the Save Our Schools rally
What would a protest be without a poster? Hundreds of signs on display at the Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday…
June 16, 2011
School budget cuts petition reaches 20K names, officials say
As city and union officials remain mired in budget negotiations, parents and education activists gathered at City Hall today with a…
May 25, 2011
A packed agenda for parent and student activists tomorrow
Charter school parents won’t be the only ones taking to the streets tomorrow. Protests are also planned against planned teacher layoffs, a charter school…
August 16, 2010
Protesting parents bring school board meeting to a halt
Khem Irby, a parent and education council member, said the city had to accept responsibility for the decline in scores. A group of parents angered by the massive drop in city test scores stormed a Panel for Educational Policy meeting, bringing it to a halt. As soon as the Monday evening meeting at Murry Bergtraum High School began, members of the Coalition for Educational Justice — a organization of parents and activists who largely oppose Mayor Bloomberg's education policies — demanded to speak. Told they would have to wait until the public comment period at the end of the meeting, parents being yelling, drowning out panel members who left their seats and retreated backstage. "You dumbed down the tests and the fact is, our kids are not being prepared for college and the world of work," Ocynthia Williams, one of the coalition's parent leaders, said into a bull horn.
March 3, 2010
Dozens of budget cut protests scheduled for tomorrow
With all that's going on in Albany, it has been easy to ignore that the state budget proposed to start on April 1 could bring devastating education budget cuts. Aiming to put the fiscal situation back on the front-burner, education advocates across the state will hold a series of rallies tomorrow against Governor Paterson's proposed $1.1 billion in school budget cuts. Nine of the 18 rallies will take place in the city's five boroughs. A full schedule is at the end of this post. A flagship event taking place at Murry Bergtraum High School in downtown Manhattan will feature teachers union president Michael Mulgrew, principals union president Ernest Logan, and Geri Palast, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which spearheaded an ultimately victorious lawsuit for more funding for the city's schools.
July 6, 2009
Protest against mayoral control today to showcase 5-boro unity
Mayor Bloomberg's school critics are joining up today to protest how little has changed since the mayoral control technically ended last week. All spring, local activists who oppose mayoral control have been urging people to contact their lawmakers. But after the mayoral control law expired and Bloomberg packed the new Board of Education with his appointees anyway, it became clear that a more powerful protest was needed, according to Jitu Weusi, a longtime activist from Brooklyn. A protest being held at 5 p.m. today outside Tweed Courthouse, education department headquarters, will highlight widespread opposition to "the mayoral control dictatorship," Weusi said. He told me that community activists from all five boroughs have signed onto the event. City Councilman Charles Barron, who has called for Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to be fired, helped organize a planning meeting last week that about 40 people attended, Weusi said.
March 16, 2009
High teacher turnover draws hundreds to protest principal
Hundreds of Bronx teachers turned out on Friday to protest the high school principal they say is responsible for a 70 percent…
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