DOE results unfair: CEC Ed council wants audit of process to determine underused schools

DOE results unfair: CEC Ed council wants audit of process to determine underused schools
Community District Education Council 30 passed a resolution that the city DOE cease naming schools underutilized until Comptroller John Liu’s audit of the process is complete. The DOE had considered increasing the Voice Charter School, whose students share space with students at PS 111 (pictured).
By Rebecca Henely

Community District Education Council 30 unanimously passed a resolution at its meeting last Thursday demanding the city Department of Education stop determining if schools are underused until city Comptroller John Liu completes his audit of the process.

“We wanted to be proactive and jump on it and say, ‘Look, we don’t want to see anything like this happen until we have all the facts,’” said Isaac Carmignani, one of the co-presidents of CDEC 30.

The DOE could not be reached for comment.

Carmignani and Jeffrey Guyton, the council’s other co-president, said the resolution was decided after they saw a planning document leak in The New York Times on the department’s proposals to modify schools. These documents said the DOE considered PS 171, at 14-14 29th Ave. in Long Island City, and PS 280, at 34-43 93rd St. in Jackson Heights, underused and also said Voice Charter School, located within PS 111 at 37-15 13th St. in Long Island City, should be expanded.

Guyton said these documents were worrisome for the council as well as faculty, parents and teachers at those schools, many of whom came to last Thursday’s meeting at PS 69 at 77-02 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights. This is especially so in the cases of PS 111 and PS 280.

Guyton said it was unfair to designate PS 280, the former Blessed Sacrament School, which the council chose a zone for last month, as underused, since the council has a plan to slowly add a grade level a year to the school. Guyton said PS 280’s principal, Lenia Matias, also said the former Catholic school still shares some space with the Blessed Sacrament Church, which uses areas of the school for storage and also uses it on nights and weekends.

“Really, 280, it’s ridiculous. We’re building that school slowly because we’re doing it in a measured way,” Guyton said.

Carmignani also said teachers and a student from PS 111 said they felt a tension with the Voice Charter School — especially over shared spaces such as the libraries — and did not believe the charter school should be expanded.

The resolution also cites the findings of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity’s December report — “Capacity Counts: Demonstrating the Need for Adequate, Transparent Data” — which said a review of 12 years of Enrollment Capacity Utilization reports found problems with “accuracy, completeness and consistency of reporting.”

As a result of the findings, Liu announced an audit of the reports in December.

“[P]arents, teachers and principals have seen little alleviation in overcrowding. The first step is to ensure the accuracy and reliability of data on current school capacity,” Liu said in a statement.

Carmignani said no other CEC has passed a similar resolution, although other councils showed some interest.

“Schools get called underutilized when they’re not really and things happen that families feel they should not,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

More from Around New York