Friday, April 1, 2011

Commissioner's decision: what does it mean?

Dear Parents:

Today, the New York State Commissioner of Education (at right) upheld our appeal of the DOE’s decision to co-locate Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School (BECCS) in the PS9 building. While the decision's immediate effect is clear, many questions remain about what happens from here and how the DOE will proceed. Some of these questions will not be answered for some time, but we will learn much more in the near future.

What does the decision say?
The Commissioner upheld our appeal and annulled the February 3 vote of the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) approving the co-location plan. While the Commissioner rejected some of our arguments, including those based on the deficiencies in the Educational Impact Statement (EIS) and in the proposal and voting process, he agreed that the DOE’s Building Utilization Plan (BUP) did not propose an equitable use of shared space such as the library and gym. The Commissioner also noted that the BUP did not assess other issues such as the effect on PS9’s after school program and the impact of the school yard closure. Although the DOE argued that the BUP could be refined, the Commissioner found that the law requires more than just a proposal for the use of shared space and that the defective BUP was a “substantive failure to analyze the impact…on the affected students.”

What does the decision mean for the DOE?
The co-location approval has been annulled, so the DOE is prohibited from proceeding with the co-location plans until it complies with New York State education law. In effect, the decision puts the DOE back where it was before the vote took place. In order to proceed with the co-location, the DOE would have to issue a revised BUP and hold a new vote of the proposal. It is difficult to know whether the DOE would be able to issue a BUP that includes a fair and comparable allocation of space, as required by the Commissioner’s decision.

Can the co-location still happen?
Yes. If the DOE issues a new BUP and the PEP approves the proposal again, the co-location could proceed. PS9 parents would again have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the NYS Commissioner of Education and would be able to take legal action if the appeal were dismissed. If those challenges did not succeed, the co-location could go forward for the 2011-2012 school year.

What happens next?
First, we celebrate! But not for long; much more work must be done. We need to complete the K-8 expansion proposal, as planned. Our other next steps depend somewhat on how the DOE decides to proceed. We will alert P.S. 9 parents to any future developments.
-Christina LaBrie and the P.S. 9 Parents Advocacy Council

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