With elected officials at their side, parents, teachers, and staff of I.S. 59 in Springfield Gardens gathered in the school’s auditorium recently, to protest the integration of the Eagle Academy into their building.
On Saturday, March 20, a group of about 60 people came together to listen to over a dozen speakers lead them in their communal rallying cry – “No Revote!”
The decision of whether to place the academy in the same building as I.S. 59 has already been voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), which decides school sites. For the first time in PEP’s existence, the outcome that the Department of Education wanted was not what they received from the panel, and the proposal was rejected.
However, because three of the panel’s 13 members failed to attend the meeting, the city is looking for a revote.
“We made our case, followed the rules, and we won,” said Assemblymember William Scarborough. “The fact that we’re back here means that they’re saying ‘If we don’t get our way, we get a do-over.”
Councilmember Leroy Comrie voiced similar complaints with how the panel has handled losing the vote.
“I’ve been stood up in my life, I’ve had people lie to me in my life, but I’ve never had an issue like this with PEP, where they had a vote that they lost, but because they’re so autocratic, they want to hold a re-vote,” he said. “We are dealing with a tradition of people who always want to get their own way.”
I.S. 59 is a public middle school, covering grades 6-8. While it has struggled in the past, it has improved markedly during the 6-year tenure of its current principal, Carleton Gordon, who brought a new educational format with him. The school received an “A” grade in the latest Department of Education progress report.
“We created the academy system, small-learning environments, which gave our teachers the opportunity to learn about a group of students,” said Gordon. “With this structuring, teachers and students work together. If the Eagle Academy is brought here, that piece, which I consider the lynchpin to our success, will be destroyed.”
“We need an education solution, not a political or bureaucratic solution,” he said.
Kechia Winn, the school’s PTA President, opened the meeting as its first speaker, and cited the school’s stance on the possible charter school integration.
“If the Eagle Academy comes here, we will have to sacrifice resources,” she said. “What will happen to our students? They will slowly phase us out.”
Although every speaker opposed the integration of the Eagle Academy into I.S. 59’s building, many also applauded the work of the academy, stating that it is simply the location that they objected to.
“We think the Eagle Academy is a good institution, just not in this building,” said Alicia Hyndman, CDEC 29 President.
“The Eagle Academy deserves better, and 59 deserves better,” said Adrienne Adams, Educational chair of Community Board 12. “Why are we getting the scraps off of someone else’s table? We deserve a full meal.”
The PEP will hold a second vote on Tuesday, March 23 at the Michael J. Petrides School in Staten Island. I.S. 59 will be sending a school bus full of protestors to the site.