Park Slope rezoning update, and more cents from me

I attended the meeting at John Jay last night where the new version of zone lines where announced. As DNA info leaked, the 39 zone changes have been taken off the table. The 107/10 zone lines remained the same. The 321 zone has been cropped at 5th Ave.

The PS 39 parents pledged to remain active to help the new St. Thomas building program ramp up their new PTA. There will be meetings, yet to be scheduled, so that rezoned families can meet Elizabeth Garraway, the proposed new principal, see the building, and get more details about the new program. This will probably be after the vote has occurred.

Just a word from me. First, I understand that this is VERY upsetting for the families involved. I don't want to minimize your frustration- you should keep fighting and making your ideas and feelings heard. You can find all the contact information in the preceding blog.

Many of the rezoned families attending pledged to move to the 321 zone to take advantage of the DoE's registration policy and to demonstrate how this rezoning won't alleviate overcrowding. With all due respect, that may be cutting off your nose to spike your face. The thing is that 321 will suffer and so will ALL the students and teachers. You can't benefit from the million dollar PA funds if there are no enrichment classrooms in which to hold the programs those funds would support. You can't pay for extra teachers and you can't find classrooms to put them in. Talented and experienced teachers can handle large class sizes, but it is a grueling job and there are diminishing returns and they can't give their best to overstuffed classrooms. If the kindergarten registration is "capped" you may find yourself placed in the new program (or a school that you really don't prefer) anyway.

The new zone building is larger than you think. It is newly renovated, bright and convenient to transportation. It will be a small community (ask the PS 39 families how much they love that!) It will have small class sizes (because as you said, some families just won't attend) AND "cherry picked", talented teachers. It will have an experienced administrator who has been mentored by Liz Phillips and the administration and staff of 321 has pledged to continue the mentoring process (in a formal way) when the new school is up and running. The DoE often gives significant start up money to new programs in the first couple years. I think that the momentum in the neighborhood is such that all the affected surrounding schools' PTAs should rally to help get the school funding off the ground - maybe neighborhood wide fundraising to jump start the program and act as incentive to encourage families to consider the program. The city council people have discretionary funds that they use for special projects in schools each year. I am sure that Brad Lander will be considering a generous grant to the school at some point. You don't need a million dollars to support rich and diverse enrichment programs in a school with 300 kids. I would make a renovation of the playground #1 priority for the whole neighborhood.

While this is not the established program that you moved to the neighborhood to attend, and there are nothing but unknowns about this school, I would contend that it couldn't have a better prognosis. What do I look for in a new school? - a talented and visionary administrator, who has the power and opportunity to surround herself with like minded, experienced, creative and energetic teachers and colleagues, who can support an intimate enriched environment with focused and involved parents. What you will get, in return for turning away from an established program, is the diversity that you came to the neighborhood for, the excitement and momentum of being in a new and promising community (that is not insignificant for your family and your children - I speak from my own personal experience) and at least for the first couple years, small classrooms in a small community that is virtually impossible to find in a strong public school.

I am not trying to minimize your pain, it is just that sometimes a bit of risk can yield significant benefits.