Parents Not Satisfied By Q&A With Klein

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein faced a ream of written questions from more than 1,500 parents of students in Regions 3 and 4, who met with the Department of Education (DOE) head at his annual community engagement meeting held at Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica last Wednesday night.
Due to the limited time and the large turnout which filled the schools auditorium and forced the remaining hundreds of parents to sit in the cafeteria and watch Klein on a video transmission the schools chancellor answered only a fraction of the raised questions, leaving many in attendance frustrated and annoyed that smaller meetings were not held.
Some of the common concerns shared by the parents at the meeting were about social promotions, classroom sizes and privatization of custodial workers.
"Nobody least of all me wants to hold a child back," said Klein, defending DOEs recent announcement that this years third graders who do not obtain passing levels on standardized tests will not be promoted to the next grade. "Pushing a child through leaves them behind and leads to high drop-out rates."
To support his position against social promotions, Klein noted every teacher with whom he has spoken said that they have about seven students in their class who belong at a lower grade level.
"If you look at our data, most of our children perform close to Level One," said Klein referring to the school systems standardized test scale. "Level One is not close to standard. Level Three is. This is not about hurting children. Its just the opposite."
To complement this new policy, Klein said DOE will implement more intervention and tutoring programs for 3rd and 4th graders. He also noted that a new, improved summer school program would be announced shortly. Klein also noted that DOE is examining the possibility of more K through 8th grade schools and 6th through 12th grade schools.
Responding to complaints that DOE was taking bids from private cleaning companies to replace school custodians in Region 3, Kathleen Grimm, the deputy schools chancellor for finance and administration, said she had a responsibility to provide the most efficient and affordable services at each school.
"We have an obligation to review all services we provide," she said, adding that the outsourcing of cleaning to private companies had already proven cost effective at Brooklyn schools. After some pressing from parents in the audience, Klein noted that each principal could decide whether to keep the current unionized custodians or outsource.
The chancellor said DOEs efforts to reduce class sizes and add tutoring programs hinged on the amount of funding it will get from the state this year as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit victory last summer. The New York State Court of Appeals ruling mandates the state must pay city schools for years of underfunding. The windfall could give billions of dollars to DOE.
Aside from grumblings that their questions went unanswered, parents leaving the meeting stated they wanted better tutoring and smaller class sizes.
"Why is New York failing my child in math?" asked Karen Cummings, who has a daughter in 8th grade at IS 227. Cummings said she has given up on her daughters math teachers and tutors to improve her skills and now pays for private tutoring.
A parent from PS 70 in Astoria, which is a high-performing title-one school, complained that students are overlooked for special education services (SES).
"We get no SES," she said. "What do we do for those couple of children at the high-performing school levels?"
Marilyn Pacheco-Cash, a parent with children at PS 121 in Ozone Park, complained that there were no nearby middle schools. As a result, she said, parents have to bus their kids to south Jamaica. She noted that PS 121 had ample room for additional class space, but plans for adding classrooms has stalled.

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