School District 9 in the Bronx in New York has been failing for the last seven years. Parent groups and community advocates are now fed up with the lack of improvement and are addressing matters themselves.
The New Settlement Parent Action Committee has hosted a community education meeting involving parents, teachers, principals student and elected officials, including a representative from the New York Department of Education. The point of the meeting was to brainstorm a new way forward for the failing district.
“It feels like the beginning of something, and that’s what we were expecting,” said Julia Allen, an organizer at New Settlement Parent Action Committee, of the forum.
“I hope that it will be the beginning of a new way of thinking about how we try to solve the problems in our schools,” said Sasha Warner-Berry, an organizer at PAC, “So that we are working together and incorporating the input of everyone who is directly affected by the issue.”
While some parents are fortunate enough to be able to solve their own immediate problems by simply taking their children out of the D-rated district, for others this solution is unrealistic and they have to work with what they have and make it better.
“It’s not a question for me of moving your kids, because, really, where could you move them to?” said De Jesus, who was president of the parent association. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing now, so all the schools are good enough that kids are receiving the kind of education they deserve.”
Currently only 22% of eighth graders in the district gained a proficient rating in English Language Arts exams. For math this figure was 45%.
Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson, who attended the forum on Saturday, said there needs to be an overhaul of the whole area.
“We have a huge overcrowding issue in our middle schools, and we don’t have enough to meet the demand,” said Gibson (D-Bronx). “District 9 does get money for books, resources and smartboards, but that’s not translating into real results.”
There is hope for the parents groups and the Bronx district, however. Nearby Harlem has a success story in Democracy Prep that can inspire them. CSD5 has the worst record for middle schools in the city only seven years ago and now it has some of the best schools in the city.