Little said at hearing on Kennedy's two new charter schools

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Only three people signed up to speak out against the Department of Education’s plan to replace John F. Kennedy High School with two charter schools.

The turnout for the June 17 public hearing was in great  contrast to the Jan. 28 public hearing on the DOE’s proposal to phase out Kennedy, at which more than 30 people, including politicians, JFK alums, United Federation of Teachers representatives and students, made their voices heard.     

Instead, the one held last week took only 45 minutes and drew about 20 people. 

The Panel for Educational Policy, comprising members appointed by borough presidents and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, voted in February to close Kennedy by 2014. About a month later, the PEP voted to replace JFK with two New Visions charter high schools starting this fall. Public hearings were held prior to each vote. 

But the DOE was forced to hold another public hearing and will vote again on whether to replace Kennedy with charter schools after the UFT filed a lawsuit claiming, among other things, that the DOE’s space-sharing plan for Kennedy is inadequate. 

Although Councilman Oliver Koppell, the United Federation of Teachers and Sistas and Brothas United have, in the past, been vocally opposed to the DOE’s decision to close Kennedy and replace it with two charter schools, none of their members showed. 

Mr. Koppell said he did not know about the meeting, which was written about in The Press more than once, but doesn’t think his presence would have made a difference. 

“I think this is just a formality,” he said of the meeting in a phone interview.

SBU rallied before the first public hearing at Kennedy but the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, which heads SBU, has helped New Visions distribute information about its new schools.

After DOE and New Visions officials spoke at the meeting, the public was invited to comment on the plan to add two more schools to a building that currently holds six small schools. Speakers included two community members and a teacher and the public comment period lasted 15 minutes. 

A science teacher at Kennedy for 25 years, Paula Edlavitch told the panel, comprising District 10 Community Education Council President Marvin Shelton, JFK Principal Lisa Luft and five other education leaders, that she is worried about how the Kennedy campus’ lone library will be shared between eight schools. In an interview after the meeting, Ms. Edlavitch reiterated her concern that adding two schools to the six-school building will be costly. 

“As a taxpayer, eight principals, eight APs is way over $1 million, way too much of my money to pay for each,” she said. 

After the meeting, Mr. Shelton said he was concerned about the lunchroom sharing plan, in which students at the English Language Learners and International Support Preparatory Academy, which has not yet grown to full capacity, will be allotted 30 minutes for lunch while all the other schools will get 45 to 55 minutes.

Those who still wish to comment on the proposal can contact the State University of New York, the organization responsible for authorizing charter schools, at charters@suny.edu or fax a statement to 518-427-6510. 

The DOE is also taking comments about its proposal. Those who wish to chime in can e-mail hs.proposals@schools.nyc.gov or call 212-374-5159. 

There will be another vote on whether to replace Kennedy with two charter schools on Monday, June 27, on the Prospect Heights Campus, located at 883 Classon Ave. in Brooklyn, at 6 p.m. 

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