What I Hope to Tell Chancellor Fariña

By Bernide Choute, public school parent from Jamaica, Queens

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina will be holding a town hall in Queens this week to hear directly from the community. I hope that she’s really willing to listen, because she’ll be getting an earful from the parents in my neighborhood. We are not satisfied with the quality of our schools and we are fed up with City Hall for blocking school choice.

I’m the mother of one son at P.S. 354 in Jamaica. I grew up in the neighborhood and attended the same school. I’m concerned that the school is not doing right by him. Last year, only 15 percent of kids at the school were proficient in math and just 19 percent were proficient in English Language Arts. I’m super involved at school, but the school isn’t doing a good job with one-on-one engagement with students. It’s the type of school where good kids can fall through the cracks. It breaks your heart to see kids struggling with no hope.

Families in my neighborhood deserve more school options. There is only one charter schools in District 28 and it has a waiting list. It didn’t surprise me to learn that there are currently hundreds of kids waiting for a spot at Rochdale Early Advantage School. Parents like me are demanding more choice because they want a better education for their kids. Charters have a long track record of success in getting the most out of kids and giving them the attention they deserve. I wish I had that opportunity for my son.

Unfortunately, Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina oppose charter schools for political reasons. The Mayor is depending on support from the teachers union to help reelect him this year, and the union doesn’t want competition from charter schools. The union knows that if parents can choose between a successful charter school and a failing district school, there will be a flood of kids leaving district schools. I get that the union is watching out for its least effective members, and the Mayor is watching out for his politics, but who’s watching out for my son?

When the Chancellor comes to District 28 this week, I’m sure she’ll tout district-wide stats that show the district performing slightly better than the city as a whole. But I don’t live in that part of District 28. In my part of the district, our schools are failing and our kids are struggling.

My message to the Chancellor is simple: we are fed up with the lack of progress under the Mayor’s leadership and it’s time for real change. Families who live in Jamaica don’t have the same opportunity as families in other neighborhoods, and it’s time our kids were given a fair shot.

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