Parents turn out in droves at PS 147

By Peter A. Sutters Jr.

Some of more than 300 people who turned out were there not to hear Chancellor Joel Klein or Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott speak, but to support Dr. Antonio K'Tori, who was transferred as principal of PS/IS 268 just before the school year started amid charges leveled against him by the Department of Education. The show of support was publicized in a flier that appeared to come from the civic association, with the names of the association and president listed at the top, but it did not. It was unclear who sent out the misleading flier.Civic Association President Kevin Jemmott addressed the flier at the beginning of the meeting saying the issue would not be discussed and asked people to respect the structure of the meeting, adding his group would not disturb their meeting. A low groan could be heard from some in attendance following the announcement.The meeting was held in two parts with the first segment, in which parents asked Klein eight presubmitted questions, dominating the discussion. The second part was a follow-up to a previous meeting at which Mayor Michael Bloomberg dealt with building codes, but it was abbreviated due to the late hour.Most of the questions Klein fielded centered on how PS 147, PS 176, and the Magnet schools that once made up Andrew Jackson High School could improve their test scores and graduation rates. Klein redirected most of the specific questions about the schools to the principals of each, but did say that assessments will be made to determine where additional money needs to be spent in the district.One issue that drew a considerable amount of discussion was the number of special education students that have been placed in PS 147. According to Jemmott, there are seven classes in the school, whereas similar-sized schools in the area have two at most and some have none. Jemmott declined to speculate as to why the number is so high, but did say it is a problem that needs to be addressed.”We love all our kids,” said Jemmott. “We just need to spread some of that love around.”Jemmott said he had met with the superintendent of region three, Judith Chin, who was also at the meeting, and she said she agreed that seven special ed classes are too many for the school and no more special educations students would be admitted. Jemmott also said as the current students graduate, new special education students will not be admitted until there is more balance with the numbers at other schools.Klein said it is often difficult to shift students around to different schools during the school year and even over the summer.”I think the way to try and deal with this is to make sure going forward, we don't continue in any school to unfairly dump or saturate (with special education students),” said Klein. He used the term “dump” in response to the question of why the school had become a “dumping ground” for special education students.Two other education topics that drew considerable interest were the conditions of the bathrooms and the use of trailers as temporary classrooms at PS 147. Klein said the temporary classrooms were used to relieve overcrowding and that construction of new schools was difficult because of the cost and lack of available property in the area. Jemmott said that after a meeting about the bathrooms with Chin many of the problems were fixed, but added that a system needs to be put in place to expedite complaints more rapidly.The second part of the meeting was supposed to be about building code violations and how to report them, but was cut to about 15 minutes due to the late hour. A spokesman from the Department of Environmental Protection also spoke about the hydrant flushing program under way in the Cambria Heights area. State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) will be holding classes at her offices to teach people how to use the Department of Buildings Web site. Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 173

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