New York City Parents On Collision Course Again With Dept. Of Education Over Khalil Gibran International Academy Move
By Sara Springer, special to PipeLineNews.org
February 29, 2008 – Brooklyn, NY – PipeLineNews.org – This week the NYC Department of Education informed the Khalil Gibran International Academy’s PTA that the school would be relocated for the September 2008 school year. Yet with all the planning, the intended target for KGIA, PS 287 in Fort Green, doesn’t have the required space and the proposed move is running into a firestorm of resistance from parents who feel their school is an inappropriate choice for the controversial Arabic school which has been called a madrassah.
In an effort to quell the growing dissent, on the evening of February 27, Garth Harries, DOE Officer of Portfolio Development, came to PS 287 where he faced an angry gathering of parents, outraged that their school had been chosen with little consultation.
As has been the case since the inception of KGIA, the DOE has been a model of non-transparency. That stonewalling continues, for example on February 4, the PTA requested a copy of KGIA’s curriculum, yet nearly a month later nothing has been forwarded.
A parent from the school told this reporter that she attempted to visit KGIA today, stating she “was poorly received,” and had not been allowed to enter. At the meeting she rose, chiding Harries, “The school is so secretive, how can you ask us to have a school here if we don’t know what’s going on?”
Indicative of the bad blood between parents and the DOE, another demanded, “How can we trust you when you lied to us about the high school [The School for Law and Justice] being here for one year?” This in reference to a promise by DOE that the high school [now in its fourth year] was to be moved after the first school year.
With the prospect of normalcy returning to PS 287 now dashed by the announcement of the KGIA move, parents and school officials fear that enrollment will decrease further because of the negative publicity surrounding KGIA. If the move goes forward, once again pre-k, kindergarten, and elementary age children will be forced to mix with high school students. This is a potentially unhealthy situation which caused one parent to state, “It’s not safe to be with high school kids. They’re out of control. We can’t bring kids into the playground.”
The President of another school’s PTA acknowledged the problem, of co-mingling children of such diverse ages, observing, “Older kids beat up younger kids.” Harries shrugged the objection off, noting that that this is happening all around the city.
Despite statements to the contrary made by his aides, Harries told the gathering that the decision to move wasn’t final, thus contradicting a statement by DOE representative, Gabrielle Ferghetti, who earlier had stated that the move is a “done deal.” As the PTA president explained, “She came to let us know. She didn’t answer my questions. It was a courtesy call.” Harries apologized, responding, “That young lady works for me. That’s not what she told me she said.”
The question of veracity always looms when dealing with the DOE and KGIA; are they capable of telling the truth?
Another perspective was expressed by a parent who noted the frustration of many as she accused Haries and the DOE of favoritism, “Are you here to help all schools or are you here to focus on a particular race, religion, and community? You’re focused on the success of KGIA. You are not concerned with the success of our school.”
One got the impression that the opposition within PS 287 against KGIA’s intrusion is rising, led by a savvy and knowledgeable group of parents who let the DOE know that their community school and children would no longer be made a pawn in Chancellor Klein’s divisive policy of forced multiculturalism.
As the evening concluded a defiant spirit was in the air, with one parent challenging Harries, “Tell Chancellor Klein, don’t send messages through you. He’s not doing us a favor [by sending you]. Go back and tell the Chancellor the answer is no, no, no. We want him here and we want Mayor Bloomberg here. Tell the Chancellor you don’t mix Church and State.” Another parent added, “We as parents have the right to have what we want for our children. They can only take what we allow them to take.”
©1999-2008 Sara Springer, PipeLineNews.org LLC, all rights reserved.