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Cathie Black Booed at Education Meeting in Brooklyn

By Julie Shapiro | January 20, 2011 11:08am | Updated on January 21, 2011 12:32am
Schools Chancellor Cathie Black listened to criticism from parents, teachers and principals Wednesday night.
Schools Chancellor Cathie Black listened to criticism from parents, teachers and principals Wednesday night.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

BROOKLYN — Parents and teachers booed new Schools Chancellor Cathie Black Wednesday night as she attended her first Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Brooklyn.

"You sent your kids to private school!" parents shouted as Black briefly addressed the crowd in Brooklyn Technical High School’s auditorium.

When Black made reference to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who appointed her, the boos grew louder and people yelled, "Billionaire!"

Black frowned but leaned into the microphone to complete her speech. She then sat through several hours of furious public testimony about planned school moves and closures.

Late in the meeting, the panel voted unanimously to move an Upper East Side high school into brand-new space at 26 Broadway in the Financial District, ending a months-long battle over the seats.

Dozens of parents spoke in opposition of the school moves and closures voted on Wednesday night.
Dozens of parents spoke in opposition of the school moves and closures voted on Wednesday night.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

Richard R. Green High School of Teaching, an unscreened school with a 68 percent graduation rate, will move into its new downtown home this fall, the panel decided.

Lower Manhattan families had hoped that the popular Millennium High School would expand into the space instead. Elected officials including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had fought the Richard R. Green move, saying the 26 Broadway space belonged to the local community.

At an emotional hearing earlier this month, students and staff from Richard R. Green fought back, saying their school was being unfairly attacked and desperately needed the new space, after years of being housed in a building meant for elementary students.

The city plans to put P.S. 151, a zoned elementary school, into Richard R. Green’s E. 88th Street building to relieve elementary overcrowding on the Upper East Side, a move that the panel also unanimously approved Wednesday night.

Tricia Joyce, a TriBeCa parent who begged the panel to allow Millennium to expand in lower Manhattan, said the Department of Education is using a "failed model" to make decisions.

"We are shuffling kids around like cattle," she told the panel during the public session.

The most controversial item Wednesday night was the city’s proposal to expand Millennium High School into the John Jay Campus in Brooklyn, rather than allowing the school to expand in lower Manhattan.

The three existing high schools on the campus, which predominantly serve minority students, oppose the move. They criticized the DOE for pouring money into the new Millennium while letting the existing schools’ needs languish.

The raucous meeting frequently erupted into chants of "How do you spell racist? D-O-E!" and at one point a group of parents took over the auditorium by singing "This Little School of Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine."

Angry parents booed Chancellor Cathie Black and the Department of Education.
Angry parents booed Chancellor Cathie Black and the Department of Education.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

Several angry speakers referenced Cathie Black’s controversial joke last week that birth control would solve lower Manhattan’s school overcrowding problem.

"I think her mother should have used birth control," said Rashan Williams, a teacher at Brooklyn’s Secondary School for Research, one of the John Jay Campus schools, when her turn at the microphone came.

The panel approved the new Brooklyn Millennium with 10 in favor, two abstentions and none opposed.