Harvey Austin Elementary School 97 is a school with a number of problems. The struggling school is losing students and was dogged by stories in the fall that administrators there forged Timekia Jones' parent signature on a series of school documents submitted to the state.
Principal Brigette Gillespie is still technically in charge there, but school folks haven't seen much of her in recent weeks while a substitute principal has been filling in.
In today's story, Jones -- a parent facilitator and teachers aide who a received a top award for her contributions as a parent just last year -- was apparently told she could no longer speak with her own childrens' teachers without a BTF union representative present. This declaration, construed by Jones and others as an act of retaliation, has led DPCC President Sam Radford to organize a protest at the school on Thursday and call for "whistleblower protection" for parents.
Supt. Pamela Brown recognizes there are problems here. That's why Harvey Austin School is one of three schools she has singled out for closure. The school is to be "relaunched" in the fall, along with Bennett High School and Martin Luther King School.
Unfortunately, even this closure and reopening process is not going smoothly for School 97. The district issued requests for proposals to either convert the school to a charter school, have it supervised run by an outside educational partnership organization or have the school simply revamped under new management.
But, in providing key school information to interested parties as part of the request for proposals, the district didn't gather the most current data. Instead, it simply pulled information from the NY State Report Card that is nearly two years old.
Back in 2011-12, Harvey Austin only served children from pre-K through sixth grade. But it's added a grade every year since then. It now serves children through grade eight.
You wouldn't know that by reading the proposals for Harvey Austin issued by the district. It lists outdated enrollment information only for pre-K through 6. Administrators cut and pasted the old state data on the proposal forms and sent the packets out. This week, based on observations made by both Radford and The News, the district said it was further clarifying Harvey Austin data in its requests for proposals.
All this seems to be coming rather late for those who had any interest in submitting a proposal to transform and "relaunch" Harvey Austin into high-achieving school. Proposals are still due by Jan. 27, less than two weeks from now. It would seem the deck is stacked against anyone attempting to submit a comprehensive and complete educational proposal for Harvey Austin Elementary -- especially if they're basing their proposals primarily on the information the district chose to provide.
We'll be interested to see who, if anyone, can manage such a feat.
-- Sandra Tan