The Department of Education’s well honed performance ax will not be coming down on PS 114, according to a surprising 11th-hour compromise that spared the embattled Canarsie school — but a separate-but-equal charter school will open inside the 100-year-old city building.
Those attending a Monday evening protest outside the Remsen Avenue school were decrying the expected loss of PS 114 one minute and cheering the Department of Education the next when word came down on the city’s decision. Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, who had recently joined the fight to save the school, made the announcement.
“For years, the parents and teachers of PS 114 have raised their voices to save this school and at long last, the Department of Education has heard them,” De Blasio said during the protest — one of two he’s hosted over the last week — the other outside the Department of Education’s headquarters in Manhattan. “This is a major victory for this close-knit school community. PS 114 deserved a second chance and now it will have one.”
The decision came just 24-hours before the Department of Education’s Panel for Education Policy was expected to vote in favor of phasing out PS 114, which had failed several performance reviews over the past year.
But teachers and school stakeholders say they’re not responsible for PS 114’s poor marks. They claim the school is still reeling from its time under Principal Maria Pena-Herrara, whose poor management left the school $180,000 in debt.
PS 114 is the only school slated for closure that the Department of Education has spared in the last two years.
School’s Chancellor Cathie Black said her office received “significant feedback” from teachers, parents and the surrounding community against PS 114’s closure, but would not say exactly why the school survived.
“After extensive discussions with the PS 114 community and local elected officials about the struggles this school has faced and its capacity to better serve its students, we have decided to keep PS 114 open,” Black said in a statement. “In the coming days we will work to develop a comprehensive plan for the school that will give it a real opportunity for success.”
But the key to its survival was compromise. Several concessions were made for PS 114 to remain: Political and civic leaders promised to double their funding to the embattled school over the next year and the Explore charter school, which was expected to take over PS 114 once it was phased out, is still going to call the building home, explained Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Canarsie), who advocated for PS 114 at several meetings with city and Department of Education officials.
“There is room in the building and [the charter school] is going to use the extra space,” Fidler said, calling the apparent compromise “an absolute victory.”
“[This win] says that the [Department of Education’s] process is not a farce. They were able to hear what we were saying without catcalls and heckling,” Fidler said, referring to the cantankerous public hearings on several other school closings in which Chancellor Black was booed. “I have to hand it to the Chancellor, it takes a big person to admit that they didn’t do the right thing.”