To the Editor:
I applaud the in-depth answers the mayoral candidates gave in Shaydi Raice Sigall’s May 21 article, “The Mayor’s Race: Focus on Education.”
There are two issues I want to address. First, the success of charter schools is still in debate and all mayoral candidates, except Tony Avella, support them. I am concerned about where the candidates plan to open new charter schools. There is severe overcrowding in many parts of the city. About a week ago, a decision was decided to eliminate Pre-K classes in P.S. 3 and P.S. 41 on the Lower East Side to make room for roughly 100 kindergarten students on a waiting list. There are not enough student seats on the Upper East and West sides for the growing student population and many elementary schools in Queens have huge enrollments. When charter schools are opened, it is not uncommon to share space with a Department of Education school. This takes valuable space from an underutilized school or crowds a school already at or above capacity. It was nearly three years ago that NEST+M, a citywide gifted school, won a long battle to keep Ross Global Academy Charter School out of its building. Although I agree that parents should have options of where to send their kids, I wonder where the mayoral candidates plan to open new charter schools in the future.
Second, the issue of increasing parental involvement in the school and in children’s lives is echoed by all mayoral candidates, with each suggesting different methods on how to approach it. I would recommend increasing the percentage that the school environment survey plays in the overall scoring of a school’s progress report. Currently, the survey is worth 15 percent of the progress report, where a poor grade for a few years may close a public school. The school environment survey asks focused questions from parents, teachers and secondary students about how their school is meeting the academic and emotional needs of young learners. By increasing the percentage of the school environment to 20 to 25 percent of the total progress report, it would send a clear message to parents that their responses are valuable and that their voices may be heard by those who want a high grade on Department of Education progress reports.
Daniel M. Wolkenfeld
East 82nd Street
Letters have been edited for clarity, style and brevity.
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