W’burg parents fight city’s school-closing plan

Angry Williamsburg parents and teachers claim the city “failed the community” by proposing to cut three grades from a beloved but struggling S. Third Street elementary school.

More than 200 opponents of the Bloomberg administration’s bid to eliminate kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classes at PS 19 lashed out against the plan, chastising the mayor as a “liar,” “criminal,” and “thug” on Wednesday in a contentious public hearing — the second in two days for the neighborhood, where the city is also making a controversial push to open a charter school inside a nearby middle school.

“You’re prime real estate — within three years, there’s going to be a charter school in here,” said PS 19 teacher Pat Tambakis, who urged public school parents to “fight for their kids.”

“They’re teasing us, they’re lying to us,” said Tambakis. “I’m going to go out fighting and screaming.”

PS 19 received a failing mark last year from the Department of Education for reporting poor math and English language scores, prompting the city to call for the elimination of three grades from the 378-child school.

But critics of the closure plan allege the city didn’t do its part to help the school succeed.

“Instead of pointing to PS 19, the Department of Education leaders needs to look at themselves,” said Community Education Council 14 member Elaine Manatu. “They have given us inadequate support and they don’t meet the needs of our kids.”

Department of Education officials dispute allegations of neglect and insist the city supports all of its schools.

“The decision to close a school is a difficult one,” said Deputy School Chancellor Dorita Gibson. “We don’t take it lightly.”

The city first announced its plan to eliminate three grades at PS 19 in December, when it also proposed opening Success Academy Williamsburg, a branch of a high-achieving charter school network run by a former city politician, inside JHS 50 on S. Third Street.

If the state approves the plan, the city will phase out PS 19 kindergarten classes this fall, cut the first grade in 2013, and nix the second grade in 2014. Grades three through five would remain intact and a new public school, PS 114, would fill the vacant classrooms.

The city will decide PS 19’s fate in early February.