City Councilman-elect Robert Cornegy holds summit with P.S. 3 Principal Beecher
By Stephen Witt
A Bedford-Stuyvesant public school is in danger of losing its highly touted Gifted & Talented program after its pipeline grades were dismantled, and the Department of Education (DOE) is steering its G &T students to programs in Prospect Heights and Park Slope.
P.S. 3, the Bedford Village School, on Jefferson Avenue between Franklin and Bedford Avenues, has had a G&T program for kindergarten through 5th grade for more than two decades. Two years ago, the DOE’s Portfolio Planning and Gifted and Talented Offices closed the school’s kindergarten G&T class, and this school year it closed the 1st grade G&T class.
P.S. 3 Principal Kristina Beecher said she has never been approached by anyone in either office or the DOE regarding this and was never given a reason for the closure of these classes.
Beecher said also unbeknownst to her, the Gifted and Talented Office informed parents of the school’s students who pass the 90% threshold of the G&T test that P.S. 3 is not one of the options for registering their child in a G&T class. They are instead given the option to register their child at P.S. 9 (Prospect Heights) or P.S. 282 (Park Slope), despite the fact that they live in Bed-Stuy and are zoned for P.S. 3.
“I found out about this from a parent that wanted to keep her child in the program here,” said Beecher, adding not having a kindergarten and first grade G&T class will negatively impact enrollment and jeopardize next year’s second-grade G&T class.
The cuts to P.S. 3’s G&T program comes three weeks after Our Time Press exclusively reported that School District 16, which covers a large part of Bed-Stuy, was the only district in Brooklyn without a G & T program.
P.S. 3 is located in School District 13. Additionally, P.S. 93, also in District 13, has a G&T program for kindergarten and first grade.
Borough-wide, there are 34 Gifted and Talented programs at schools in every Brooklyn district except District 16. District 20 schools, which are mainly made up of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, have 10 or slightly less than a third of the borough’s Gifted and Talented programs.
This includes the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, which is one of the city’s five magnet Gifted and Talented schools drawing children from across the borough and city. Seventy-five percent of the students attending this school are white and 13 percent Asian, six percent are black and six percent are Hispanic.
DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield said the reason Bed-Stuy didn’t have many Gifted and Talented programs was because they lacked the students that could pass the test.
But Beecher’s current enrollment in G&T classes are full, and she maintains even more can be done to find G&T children in the community with outreach, transparency and accountability on the DOE’s part.
“In order to make the process for G & T fair, we should have a registration process where it’s publicly known, and schools in the community are aware of the benchmark so that a parent in Bed-Stuy has some kind of information and leverage to get to this program,” she said.
Beecher also suggested the DOE office should provide the schools and parents data regarding the number of students within the district that pass the G&T tests.
City Councilman-elect Robert Cornegy, who is making it a priority to put G&T programs back in District 16, said he visited P.S. 3 expecting to be pleased with the classes only to learn the DOE is trying to gut them.
“I’m not one given to conspiracy theories, but this appears insidious,” he said. “I’d thought I’d be happy to see a Gifted & Talented program here, but there’s an attempt to disintegrate the program based on the parents choice for this school in this district.”
Cornegy said he’s already had preliminary talks with Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, and that he is formulating concrete steps to present to both the City Council and the mayor regarding both the equitable placement of G&T programs and outreach to parents concerning when and where G&T placement tests are held.