The Department of Education (DOE) has issued a proposal to phase out a Jamaica elementary school – but the community will not go quietly.
“My daughter is heartbroken,” said Lashawna Colliard, whose daughter, Alexis, is in the fourth grade at P.S. 140.
The school, due to consistently bad grades on its yearly progress reports, has been on the looming chopping block since last October, and administrators and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) have been working feverishly to improve conditions. A final decision whether to phase out the school or not will be made in March.
“It’s extremely disheartening,” said Wydia Gavin, PTA vice president. “The principal has done a lot of revamping and placing people strategically where they would be effective; this proposal hasn’t allowed him to prove that there have been significant changes made.”
Principal David Norment joined the P.S. 140 staff in February 2012, becoming the school’s fourth principal within just one year. According to PTA members, Norment came into a “messy situation.”
“Since he came in, he’s been working diligently with his staff to produce the proper scores that they need to see changes and improvement,” said Gavin. “You won’t get to see the progress because [the DOE] deadline doesn’t factor in his changes.”
This school year, P.S. 140 credits itself with a 50 percent reduction in suspensions, a 93.8 percent attendance rate – the highest in 12 years – building improvements and multiple new school sports and art programs.
The school’s superintendent, Beverly Ffolkes-Bryant, held an assembly Tuesday, January 8 with the students and explained the situation, along with the phasing out process.
“[Alexis] called me as soon as the assembly was over,” said Colliard. “She said, ‘Mommy, they’re closing my school!’ [The DOE] shouldn’t do it, not yet.”
A new administration would take over the P.S. 140 building this September, if the DOE approves the plan, and take charge of Pre-K through second grade. Third through fifth grade would still be a part of P.S. 140. The new administration would gradually phase out P.S. 140 by taking over a grade a year, so that all grades are incorporated by September 2016.
Bryant also held a parent information session, and there will be a public hearing in February. The DOE will consider all parent testimonies, and will hold a final vote in March.
The PTA has rallied parents and encourages them to call or email the DOE, voicing their concerns. They will continue to hold workshops, put out phone blasts, and keep the community informed.
Other Queens schools set to possibly be phased out include the Law, Government and Community Service High School as well as Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School; P.S. 156 faces a truncation of its middle school.
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