By Madina Toure
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) and the Chinese-American Planning Council announced a carnival would be held for children in Flushing this summer, just as the principal of PS 120 was reassigned after banning students who were unable to pay an admission fee to an earlier school carnival.
The carnival will be held June 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at PS 20’s Bowne Playground on Union Street between Sanford and Barclay avenues. Flushing-based construction company F&T Group, the main sponsor of the carnival, said it would pay for the event, which may cost about $5,000, according to Helen Lee, F&T Group’s executive vice president..
Speaking at a news conference at the Mudan Banquet Hall at Queens Crossing at 136-17 39th Ave. in Flushing, Kim said he received calls from all over the country after the media described the plight of the children shut out of the carnival.
Nearly 100 low-income students whose parents did not pay a $10 admission fee for the carnival, which took place on school grounds, were forced to stay in the auditorium of the school at 58-01 136th St., according to news reports, watching an old Disney movie as their classmates played at the carnival outside.
“People wanted to donate and help children,” Kim said.
Fourth grader Sherry Liu, 10, was one of four PS 20 students who spoke during the news conference to express solidarity with the PS 120 students banned from the carnival.
“I feel sad for them because maybe their families are not rich or do not have money,” Liu said.
Lois Lee, director of the Queens chapter of the Chinese-American Planning Council at PS 20, said the incident raised an important message.
“We call this teachable moments,” Lee said.
The city Department of Education said Francine Marsaggi, the school’s assistant principal, will take over for Joan Monroe as interim principal and that the school would consult with the DOE and Danielle Dimango, superintendent of Community District 25, which covers Flushing. Monroe was reassigned to administrative duties.
PS 120 said it was instructed by the DOE to make no public comments on the matter.
“Ms. Monroe has been reassigned away from PS 120 pending the outcome of this investigation,” Devora Kaye, a DOE spokeswoman, said. “Superintendent Dimango and the DOE will work closely with the PS 120 staff to ensure that this change does not affect student instruction.”
In a letter dated June 5 to students’ families in English and Mandarin, Monroe said 52 children—not 100—did not attend the carnival for numerous reasons, including parental requests and medical documentation.
“Let me assure you that the information in the press is inaccurate,” Monroe wrote in the letter. “It is not now and never has been the policy of PS 120Q to exclude any child from trips or events based on financial hardship.”
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said she has not been able to get a hold of Dimango but that the focus should be on the children.
“It’s about the carnival and the children having a good time,” Stavisky said.
Lee said the company is on board with the carnival.
“Whatever it is, we will pay for it,” Lee said. “It’s about doing the right thing.”
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour