A contentious education town hall for District 26 parents abruptly ended after about 40 minutes on Jan. 16 after Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza refused to address the father of a teen who was sexually assaulted at M.S. 158 in Bayside.
Hundreds of concerned parents attended the standing-room-only event at M.S. 74 in Bayside, which began with prewritten questions read by members of Community Education Council (CEC) 26. But things took a turn after the father called out from the crowd requesting “just one minute” of time to speak.
The crowd yelled “answer this man,” and “let him speak,” urging the CEC and chancellor to give the parent time to express his concerns. QNS spoke to the father after the meeting, but we are withholding his name to protect the identity of his daughter.
“The school basically just covered it up and all I wanted to do was just talk. But I know they wouldn’t let me talk,” he said. “It’s just disconcerting.”
Queens elected officials representing eastern Queens recently collaborated on a letter to Carranza demanding answers about the recent troubles at M.S. 158.
According to the DOE, the agency is currently taking steps to retrain staff at the school and communicate more effectively with families. They are also adding more staff including safety agents and counselors.
While the crowd continued to jeer the chancellor, a CEC member on the stage attempted to speak over the crowd and ask the next question to no avail.
“These are [questions] from our community and they will be heard,” CEC 26 President Adriana Aviles said as she held up the public comment cards.
Outraged mother Katty Sterling, whose daughter was involved in a physical altercation at M.S. 158 approached the stage and said that “nobody is doing anything” to reprimand the student who instigated the fight.
“The other student is sitting in school getting all the privileges and what is my daughter doing? Sitting at home, sick, getting traumatized,” yelled Sterling.
The chancellor and CEC members were seen conferring on stage before Aviles announced that the meeting would have to be cut short. Aviles told QNS that the decision to end the town hall was the Department of Education’s decision and not the decision of the CEC.
“Parents are our most important partners, and the Chancellor regularly meets with families and elected officials for productive dialogue, just as he did in District 26 in both meetings and a town hall last night. The Chancellor addressed a wide range of concerns and made it clear he’s taking decisive action. Once it became clear the town hall was no longer going to be a productive conversation, the DOE and CEC President ended the meeting. As always, every question asked is going to be addressed,” said DOE Spokesperson Miranda Barbot in a statement.
Terrible that our town hall had to be shut down because of disruptions from those that were not a part of our community..apologies to our families that were not able to voice their concerns..@cdec26 is here for you and will always be your voice.. pic.twitter.com/a983r6mQtb
— Adriana Aviles (@Nanalatina3577) January 17, 2020
The meeting showed early signs of distress as parents “booed” Carranza during his introduction. Parents at the school’s entrance held signs accusing Carranza of being anti-Semitic and anti-Asian, while other parents wore shirts that read, “Save the SHSAT.” When the town hall ended, members of the crowd chanted “fire Carranza.”
Before the meeting was cut short, questions for the chancellor included how the DOE would increase transparency between schools and parents during emergency situations and what the organization was doing to ensure schools get full funding under the Fair Student Funding program.
CEC 26 represents schools in Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Flushing, Floral Park, Bellerose, Glen Oaks and Queens Village.