PRESSURE PUT ON PUPIL TRANSPORT
CEC 24, Local Lawmakers Push For Changes
Transportation issues took the forefront of the District 24 Community Education Council (CEC 24) meeting held on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at P.S./I.S. 113 in Glendale.
City Council Member Eric Ulrich, who sits on the council’s Education Committee, came to the meeting to address the results of an Oct. 10 joint meeting with the council’s Transportation Committee regarding the DOE’s Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT).
Ulrich cited several “particularly disturbing” incidents with the agency over the past few years, such as a Brooklyn boy left on a bus for two hours in 2010 or a Bronx student dropped off five miles from his home that same year.
He also noted that OPT changed its policy for middle-schoolers in Breezy Point, which has no public transit of any kind; instead of allowing the use of yellow school buses, the agency offered MetroCards “to public transportation that doesn’t exist.” This prompted a legal action to resolve the situation
“It shouldn’t take a lawsuit or a change in the law or embarrassing the DOE to get OPT to do what is common sense,” said Ulrich. “Things like this should absolutely never happen again.”
“I believe some of these issues will be addressed,” he stated.
He urged residents with pupil transportation issues to contact CEC 24, but Bill Kregler, who sits on the board, had a “longstanding issue” of his own: the loss of the safety waiver two years ago allowing older students of the Big Six Towers complex who attend P.S. 229 in Woodside to use school bus service.
“It’s a tragedy waiting to happen,” said Kregler, pointing to the change of traffic flow due to the Maspeth Truck Bypass.
Ulrich noted that fellow Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer has briefed members of the committee on the situation and brought up the issue himself at the Oct. 10 meeting.
“I know it hasn’t been fully addressed yet,” said Ulrich.
Part of the reason is that, according to OPT policy, the agency does not have to supply a reason why the variance was denied. “OPT is the final arbiter on variance issues. It’s their way or the highway,” he said.
He linked the issue to problems with mayoral control of the school system. “They make decisions at the top; we’re all operating at the bottom.”
Comaianni suggested that a ninemember panel be created combining members of OPT with local community leaders to decide together whether to grant such variances.
Several teachers and faculty members of P.S./I.S. 113 came forward in favor of renaming the school after the its longtime principal, the late Anthony Pranzo.
Pat Rose, a teacher at the school for 11 years, told the crowd that “he was the greatest financial manager of a school I’ve ever seen. We never wanted for anything.”
Rosemary Parker of the United Federation of Teachers noted that Pranzo was “the consummate administrator, and I absolutely support the school being named after him.
“I was Mr. Pranzo’s first PTA President,” said Kathy Masi of the Glendale Civic Association, who noted that the principal “wasn’t just about school; he was about community.”
The testimony was heard in advance of the application process in order to expedite the timetable for the renaming.
Several parents from I.S. 61 in Corona complained of the lack of Spanish language translators at recent meetings, stemming from a complaint from a Spanish-speaking resident of no translators at last month’s meet.
At last Tuesday’s meeting, CEC 24 member Langen Leon was pressed into service, translating for Spanish-speaking residents.
Comaianni explained that transla- tors were requested during meetings in areas of the district where CEC 24 believes that they would be needed. The DOE’s Randy LaFarge added that translators are recommended but not mandatory. Kregler noted that if CEC 24 were told ahead of time, they could have provided the translators.
“We would accomodate you,” he said. “If it comes to our attention we would address it.”
However, JoAnn Berger, who sits on the PTA Presidents’ Council in District 24, stated that CEC 24 should provide translators at every meeting.
“Every meeting is open for anyone to attend, so you have to operate under the assumption [the parents of I.S. 61] are not going to be going away,” she stated.
Greg Dutton, the new principal of Queens Metropolitan High School on the Glendale/Forest Hills border, told the crowd his goal was to prepare all of his students for college, and he’s “off to a really great start.”
For this school’s first junior class, the locally-zoned school offers a College 101 class designed to help them choose the right university, and an SAT prep course designed to help them on their college exams has about 80 students.
In addition, the school is offering College Now classes and additional Advanced Placement courses.
For prospective students, the school’s next open house will take place on Nov. 8.
In her report, District 24 Superintendent Madeline Taub-Chan announced that the SCA is looking to repair water damage at P.S. 88 in Ridgewood.
Fifteen rooms are being restored, and a project to repair porous bricks on the school’s exterior will take place over the summer.
CEC 24 usually meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month at a location to be announced.