If the City School District is such a believer in neighborhood schools and diversity, why is Henry Barnard Elementary not a neighborhood school? Is it in the wrong neighborhood? Why is it just for the smaller children? Very few would argue that parents who send their children to Barnard are extremely happy. It seems to be a great program. It is probably the most desired program in the district. Why would any parent want to give up such a great program? Returning Barnard to being a neighborhood school may be one of the most unpopular ideas among some of the homeowners in that neighborhood and families whose children attend the school. We would be interested to learn what people have to say on this topic. The fact is that the children from that very “diverse” neighborhood are not able to automatically attend Barnard. We find it hard to believe that this was a random decision on the part of the City School District of New Rochelle. What the district does is a lottery and after, picks and chooses who attends this particular school. This would not be a problem if it were done universally throughout the schools as a way of “balancing” them. Some of answers to the earlier stated questions may be more sinister than most may want to believe. We suspect the reason for this very calculated decision is the same that for the children and families from the Lincoln School District who are directed away from Albert Leonard, Ward, Webster and Davis. The City School District simply does not want the children from that neighborhood to be the majority at Barnard, particularly the children that live in the Macleay Apartment Complex.
In 2001, the New York Times when reporting on full day kindergarten interviewed Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff, Assistant Supertintendent K-12 (Formerly for K-6). The following was stated:
”The topic comes up again and again in discussions with parents,” said Jeffrey Corostoff, assistant superintendent for elementary education in New Rochelle. ”We would like to offer it, but we would have to double the number of kindergarten teachers.”
Currently, most kindergartners attending New Rochelle’s public schools go from 8:30 to 11:40 a.m. or 12:40 to 3:15 p.m.
In addition, Mr. Corostoff said, the lack of space in the elementary schools means that if full-day programs were offered, children would have to travel to a centralized site, ‘‘which runs counter to the neighborhood school concept.”
New Rochelle has two programs that provide full days for about 200 of the approximately 700 kindergartners in the district. One is a dual-language program geared to Spanish-speaking students. The other is a magnet school. In both programs, children are chosen by a lottery, although in the dual-language program, they are also screened by language.
”We had over 700 applicants for the 92 spots at the magnet school,” Mr. Corostoff said.
Another example of this pattern of decision making would be the case of the children of the Lincoln School District. They are entitled to attend any school of their choosing as per the Desegregation Law Suit of the early 60s. In this case:
…New Rochelle defended Lincoln as a typical “neighborhood school” that, like Topsy, just grew that way. The trial told a different story. Back in 1930, the school board redrew lines to make the Lincoln district match the Negro area. It also allowed whites to transfer out —and they did. By 1949 the school was 100% Negro.
It is important to note that once the decision came down and the families at Lincoln were allowed to choose any school they wanted, everyone left and the school was torn down. Today, instead of educating parents on this option, the City School District directs the families from the Lincoln School District to Trinity. Why, we ask? The answer is the same as stated above. As a result, Trinity children endure unacceptable levels of overcrowding. There is a document in existence that proves what we have just stated. Good luck trying to get it! Theoretically, anybody should have access to this public document. Although a specific FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request has been made and has been referenced in “District Responds to FOIL Request; Fails to Deliver Documents”, the City School District has not made the document available.
Columbus Elementary School has gone to the same way as Lincoln. The district reports that the Latino population at Columbus is 79%, anybody who visits the school will tell you it is 90%+ Latino. In the case of Columbus Elementary, can the district claim that “Separate is Equal?” This would be a direct contradiction to the United States Supreme Court decision of 1954, Separate is not Equal (Brown vs. Board Education). Does the district believe that Columbus Elementary “just grew that way” too? This is the very reason New Rochelle was sued in 1960 and lost in. It is common knowledge that the reason we study history is so that we do not make the same mistake of the past. The leadership of the City School District was absent during this lesson.
When we look at possible solutions to this problem, we do not have to go to far. White Plains and New Rochelle are very similar school districts. White Plains has a system of Controlled Parents’ Choice Program. All the people we have interviewed have communicated that it works. This is what White Plains did 20 years ago:
The Board (Board of Education of White Plains) initiated the choice program because of its belief that balance of the racial and ethnic diversity of the schools’ population would promote students’ understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of persons of different racial, ethnic, social, and cultural backgrounds. As a result of it, classes in our schools are of comparable size and represent the fine degree of racial and ethnic balance that the Board had in mind when it established the program in 1988.
The results of the Controlled Parents’ Choice Program are gratifying and are the reason why school districts around the country have sought the district’s assistance in setting up the program at their location. In addition to achieving comparable class sizes and the racial and ethnic balancing that was sought by the Board of Education, since the beginning of the program, in the elementary schools, an average of 93% of the parents have received their first choice school, 98% of the parents their first or second choice school and 100% of the parents one of their three choices during the Kindergarten Choice Period.
Maybe if the City School explored other options, Trinity Elementary would not be so grossly overcrowded. There would be less of a traffic problem around the school. It would not take two hours to feed the children. There would be no need for a 15 minute lunch for the 4th and 5th graders. Second graders would not have to wait until 1:00 to eat lunch and could eat lunch at a normal time like the rest of the civilized world. Frankly, there would be less of a need for this blog or others like it. Furthermore, New Rochelle could become The Best Place in America to Raise Children.
For the City School District of New Rochelle neighborhood schools only means something when its the right kids for the right neighborhood.