After weeks protesting proposed cuts to the gifted and talented program at P.S. 122, the voices of the parents in District 30 have finally been heard by Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
The parents, along with other concerned and outraged school and community members, confronted Walcott at a Panel for Education Policy meeting in Brooklyn on Wednesday night, March 20, where the chancellor agreed to meet with them at a later date to go over the changes.
“We are feeling cautiously optimistic, given the chancellor’s previous thoughtful interactions with parents from District 30,” said Deborah Alexander, a District 30 parent whose son, Augustus, is set to attend the prestigious program in middle school. “A united community can really make a change.”
The group of District 30 parents has been getting together for over a month to speak against the Department of Education’s (DOE) plans to extend P.S. 122’s general education classes from the fifth to eighth grade, cutting down classes at the gifted and talented middle school program, The Academy.
“It’s just the first step, but we’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished and thrilled that the chancellor listened and heard us,” said Alexander.
In order to extend P.S. 122 into the eighth grade, by 2019 there will be room for only one class per grade in The Academy, down from the three to four classes offered now. These changes would go into effect in 2019 and would begin with this fall’s incoming kindergarten class.
The DOE has stated that the changes are required in order to allow each student the chance to stay in the same K-8 until they finish middle school.
The meeting between parents and the chancellor was confirmed by DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia, yet no date has been set.
“Chancellor Walcott and his team are very responsive and listen closely to feedback from families. We look forward to meeting with this community once again and articulating our rationale for this plan: equity and fairness for all students,” said Puglia in a statement.
Yet, worried the meeting will not bring negotiations, as the parents wait for the date to be announced they will be filing a petition with the State Education Commissioner.
“The day we can withdraw that petition because the DOE has heard the unified voice of District 30 will be a joyful day,” said Alexander.