BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s school District 16, Michelle Adams had a chance to attend P.S. 308’s gifted-and-talented program.
Nearly 20 years later, such specialized opportunities have vanished from the neighborhood’s schools, prompting the 33-year-old mother to take action for her son’s future.
Adams, along with more than 100 other local parents, joined a newly formed group aimed at enriching the area’s public school options.
“There are a bunch of failing schools around us,” Adams said.
“A neighborhood is more than where you live, it’s where you go to school, and we want kids to have a camaraderie and pride in being from District 16.”
Mothers and fathers of young children came together over the summer to create the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee, united by a concern over the quality of education in the area, organizers said.
Many parents were sending their kids outside of the district, attracted by “robust” programs in other schools that included afterschool activities or advanced language immersion, according to the group’s creators.
To address the lack of options in Bed-Stuy, committee members are studying possibilities that include working with an existing school to determine its needs, starting a new magnet or dual language program, or creating an entirely new school, organizers said.
The committee is geared towards moms and dad of kids aged 4 and younger.
While the group is still in its planning stages, parents are conducting tours of area schools to build partnerships and find ways to become involved.
“Parents are thinking about what schools need on their wish list, what changes they’d like to make,” said member Nicole Tavares, 40.
“We’re trying to find, generally, what parents are really looking for, get more information and find out what’s happening at the schools to get us to think deeply.”
Members meet on a regular basis to share their observations and concerns, which include lack of funding and under-enrollment within the district.
For Adams, she hopes to see well-rounded programs in Bed-Stuy’s schools where kids are encouraged to think outside the box.
“I want my son to love school and be at a place where they’re teaching him reading, to love and comprehend, not just to pass a state test,” she said.
“For me, the push is heavy: I’m an African-American woman raising an African-American boy, and everything tells me he’s going to fail. I refuse to be a statistic.”
Whether it’s through fundraising for neighborhood schools or hosting town hall meetings, members are looking to increase parental involvement to bring positive change, Adams added.
A prime example is Clinton Hill’s P.S. 11, members say, where parents’ commitment helped bring reform.
“If we can just appeal to all classes, all races, we’ll definitely have a voice,” Adams said.
“We’ll have a fighting shot at giving our children a great education. Our children are our investment.”
The Bed-Stuy Parents Committee is looking to reach out to all parents within the district, members said.
The group has already been in touch with local elected officials to help spread the word about bringing gifted-and-talented programs to the neighborhood, according to organizers.
BSPC’s will host its next meeting on Nov. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at St. Philip's Church, 265 Decatur St. District 16 superintendent Evelyn Santiago and CEC 16 President NeQuan McLean are scheduled to address the group.
For more information, visit the BSPC website here.