Wednesday, Sept. 8: Let's Talk About Schools

Wednesday, Sept. 8: Let's Talk About Schools

Monday, Sept. 13 will be the first day of school for most NYC Public School kids, including mine (many public charters started back in August). Mayor's press conference this morning focused on what is being done to keep everyone safe at school, though not all questions were answered.

Megan talked to the outgoing southern Brooklyn council member Mark Treyger, who chairs the council's education committee and has been advocating for schoolchildren for the past 8 years with a passion not often found among elected representatives. You can read that story below.

There are a lot of education stories I wish we had had the resources to do, and that I hope someone will do one day. Education is quite possibly the worst covered beat in the city, with a lot of focus on ideologies, and very little on accountability, especially given what is at stake at every level. Nonprofit Chalkbeat NY does the best they can (do support them!!!), but I wish they did more looking at data to hold the city and state accountable.

NYC Department of Education (DOE) budget is the single largest budget item in the NYC budget: $38 billion for the 2021/2022 school year or almost 40% of the $98.6 billion total budget. That comes out to about $38,000 per student, all considered.

Is that money well spent? Without a doubt, there is mismanagement at the DOE - the mess with the expensive air purifiers is one of likely many, many instances of waste, especially when there is almost nobody keeping track. Getting data from the DOE often requires threats from lawyers and is almost never produced in a timely manner that would best serve the public interest.

Despite all the good intentions of those in charge, more than half the kids are not proficient in the basics, and we have many schools in Brooklyn where the numbers are way worse when it comes to basic math and English proficiency. Why do we celebrate mediocrity? Why do we try to make all schools be cookie-cutter 'one size fits all' when none of the kids are? Why are we so reluctant to have high expectations of all concerned? Why are the Community Education Councils so overlooked and toothless? Why are some schools so much better than most?

Segregation is obviously an issue, yet I cannot see how it could explain everything - NYC public schools are only between 10-15% white, with the largest group being kids of Hispanic heritage (40%+), while black kids account for about 25%, according to DOE's most recent data.

For a refreshing take, NYC School Talk does some of the best questioning of the public school system in NYC that I have come across over the years, allowing one to form a more balanced understanding of what's going on in NYC schools. Written by a fellow parent Alina Adams, one of my favorite pieces is a couple of years old, though nothing has really substantially changed since - judging by the numbers, most NYC public schools are still not good at teaching most of their students.

That does not mean none of them are, or that they cannot be, and that there is not more to it than meets the eye or is captured in a test score. (For those new to the American way of educating children and the many issues schools tackle, Mission High by reporter Christina Rizga is an excellent and very accessible introduction.)

One school that I hoped to do a deep profile on and did not get to is John Dewey High School in Gravesend. The transformation at that school under the incredible leadership of the team led by principal Connie Hamilton over the last now almost 7 years is phenomenal and shows just what can be done to turn a struggling school around. I covered the opening of their student kitchen a few years back and will never forget the love, care, and dedication to excellence the staff and students showed in their work, and towards each other, and the difference it makes when those around you believe in you, and support you.  

To all of us parents and teachers and administrators getting ready for yet another school year - here's to hoping it is better than the last, and if we do one thing, let it be nurturing our children's natural curiosity and wish to learn whatever the circumstances - or at least - let's not kill it.


School Reopening Update: ACS Will Get Involved With Kids Kept Out of School

School Reopening Update: ACS Will Get Involved With Kids Kept Out of School

Liena Zagare • 6 min read

With public schools set to open on Monday, Sept. 13, Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter and other NYC Department of Education staff joined Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference to update on the latest plans.


Mark Treyger Looks Back On Eight Years In City Council Advocating For Students

Mark Treyger Looks Back On Eight Years In City Council Advocating For Students

Megan McGibney • 6 min read

“Our schools need to be community schools, and they need to meet the needs of the whole child. They’re not just a place for passing state exams and graduating on time. Our schools are so much more than that. Schools are lifelines, and students are not robots; they’re human beings,” Treyger told Megan.


Department of Education Technical Issues Invalidate Election Results For Two Community Education Council Seats, Frustrating Parents

Department of Education Technical Issues Invalidate Election Results For Two Community Education Council Seats, Frustrating Parents

Megan McGibney • 5 min read

This election promised a more democratic approach to electing members of the “education policy advisory bodies”. However, technical issues have resulted in confusion for two of Brooklyn’s CECs.


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