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Walcott to Meet With Parents About More G&T Seats in Astoria

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 9, 2012 3:40pm

ASTORIA — Parents of gifted and talented kids pushed Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott Thursday night to add more seats for bright middle school students in the growing neighborhood.

Parents came to the Panel for Educational Policy meeting armed with posters that read “Easy Answer, Open Seats” and “More Seats, No Test.” They said the population in the area has been rapidly growing and that the shortage of middle school gifted and talented seats has become a significant problem.

They also said that they had come up with a solution several months ago when they had worked with local elected officials and Community Education Council District 30 and determined that a new G&T middle school program could be created at I.S. 126 in Long Island City, which has been underutilized.

One of the Department of Education’s proposals is to create a new “academically enriched” program at that school in 2013. That plan would open 60 seats, but teachers would not be required to have G&T training or to follow a G&T curriculum.

That option is not good enough, said the parents and the CEC representatives.

“I know that there are a variety of proposals out there that are being discussed and we understand the concern of the parents,” said Walcott said Thursday night.

He also said that he, along with Deputy Chancellor from Division of Portfolio Planning, Marc Sternberg, would meet with the parents, CEC representatives and local elected officials to discuss the issue “within a very short period of time."

Currently, the only middle school G&T program in the district is located at P.S.122 in Astoria and has four classes. Two of them are granted for gifted and talented children from P.S. 150 in Sunnyside and P.S. 122 without retesting.

Other children have to compete for the rest of roughly 60 seats.

According to Community Education Council District 30, last year around 600 kids applied for those seats.

Among other issues angering the parents in the area is a proposal that kids from P.S. 122 and P.S. 150 — who had been transferred automatically to the middle school program at P.S. 122 — would be required to reapply to the G&T program again in 5th grade.

Parents of kids attending newer gifted and talented programs in the district — at P.S. 166 and at a city-wide program STEM at P.S. 85 — are also upset that they currently don't have an automatic transfer.

Melissa Lee, a pediatrician whose two sons attend P.S. 166, said that parents from all schools in the district are unified in their demands to get “more middle school G&T seats and using I.S. 126” (for that purpose).

"And we don't want academically enriched programs but gifted and talented seats," she added.