west side story

Despite a rally and walkout, UWS parent council votes to rezone

An adapted Obama poster used at last night's District 3 diversity rally.

An Upper West Side parent council last night put its stamp of approval on a plan to ease overcrowding in public schools there. But opponents of the plan, who have been criticizing it for the past two months as stamping out diversity, kept up their fight until the very end.

The council’s resolution means that two schools, the Anderson School and the Center School, will relocate to other buildings in the neighborhood next fall. In 2010, people living in three small sections of the neighborhood will be reassigned to different elementary schools. All that remains now is for the Department of Education to execute the changes.

Opponents of the resolution included both Center School parents who don’t want their school to move and advocates of diversity, who think the resolution will make schools in the area more segregated. Some of those parents rallied before the meeting yesterday.

(View a video from last night’s rally, during which speakers condemn Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and swear to keep fighting for diversity. Yes, “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon appears, but unlike in last week’s video, she has a non-speaking role.)

Before the council approved the resolution in a 7-1 vote, dozens of parents, neighborhood residents, and elected officials delivered one-minute speeches expressing their support or opposition. The speeches lasted more than an hour.

Parents from the Center School said that relocating will interfere with the school’s success and decrease diversity in the PS 199 building where it is currently located. Center School supporters walked out partway through the meeting in protest.

Parents from PS 199, the school where the Center School is currently located, spoke out about their children’s need for art, music, and computer rooms, which the school is currently too crowded to have. Other parents who are zoned for PS 199 but whose children haven’t yet enrolled spoke in support of moving the Center School to ensure that there will be enough room for their children at PS 199.

State Sen. Tom Duane, who has supported the Center School, lamented the toll the conflict has taken on the neighborhood.

And Gary Goldstein, a former principal of PS 199, said he was “dismayed” by the situation. “There are no winners here,” he said, adding that if he were the Center School’s principal, “I, too, would feel so crushed.”

Also speaking were residents from buildings on Riverside Drive that lie inside one of the sections of the district that will be rezoned in the 2010-2011 school year. Several people from those buildings, including at least one man who said he has yet to begin a family, said they are not happy they are being reassigned from PS 199 to the lower-performing PS 191. They complained that they learned of the change only one week ago.

Jennifer Freeman, the council member who led the rezoning process, told the residents she agreed that they hadn’t been informed enough in advance of the council’s vote and encouraged them to appeal the rezoning. But she said the council would still vote on the resolution because it could not selectively approve the resolution’s contents.

“I know you haven’t known us for very long, but you have to trust us that that’s the correct process,” Freeman said during the meeting.

The lone dissenting vote came from a council member, Terry Gray, who said that if the council wasn’t satisfied with the Riverside Drive component of the rezoning, it shouldn’t vote to make it happen, even if that meant voting down the rest of the resolution as well. “We own zoning,” Gray said twice. He was referring to the fact that rezoning changes are among the only changes that can be made only by district parent councils, and not by the Department of Education.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.