Mayor Bill de Blasio and School Chancellor Richard Carranza hold a press conference to announce their approval of District 15 Diversity Plan at M.S. 51 William Alexander in Brooklyn last Thursday (Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office)

Following months of speeches about the urgent need to increase access to the city’s highest- performing schools for low-income black and Hispanic students, Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza last week announced their approval of a new middle-school diversity plan for Brooklyn’s District 15.

The plan is dramatic and disruptive — it strives to increase diversity in the district’s highest-performing middle schools by removing all admissions screens — and the reasoning behind it is questionable: Some of the middle schools most targeted for diversity have no demonstrated record of effectively serving students of color.

Advertisement

At sought-after MS 51, for example, the achievement gaps between black and Hispanic and white students, as measured on state English and math exams, range from 20 to 40 points.

Nevertheless, I understand that sometimes we need to try new approaches to pursue a more just system.

What I don’t understand is why the mayor and chancellor refuse to support a public school in District 15 that has already proven to be a powerful vehicle for achieving the end they seek, a school that attracts and effectively serves children from a wide range of backgrounds and income levels.

The charter school where I have sent three children, Success Academy Cobble Hill, is exuberantly diverse, with a student body that closely mirrors the district’s demographics: Low-income, white, black and Hispanic students are equally represented.

It’s a school with the highest achievement in District 15, as measured on state tests, and the smallest intergroup performance gaps in virtually the entire city.

Despite these tremendous achievements, the mayor and the Department of Education have actively obstructed our community, refusing to grant public space for our middle school since 2014.

Last spring, the school’s fourth graders — including my son — were set to move on to a new middle school, Success Academy Lafayette, located in a space that formerly housed a different Success Academy elementary school.

At the last minute, the city refused to let the middle school open, citing a bureaucratic technicality.

This technicality could easily have been surmounted by a stroke of the chancellor’s pen, but the city wouldn’t budge. All of us with rising middle schoolers were thrown into a state of uncertainty and panic.

Today, as de Blasio and Carranza congratulate themselves for their commitment to school diversity, those classrooms still stand empty — a waste of resources that I find galling as both a parent and a taxpayer.

My fifth-grade son and his diverse group of peers who were to fill these classrooms are attending school in a temporary location.

My younger two, still at SA Cobble Hill, will soon also need a middle school. Witnessing the mayor and chancellor’s actions toward our school has been both chilling and disillusioning.

I am a parent of five Indo-Caribbean children and I am inclined to admire leaders who express a sense of urgency about improving educational options for children of color. We need great schools now.

My children love what they learn and work hard for their teachers. I want all parents to feel the same sense of gratitude about their children’s school. I would eagerly support any leader who celebrated and expanded such opportunities.

Advertisement

Mayor de Blasio declares himself such a leader. But until he takes action to support all diverse schools, his espoused commitment to social justice as expressed in school diversity initiatives will ring hollow.

Persad is a parent of students at Success Academy Cobble Hill and Success Academy Lafayette.

Advertisement
Facebook Comments