Why is Barnard Elementary School not a Neighborhood School?

Written By: Deprecated User

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.

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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.

8 thoughts on “Why is Barnard Elementary School not a Neighborhood School?”

  1. Lets look at New Rochelle’s
    Lets look at New Rochelle’s neighbors for a clearer perspective on where the problems lie. Bronxville and Scarsdale have minimal racial and/or economic diversity. Mamaroneck village, mamaroneck town and Larchmont all share the same High School yet are distinct enough to maintain their own ‘boundaries’ which define separate elementary and middle school districts. Port Chester is a predominantly hispanic village, resulting from the total lack of diversity in neighboring Greenwich, Rye and Harrison as well as more recent secession of Rye Brook a few years back. Mount Kisco is another Westchester town that has shown difficulties handling diversity. The hispanic population is significant for a municipality its size, and also for the section of the county in which it is situated. Surrounded by upscale, Caucasian dominated communities, it is the imaginary boundaries of the town that are manipulated to define the appropriate ‘place’ for whites and non-whites. In towns and villages it seems disturbingly simple to maintain racial and class division without much resistance. It is in the cities and larger, urban areas that diversity is more predominant. It is in these areas that the concept or idea of diversity is one that is valued and fought for rather than frowned-upon or resisted. Still, no community is perfect, especially not those found in Westchester County. Westchester is arguably the countrys first true suburban county, and it is a historically affluent one. The diversity which currently exists is actually quite remarkable when looking at Westchester from a historical perspective. Nonetheless, the growth and diversification of Westchesters population is limited primarily to its larger cities, located in its southern portion. Neither Yonkers, Mount Vernon or White Plains match up to the levels of progress and success achieved in New Rochelle. The New Rochelle Schools are undeniably the most diverse as well as the most accomplished. Mount Vernon schools perform poorly and are poorly funded. Yonkers schools are fragmented and typically not regarded in a positive light.

    New Rochelle’s school district has over 10,000 students, more than the entire population of neighboring Larchmont Village or Mamaroneck for example. When viewing the racial breakdown its students the district its percentages for decades, illustrating a consistency that is rarely ever seen. Thus, in NR, when black people move in, white people don’t rush out. This community attracts a diverse group of resident, many choosing to live here despite their ability to live elsewhere. One must look at such “prized” communities like Scarsdale to see that many within New Rochelle fall under the same income brackets, have reached the same educational levels, are employed in the same professions, and live in comparably priced homes as those residents do. Because those with greater means have the most flexibility when deciding where to live, it is important to note how many choose to live in New Rochelle.

    1. It appears that the person
      It appears that the person who wrote this also wrote several other comments — all anonymous. I would say to this person that they are welcome to register, they can register using a pseudonym to protect their identity if they wish (as can anyone else). I would encourage this person to go ahead and register because if you register you can then convert these “comments” into “posts” and then I can promote them to the front page where they can get more attention. It is a shame to “bury” these long, thoughtful articles “below the fold” so to speak by adding them as comments where many readers will not notice them.

      You have provided an excellent rebuttal to the North-South argument. I would like to see this featured and then give the folks on the other side a chance to reply. It is that sort of open dialog this site is intended to foster.

      In either case, thank you for taking the time to write this up. Keep it coming!

      And for those who disagree with this contributor, please take a good long look at the fact-based, detailed-driven articulation of this person’s point of view. It can serve as a model of how to disagree agreeably — and yes, I know, that is not my strong suit either!!! 🙂

  2. The Lincoln school issue
    The Lincoln school issue centered around the NR School Board and their knowing creation of a school zone (Lincoln) that was almost entirely african-american. Conscious efforts were made to manipulate school-zone lines and to transfer white children residing in the Lincoln district to schools outside of it. This is in NO WAY similar to any present day issues that might be facing various schools.

    To focus on the large % of hispanic students currently attending Columbus elementary school, one might choose to look at just who exactly is raising this as a negative issue, or as an issue at all for that matter. I for one do not see this as any sortof issue. Regardless, the high % of hispanic students can most directly be attributed to recent immigration trends for the United States. The population of Hispanic Americans has grown immensely over the past decade, largely due to high immigration levels. Many immigrants choose to settle in communities close to family and friends from their homeland. The growth of New Rochelle’s hispanic population is a reflection of these national trends. The fact that many immigrants have chosen to move to New Rochelle’s west-end is the sole reason behind the areas recent population shifts.

  3. The Barnard district would
    The Barnard district would include the same kids who now all attend Davis school. One should note that Davis is in the northern reaches of the city, nowhere near the homes in the Barnard District.

    Barnard school is a much smaller facility which was only updated in the past 5 – 10 years. Barnard could not effectively operate as an elementary school because of small size. This might be why the school hasn’t operated in that capacity for 30 some-odd years. The decision to use it for a magnet early-learning facility is a great one which sets the school district apart from any of its neighbors. Its a good thing.

  4. I was born and raised in New
    I was born and raised in New Rochelle, NY. I graduated from Barnard Elementary in 1973. I lived with my parents in a home not far from Barnard Road and walked to school everyday. The kids from the projects (Macleay Apartmens aka City Park) took a five minute walk through the woods to get to school.

    Some of the kids from those projects were the best friends I ever had in my life, however I was very afraid of some of them because they were very tough and streetwise beyond their years.

    As an adult, I now understand all the reasons why people have to live in low income housing and how children’s lives are impacted by those circumstances.

    When I went to Barnard, there was no Department of Children and families, school social workers, psychologists or outreach workers to help poor families going through the had times of the 70’s. If Barnard were to reopen as a public school, these services must be put in place so that every child has a chance to learn to in a peaceful environment.

    1. Thank you for that
      Thank you for that historical snapshot. Please feel free to share your experiences about the town we all love and call home.

      NRCP Team

  5. Re: No matterwhat the school
    To anonymous:

    It is clear when you do not have a counter argument. Your statement would hold some weight if you presented evidence to the contrary.

    Let me help you:
    The statements made by NRCP are not true because…(evidence should follow)

  6. No matter what the school
    No matter what the school board does the NRCP will still find fault, the simple fact is that Trinity and the overall school system is just not good enough for them, maybe they will look at other options like White Plains or Portchester and maybe they will have some peace in their household and not so much negativity……………….

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