The Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) of Brooklyn started a revolution in the New York City public school system 45 years ago. Today, the organization is raising a loud, strong and clear voice again for community empowerment: a call for “an evolution” of the current system to meet 21st century needs of students and schools.
Last Monday, District Leader Annette M. Robinson, VIDA Executive Board Member and other VIDA members held a rally on the steps of City Hall to call on Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza to address School District 16 concerns: the staggering loss of 7, 145 (59%) students to schools outside the district due to low-performing schools; lack of resources based on need and insufficient focus on students’ success. Seventeen percent of the current school population is homeless; 41% are chronically absent; 58% of IEPs and only 45% graduate.
“The Mayor and the Chancellor must realize that their policies are not working and they need to make a change. Our children can’t wait for the adults to get it together,” added District Leader Robinson.
VIDA says the basic solutions include, but are not limited to: additional supportive services; an increase of after-school programming in the district with a high percentage of working families; a cessation of the ongoing practice of co-locating children and adult students in the same building and using elementary schools to house preschool programs; allocation of emergency funding to deal with the crisis of underperforming schools; holding educators accountable for student success; and removing administrators receiving consistently poor performance evaluations BEFORE the 2019 school year begins.
“From Boys and Girls High School to the alternative education programs at Old Boys High School and our transfer schools, our children have proven to us time and time again how they can succeed when given the resources they need,” said state Senator Velmanette Montgomery in a statement. “All schools deserve equal access to the resources they need to help their students thrive, regardless of the communities they serve or the composition of the student population.
Assembly member Tremaine S. Wright agrees: “Schools in our community must be adequately funded in order to provide adequate education. Our schools, our children, our parents and our educators deserve the same investment of resources as their peers.”
Speaking for Bedford-Stuyvesant families, NeQuan McLean, President, Community Education Council 16 said: “After over a decade of being the forgotten district, with declining enrollment and underperforming schools, Bedford-Stuyvesant families are still here. Our district is on the road to extraordinary. And we demand equity for the educational excellence of our students.
“We need an educational evolution,” said Stefanie Zinerman, Civic Leader and Vice President of Membership at VIDA. “The BOE has to recognize that we no longer live in a 19th century agrarian society but rather a complex technological one, which requires our schools to respond in ways that they never imagined. The structure of our families, where and how we work and society at large has advanced. Therefore, it is imperative that we employ 21st century tools and methodology to the districts, like 16, that need them most.”
City Councilman Robert Cornegy in a statement said, “We have made important strides over the past few years in increasing education equity in our schools, particularly by expanding access to Gifted & Talented programs in more districts. However, there is much work left to be done to reverse decades of segregation in our school system to ensure all our children receive a quality education, and so it is critical we continue to demand educational equity in our schools and hold those responsible for providing it accountable.”
Council member Mark Treyger, Chair, City Council Committee on Education says, “If we are going to have an education system that is equitable for all of our city’s students, we need to hold government accountable when schools in some of our city’s communities are not receiving enough resources to provide equitable, quality educational opportunities. Because public schools in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Community School District 16 are not being equipped with enough tools to empower Bed-Stuy students, an alarming 59% of CSD 16 students are attending schools in other communities. The time to step up and support District 16 students and schools is now.”
To a question posed by Our Time Press about the loss of neighborhood-based students to schools outside the district, Mr. McLean announced, “This summer, the CEC will conduct a deep-dive analysis of students who are eligible to attend district schools but do not. We will convene a Town Hall, to hear from these parents, showcase the district programs that meet our standards and ask for their support in demanding better resources from the administration.”