A Brooklyn parent reports on the WNYC/Schoolbook forum on "school choice"


See also NY Times/Schoolbook and GothamSchools on this forum. Here is the account from a Brooklyn parent who wishes to remain anonymous:
Last night I attended the WNYC/Schoolbook forum on “school choice” which turned out to be mostly about promoting Schoolbook--no surprise. Jodi Rudoren of the Times kicked off the evening by telling us all to go on Schoolbook and add comments on our children's schools. 
The Walcott conversation with Brian Lehrer was about what you'd expect. Some gentle probing, but they filtered out any slightly difficult questions by having the audience submit them on index cards or via Twitter. I didn't hear any Twitter questions answered. An OWS person tried to disrupt things and was hauled away after a while. Walcott just kept hammering away on the world as he sees it, where choice and small schools are all that matter.  A 12-year old who attended summed him up nicely: "He just keeps talking about how hard his job is." 
Walcott left and was followed by the panel discussion, led jointly by Beth Fertig and Brian Lehrer. This was a lot more interesting, and I came away impressed by several of the panelists. Kelvin Diamond, the Dist. 13 CEC member, struck me as a decent guy, very committed to building schools and community. His daughter attends Philippa Schuyler, a good middle school in Brooklyn, and he's been in the thick of the high school search. He spoke about how frustrating it was for parents to try to get sense out of the DOE, either about their children's situation or in a more activist role, i.e. through the CEC.
 The 8th grade teacher, Laura Klein, and the principal, Rashid Davis, both of whom have been blogging on Schoolbook, were terrific, actually, and seem like professionals who are very aware of their students and what they can and can't do for them. They both mentioned the fact that by the time kids get to high school, they've had ten years in the system already, and there are limits on what they can achieve. The charter school operator, Miriam Raccah of Achievement First, formerly of Girls Prep, said very little. The parent, Carla Trujillo, is a Mexican immigrant who spoke via a translator. She spoke about the difficulties of negotiating the process without knowing English, of the limitations of having one's child translate at school fairs, and so forth. They also ran a video that showed kids who'd been through the process talking about what had happened: honest and engaging teens.
Lots of bloggers and journalists were there, in addition to parents, quiet a few of whom were from the neighborhood.  But not enough to fill the auditorium, which was quite large and I wondered if they'd expected more of a crowd.  [Note from LH: Despite the frequent announcements on WNYC about how this event would help parents navigate the choice process, the event occurred the week after the high school applications were due.]  
They had perhaps a couple of hundred people, a mix of middle-class parents and those who looked as if they might be school employees. Walcott came in with Tish James, *the neighborhood's* city council rep, who has been dedicated to fighting for local schools. Anyway, I attended mostly because I have a 7th grader, and because it was a few blocks from where I live. It didn't tell us much about the high school process that we did not already know, but it was interesting to see Walcott as the face of mayoral control, with no acknowledgement of what real parents and children face every day.
And we all came away thinking a lot about the difference in choices--and likely outcomes--for our middle-class, high-achieving children and for those young people who have been born with very different opportunities.
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