A meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy became a forum for discontent parents from the Michael J. Petrides School on Staten Island that serves grade K through 12. New York City's schools chancellor, Dennis Walcott attempted to mask the yells and explain why the Department of Education is placing Staten Island middle schoolers serving suspensions in Building A of the school.
It is adjacent to Buildings B and C where students as young as five years old attend class. These middle schoolers attend what is called an Alternative Learning Center and need a new facility because suspended high schoolers will be taking over their current center at Mount Loretto. Many of these students are serving lengthy suspensions but according to the Department of Education, they are still entitled to and required to attend class.
Students serving suspensions have been caught with drugs or weapons, been involved in fights that cause serious harm, and sexual assaults. The fact that most in the audience at the Petrides auditorium Wednesday night found out about the center through blogs and media reports was not lost on the Chancellor.
"I do apologize to the elected officials and to the residents and to the CEC [Community Education Council] as to the process, but at the same time I and we have a responsibility to locate our students in an area that allows them to get to school," Chancellor Walcott said
The chancellor's apology is no consolation for parent Steve Wysokowski who showed PIX11 pictures of his son, Bobby, with a broken nose which needed operations and plastic surgery. Wysokowski says students from the Alternative Learning Center that is being brought to Petrides, beat his son and stole his cell phone on a city bus. Wysokowski currently has a 12 year old son at Petrides.
"Two years ago he was attacked by a Mount Loretto middle schooler 14 years old with two priors, broke his nose, ended up with plastic surgery in the hospital. They stole his cell phone. This is what they want to bring to our school here," Wysokowski said.
The DOE clarified to PIX11 that only about 40 students serving terms less than a year will be here and not violent offenders. They will be sent elsewhere. Sam Pirozzolo, president of the Community Education Council 31, says while these students will be contained and kept away from main stream kids there is still after school and the lack of school buses and other transportation.
"Due to budget cuts, there are no city buses that serve the Petrides campus anymore," Pirozzolo said.
One of the main concerns is the belief suspended students will linger on campus which is not near any main buses or attractions. The DOE told parents the children would never be brought together, adding the suspended students will eat lunch in their own classrooms, use a different entrance and their dismissal times would be staggered so that they don't ride the same buses as the main stream students.
Pirozzolo adds that the DOE is bringing the center here on a technicality. The proposal does not require a public hearing before the PEP because it is not co- located with a school. There are no classrooms in Building A which is currently being used for administrative and faculty offices. Parents may not be able to stop the center from coming to Petrides as construction is underway to ready the facility for the new students.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun