By Joe Maniscalco
Frustrated with the lack of communication they’ve received from Region 7 Superintendent Michelle Fratti, angry Manhattan Beach parents miffed with the DOE’s admission policy governing I.S. 98 are calling for a face-to-face meeting. “Since she didn’t have the courtesy to answer our letter let her come down,” Education Committee Chair Dr. Allan Ditchek told fellow Community Board 15 members last week. Area parents like Ditchek are upset that only 14 students graduating from P.S. 195, located at 131 Irwin Street, were accepted into gifted and talented programs at schools like Bay Academy, 1401 Emmons Avenue and I.S. 239 Mark Twain School, 2401 Neptune Avenue, this past year. They charge that the DOE has instituted a change in its admission policies because P.S. 195 traditionally sends over 50 graduating students to those schools. In 2003 P.S. 195 sent 61 students to the Bay Academy. Last year that number fell dramatically to just 7. “What kind of shift in philosophy have they implemented without telling anyone,” said Ditchek. When asked about the alleged policy change last month, Fratti said that the DOE gives priority to District 21 students. P.S. 195 is located within District 22. That doesn’t wash with Manhattan Beach residents who contend that P.S. 195 has traditionally fed into Bay Academy. Fratti has been sent invitation to discuss middle school admission policies at the next Community Board 15 meeting slated for May 24. Fellow Community Board 15 members backed the call for Fratti to appear in the neighborhood. “We’re in the best of time in this election year,” said Community Board 15 member Shelia Nelson. “Since the chancellor won’t talk to us we’ll have a chance to talk to him in the voting booth.” Community Board 15 member Eileen O’Brien warned, “As the neighborhood school goes, so goes the community.” Ditchek is calling on Fratti to appear in Manhattan Beach, in part, because he said that the DOE has “stonewalled” Community Education Councils – succors of the old school boards under the Board of Education. “There’s been a dramatic change in the admission policy at Bay Academy and it’s really been unannounced to the public,” said Ditchek. Perhaps most galling to critics are the rejection notices District 22 students have received after scoring very high on ELA and talent tests. “These are qualified students,” said Ditchek. For 30 years P.S. 195 has been the main feeder school to Bay Academy and to suddenly have a shift in policy and allow not as qualified students from other areas get is wrong.” “They [children] deserve have a good education and they deserve to have it close by,” said Ditchek.