School Marked for Closure Does Not Have a Math or Science Teacher

By Meredith Hoffman on January 19, 2012 7:03pm 

WILLIAMSBURG — A 100-year-old Williamsburg elementary school that is danger of closing doesn't even have a math or science teacher, librarian or computer lab — angering supporters who say that the struggling institution has been starved of resources.

The potential closure of P.S. 19 Roberto Clemente has sparked outrage in the community leading residents to protest Wednesday night against the proposed move by the Department of Education.

The proposal, announced in December, would phase out the K-5 school on 325 S. 3rd St. based on its failure to perform academically and comes amid a push to place a charter school in the neighborhood.

At the DOE’s hearing to address the closure, teachers, parents and local leaders argued that P.S.19's struggle stems from a lack of basic resources over the past few years that has left the 349-student school without a math or science teacher, a librarian, or a computer lab, teachers said.

The school got an F on its most recent DOE report card, and is in the bottom 1 percent of all city schools in terms of its progress.

"We don't want this closing," said Patricia Tambakis, P.S. 19's chapter leader for the United Federation of Teachers. "We finally got a magnet grant, which is helping me bring in more teachers."

Third-grade teacher Laraine Deangelis said the school has not gotten the help it needs.

"The Board of Ed has not provided equal professional development for the teachers," Deangelis said. "We were given no help from the city to turn the school around."

The DOE has proposed that the elementary school be gradually phased out by June 2015 as a new public school, P.S. 414, enters and expands in the building.

Former P.S. 19 student Antonio Reynoso, 28, who currently works as Councilwoman Diana Reyna’s chief of staff, admitted the school is struggling, but he slammed the current proposal.

"This has been a tough neighborhood for a long time," Reynoso said. "Education has been an issue."

He said the DOE has "finally realized there’s a problem," but should work to fix P.S. 19 rather than shut it down immediately.

The Williamsburg Community Board voted last week to advise against the school's closure, at the same time it decided to oppose bringing a new elementary charter school, Success Academy, into the neighborhood.

"Closing P.S. 19 rather than doing a comprehensive community plan to improve the school is incredibly disruptive," said Tom Burrow of the community board's education committee.

Burrow noted P.S. 19's longstanding role as a center for local organizations and community activities.

Frank Thomas, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said the gradual phase-out of P.S. 19 and the phase-in of a new public school would restructure and strengthen the academic environment.

"It allows us to rebuild the school from the ground up with a completely new program and guiding philosophy of the school," Thomas said.

Under the current plan, P.S. 19 would stop serving children in grades kindergarten to second grade this fall, as P.S. 414 opens for these students. By fall of 2015, P.S. 414 would serve all grades and P.S. 19 would be gone from the building.

The new institution would likely hire the best teachers from P.S. 19, Thomas added.

The DOE's Panel for Education Policy is expected to make a final decision about P.S. 19 on Feb. 9.

The DOE did not return calls for comment.

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