Northeast Queens officials demand Carranza schedule school safety meeting for District 26 parents

Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

In the wake of a controversial education town hall in northeast Queens, local officials are demanding that parents get the answers they deserve concerning school safety.

Less than a week after Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza abruptly ended the Department of Education Town Hall in District 26, the officials authored a letter requesting that he hold another public meeting dedicated to the topic of school safety. Community Education Council 26 recently criticized the chancellor’s town hall appearance, saying that he failed to address school safety including the sexual harassment and violence at M.S. 158 in Bayside.

In the letter, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator John Liu, Assembly members Edward Braunstein and Nily Rozic and Councilmen Barry Grodenchik, Edward Braunstein, Peter Koo and Paul Vallone said it was “inconceivable” that Carranza failed to address parents’ serious concerns. The group demanded that the chancellor scheduled an evening public meeting as soon as possible and referenced a prior letter they sent demanding answers about DOE protocols in handling sexual assault in schools.

“Our students, parents and teachers deserve answers from the Department of Education when it comes to school safety,” said Liu, chair of the NYS Senate Committee on NYC Education. “It was simply shocking that Chancellor Carranza could hold a town hall meeting without ever addressing serious questions and concerns about reported incidents of assault and sexual harassment. Chancellor Carranza must return to District 26 in short order and have a constructive dialogue with our community about these critical matters. It will be difficult for him to restore any trust without doing so.”

Following the Jan. 16 town hall, CBS reported that Carranza called the meeting “unproductive” and said that parents were “grandstanding.”

“I would never get up and abruptly walk out of a meeting like Chancellor Carranza did,” said Meng. “Parents were not grandstanding. They were justifiably angry because they don’t believe their kids are safe in school. By leaving, the chancellor failed to adequately address their concerns. Chancellor Carranza must immediately schedule another meeting in District 26.”

M.S. 158 issued a reactive response to the town hall and troubling incidents on its campus by sending out a letter to parents about the procedures and available resources “should your child experience any kind of troubling incident or crime at school.” They indicated that parents could report these incidents to faculty and staff, use online complaint forms or email the Office of Safety and Youth Development.

“Families deserve peace of mind in knowing that their children’s education and well-being are of the utmost priority and that no effort is spared to ensure their safety in the classroom,” said Rozic. “The situation unfolding at M.S. 158 Marie Curie sends an alarming message of instability and the lack of direct communication from the DOE with parents is unacceptable. Chancellor Carranza failed to take the opportunity at last week’s town hall to provide clarity and we urge him to return immediately to address parents and students who deserve answers.”

District 26 comprises 33 public, middle and high schools in Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Flushing, Floral Park, Bellerose, Glen Oaks and Queens Village.

“Parents are our most important partners, and in addition to the Chancellor’s town hall last week, the Superintendent is in regular contact with schools, students, and families. We’re exploring options for additional meetings, and the incidents at Marie Curie are under investigation,” said DOE Spokesperson Miranda Barbot.

Story edited at 5:16 p.m. to reflect DOE comments.