A young East Village student at a protest on school overcrowding earlier this month.
Local C.E.C. parents file suit
By Albert Amateau
Parent members of the District 2 Community Education Council filed a lawsuit last week charging the city Department of Education and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein with violating state education law by making changes in neighborhood schools in the Village, Tribeca, Chelsea and the Upper East Side without C.E.C approval or consultation.
The action, filed May 19 in State Supreme Court, claims that by failing to consult with the district C.E.C, the Education Department is effectively denying parents a voice in the process.
The law requires D.O.E. to get C.E.C. approval to make zoning changes in neighborhood elementary and middle schools. The law also requires D.O.E. to consult with the C.E.C. before establishing certain new programs or expanding or reducing high schools.
When D.O.E. fails consistently to consult with the C.E.C. on school closings and sitings, on new and eliminated school programs and on education policies generally as required by law, C.E.C. members have a right to take action, said Rebecca Daniels, District 2 C.E.C. president.
Daniels is a plaintiff in the suit along with Jody Seki, Loren Chodosh Harkin, Anne Daniel, Mary Silver, Shino Tanikawa, Elzora Cleveland and John Scott, all parent members of the district C.E.C. Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, is also a plaintiff.
A Law Department spokesperson said the department had received the court papers and was reviewing them thoroughly.
Specific to the Village, the suit charges that D.O.E. is planning to move students from P.S. 41 on W. 11th St. to P.S. 3 on Hudson St., 10 blocks away, without consulting or seeking approval from the C.E.C. The suit contends that the department is effectively changing the P.S. 41 zone and that students previously zoned for P.S. 41 are no longer guaranteed a seat in the school.
The suit also says that D.O.E. told parents in February that it was opening a new High School for Language and Diplomacy near Union Square but never consulted the C.E.C. before establishing the school.
In addition, the suit says the C.E.C. learned at the end of this January that the Lab Middle School, which currently shares space with Museum High School on W. 17th St., would incubate three sixth-grade classes of a new 6-to-12 school and add other grades in subsequent years. The suit charges that D.O.E was incubating the new without consulting the C.E.C.
The suit also notes that many families of children in the district who are eligible for kindergarten in September have been advised by D.O.E. that their children are on waiting lists for their zoned schools. The suit charges that D.O.E. did not explain to parents or to the C.E.C. the procedure for devising the lists.
The suits goal is to compel D.O.E. to submit all such actions to the Community Education Council for consultation and approval.