Power of thousands of New York parents

“When I don’t keep abreast with opportunities, don’t write my representative in Assembly and Senate, and don’t rally in front of their offices, I’m depriving my child of an excellent education …and leaving $10K to $15K annually on the table.”

This is a conclusion parents may have come to after following the recent news about the Long Island High School for the Artsi (LIHSA) and the Doshi STEMii program it houses. The amount is an approximate tuition residents pay per student enrolled in the STEM program.

One school, power of 100 parents

The LIHSA has been open for decades, but the Doshi STEM program has been added just recently—in 2013. The program is for students in grades 9–12 and offers an excellent curriculum which is “educating tomorrow’s engineering and technology leaders.”iii Malverne UFSD participates in the program since its inception and enrolls few new students every year.

Each morning, students are bused to the school and return to their home HS before the lunch. Baldwin, Hicksville, Oyster Bay, Uniondale, and Westbury school districts also joined the program. So far, Malverne has enrolled 13 or 15 out of 46 students in the program. More information about the “STEM education” and Doshi, including links to resources is here. This opinion concentrates on the role parents play in their child’s education.

In September 2013, a Newsday article announced the opening of the STEM education at LIHSA.

“Long Island’s first regional magnet school for science and technology has started its first full week of classes with high ambitions but about half the number of students it originally planned to enroll.”iv

In 2014-15, the overall LIHSA enrollment was lower than previous year and also the funds were not coming as planned. The number of students enrolled in LIHSA was 100—half what it was in 2009. One of the reasons is the introduction of 2% tax cap and GEA in 2010.v Superintendents struggle to fund their own district schools. In 2015-16, the enrollment dropped to 92.

“Students are often advised to keep their attendance at LIHSA a secret, as most districts fund only a couple of them at a time,” [wrote a LIHerald contributor, parent of a former LIHSA student.]vi

In March 2015, the Board of the Cooperative Educational Services considered closing the school due to the low enrollment numbers. That fact alarmed parents and energized them in launching a campaign “Save LIHSA.” They also petitionedvii Nassau BOCES Board President Eric B. Schultz, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Board of Regents Roger Tilles, Board of Regents, Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch, New York State Budget Director Mary Beth Labate.

Malverne Herald prized a Malverne school board member for her role:

“We are in awe of what Josephine Bottitta has done, …and we’ve never seen anyone rally a crowd the way she did at a Nassau BOCES meeting…”

And also Malverne Herald:

“In the event that the institute closes,” Hunderfund said, [Malverne UFSD Superintendent] “Assistant Superintendent Rose Linda Ricca is looking at alternatives. We do have components that would be equivalents to what Doshi offers, in some respects,” Hunderfund said. “But we still don’t have that piece that connects the students to laboratory experts and experiences. The whole idea was to have students that would become leaders in the STEM field, who would bring back their education to Long Island by working on Long Island.”viii

Malverne UFSD is concerned about the future of the 13-15 students enrolled in the BOCES program. The district management is proactive in researching ways how to accommodate the students. They teamed up with the active parents asserting interests of their child and acted independently from Albany. This is important to keep in mind, as it is the foundation of local control when developing the curriculum.

When another round of talks about closing of the LIHSA came to the agenda this past November,ix the parents were well prepared. They wrote letters, invited politicians and performers. Assemblyman Saladino, Regent Tilles, were among others who attended the BOCES meeting. Billy Joel promised to contribute funds. Thanks to parents initiative the school operations have been extended for one year.

“Do I know that he eventually will be an actor? No, but he should have the opportunity to pursue his passion,” [expressed her opinion a parent in the Newsday article.]x

Now, let’s read through few comments below the Newsday Facebook article. They characterize how the parents engagement has been evolving and how those parents understand the necessity of having quality programs available for their children:

“Never heard of this! [LIHSA and STEM program] Oceanside schools don’t even mention BOCES, like it’s a bad thing! We need more of these tech schools.”

“Go to your district and call them on it. The districts do not tell parents about it.” [Replied a parent.]

[Another parent:] “Taking one course in theater or dance per year is not the same as being immersed in it every day of the shool year. Maybe there should be changes made to the compensation plans of those in charge of running BOCES and let the kids return to study.”

“Long Island needs this school! It is an amazing place for children to create and learn from professionals who work in these fields!!”

“I am a product of this school and without the techniques & lessons learned solely at this establishment, I wouldn’t have made it through 30 years in show business. I am still creating, performing & now teaching…all with a big thanks to THIS SCHOOL. We all need a place to bloom & make mistakes & be completely ourselves- THIS is that place.”

“Parents of kids who go to the schools are now reaching out to PTAs and other community groups to spread the word to parents so they can go back to their districts and fight to get the tight for their kids to enroll.”

In my case, they told me because i lived in suffolk, it was too far. Lucky for me, my father fought back, and when they couldn’t answer the question as to where in suffolk county the district would be sending me for a comparable program, the school district knew they had backed themselves into a corner and allowed me to go. These programs are worth fighting for”xi

That’s the right attitude! Such attitude is necessary, not only for preserving a school, but, mainly, for enriching curriculum and creating programs at any school. Parents need this attitude in order to advocate for their child. Only few comments were selected for illustration, but there is a long thread of comments by LIHSA “fighters” offering an inspiration to parents who would like their children to experience a sound education, but who don’t know where to start.

Thousands of schools, power of thousands of parents

Parents dedicated to save the LIHSA for their children serve as an example what parents can achieve and how to do it. They engage the district management, community, and politicians. Politicians love to help and flock to a movement that in return elevates their visibility. Private, public, charter, magnet school; the type of school doesn’t matter. Eva Moskowitz, the queen of NYC charters, knows it and is a step ahead. She closed her schools for a day, dressed students in matching shirts, and marched to rally in support of charters.xii In contrast, public school parents are accustomed to mindlessly accepting mandates from the “authority” in Albany. For decades they have been lulled into thinking that “experts” were in charge of education and with the best interests for their children. On local level, those mandates were presented as the “law” and that “nothing can be done.”

Who are the experts and what long-term concept do they offer? Recently, the top “experts” have been represented by two basketball buddies from Chicago who have about the same classroom experience. . . as parents, who are “advised” (understand funded) by attorneys, and CEOs of corporations.

In New York State, the Board of Regents is in charge of education. Out of their 17 appointed members just 3 are educators. The NY education commissioner, MaryElen Elia, with the help of America Achieves Fellows,xiii has been concentrating her efforts on editing individual sentences of questions on standardized tests that were released. Recently, she developed an Assessment Toolkitxiv for district administrators. It’s an ”optional” guide on how to talk to parents, including samples of buzzwords to tweet to them. In December, Governor Cuomo “adjusted” his stance on assessments he had just formulated earlier in April.xv

The parents must realize they are the only advocates for their children and must request to participate in committees with educators and lead learners when developing educational policies. It’s worth fighting for.

paint-merrick-rd-red-by-mady-bernardThe reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), titled Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), gives more power to individual states in creating their educational policies. It opens tremendous opportunities, as well as responsibilities, for parents and lead learners to collaborate on formulating policies that will end the blunders. But before they’ll be taken seriously, the parents will need to organize meetings and rallies similar to Save LIHSA, Protect Our Public Schools, and Paint Merrick Road Red.xvi They will need to write to their representatives, invite them to schools, and hold them accountable, so they are not able to fail our schools.

How are parents involved in your district’s education policy? In what committees?

#gomules #ptchat #nyedchat #k12ny #refusethetest #parentstrike #greatoptout2016

References

i “Long Island High School for the Arts / Homepage.” BOCES. Accessed January 3, 2016. http://www.nassauboces.org/Page/1644

ii “LIHSA STEM Program.”BOCES. Accessed November 26, 2015. http://www.nassauboces.org/domain/1239

iii “LIHSA STEM Curriculum.” BOCES. Accessed November 26, 2015. http://www.nassauboces.org/domain/1273

iv “Low Enrollment at LI’s First Magnet STEM School.” Newsday, September 11, 2013. http://www.newsday.com/long-island/education/li-s-first-magnet-stem-school-opens-in-syosset-1.6057064

v “Revenue Troubles May Shut LI Arts HS.” Newsday, March 12, 2015. http://www.newsday.com/long-island/education/future-of-nassau-boces-arts-high-school-stem-center-uncertain-1.10053716

vi “Letters to the Editor.” Liherald.com. Accessed December 8, 2015. http://liherald.com/stories/Letters-to-the-Editor-East-Rockaway-Lynbrook,68027

vii “Save LIHSA.” Change.org. Accessed December 6, 2015. https://www.change.org/p/save-lihsa

viii “Future of Doshi STEM Program Threatened.” Liherald.com, March 26, 2015. http://liherald.com/stories/Future-of-Doshi-STEM-program-threatened,65355

ix “BOCES: Close arts school, STEM institute.” Newsday, November 17, 2015. http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau-boces-recommends-closure-of-arts-school-stem-center-complex-1.11135678

x Ibid.

xi “Newsday Facebook Page on LIHSA.” https://www.facebook.com/newsday/posts/10153689607119449

xii “Lively Turnout, Vague Theme at Manhattan Charter Rally.” Accessed January 3, 2016. http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2014/10/8553824/lively-turnout-vague-theme-manhattan-charter-rally

xiii “America Achieves 2015 NY Fellows.” New York Educator Voice. Accessed January 3, 2016. http://www.nyedvoice.org/#!2015-fellows/c1cn9

xiv “Assessments Toolkit | New York State Education Department.” Accessed December 18, 2015. http://www.nysed.gov/assessments-toolkit

xv “Common Core Task Force Releases Final Report.” Accessed January 3, 2016. http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/12/8585289/common-core-task-force-releases-final-report

xvi “Paint Merrick Road Red For Public Ed.” Massapequa Observer, March 18, 2015. http://www.massapequaobserver.com/paint-merrick-road-red-for-public-ed/

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