Parents, Teachers Protest Threatened Closing of PS 256
PTA Prez: DOE Set up 256 to Fail–
About a hundred angry parents, educators and students from PS 256 rallied outside their school this week in fear and resentment that the city’s Department of Education (DOE) is considering closing the school.
The DOE recently placed the school, located at 114 Kosciuszko Street, on its 20-low performing elementary and middle schools. It is expected to make recommendations to improve or possibly shutter the school next month.
But parents noted the DOE has cut $427,000 in funds to the school since 2008 and suspect it wants to close the school to free up space for the Community Partnership Charter School, whose middle school grades moved into the building last year.
“The DOE set our school up to fail with almost half-a-million dollars in budget cuts over the last three years,” said Natasha Dainty, President of the PTA at PS 256. “They also raised standards while decreasing resources.”
PS 256 parent Marquese Paige said the budget cuts have already cost the school an art teacher, a reading intervention teacher, a school employee, a kindergarten teacher and the Saturday Academy.
“How can our school perform well under these circumstances? Our school is suffering from years of budget cuts and a lack of support from the DOE. Parents are saying ‘enough is enough’: fix our school, don’t close it,” said Paige.
The failing grade comes after the school received an A grade three years ago and a C grade two years ago. However, the earlier grades came before it was discovered that the testing numbers were fudged in the run-up of the last mayoral election.
The rally came at the dismissal time for the Community Partnership Charter School.
According to parents at PS 256, the charter school does not integrate with anyone at their school. They share common areas such as the gym, the cafeteria and the library, but at different times.
One parent with two children at the charter school said her oldest child was accepted through a lottery system and then her second child was accepted as a sibling.
The parent, who refused to give her name, said she never stopped to think how sharing the building created something of a separate but equal situation.
The principal of the charter school refused to give her name or to comment on the rally.
But Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Tatia Allen, an elementary teacher at PS 6 in Flatbush, said she supported the rally. Allen was in the neighborhood because her daughter, like several students at both PS 256 and the Community Partnership Charter School, attends the nearby Salvation Army after-school program.
“These are all the same kids from the same neighborhood and they go to the same school,” Allen said, adding the difference is the charter school doesn’t have to take ESL students or special education students.
DOE spokesman Frank Thomas said PS 256 is not the only school to face budget cuts in the tough economic times. He also stopped short of saying the school faces closure.
“We’re engaging with parents, teachers and the leadership at all these schools (on the low-performing list) before we make any decisions about any of their plans for the future,” Thomas said.