Holden slams DOE, Carranza at CEC 24 meeting
by Benjamin Fang
Dec 26, 2019 | 4534 views | 0 0 comments | 239 239 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A planned town hall with Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza in Maspeth was cancelled last Tuesday due to the recent death of a Department of Education (DOE) official.

Tracy Belgrave, 40, was fatally struck by a car in Downtown Brooklyn on December 4. She worked as the deputy chief information officer for finance and administration for DOE.

A memorial service for Belgrave fell on the same night as the town hall with Community Education Council (CEC) 24 at PS 58, causing the cancellation. According to DOE, Carranza communicated to the CEC prior to the meeting that he had a memorial service to attend.

The town hall meeting with the chancellor has been rescheduled to March 19, but the location has yet to be determined.

At the start of the meeting last week, CEC 24 President Lucy Accardo offered her condolences to Belgrave’s family.

“We are so sorry for their loss,” she said. “We can’t imagine the pain they’re going through during the holiday season.”

Despite Carranza’s absence from the meeting, protesters still amassed outside PS 58 before the meeting to protest DOE policies. Roughly two dozen parents chanted in the rain, calling Carranza racist and demanding that he be fired.

Among the protesters was Bernard Chow from Flushing, who said he’s upset at the chancellor for trying to “cancel” the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT). Chow’s son is an alumnus of the Bronx High School of Science.

Chow said the chancellor’s plan to reform the entry process would “control the amount of Asians in those schools.”

“This is a very straightforward violation in terms of discrimination,” he said.

The Flushing parent also called for Carranza’s resignation over what he believed was a delayed response to the comments by Jackie Cody.

Cody, a CEC 22 member in south Brooklyn, referred to Asians as “yellow folks” in a group email, according to reports.

Chow said Cody did not apologize for the remark for eight weeks, and only after Asian parents staged a huge rally in protest.

According to reports, Carranza called the comment “unacceptable” and said it didn’t “meet the high standards to which I hold our parents leaders.”

Inside PS 58, criticism of the chancellor continued. Councilman Robert Holden, who was honored by CEC 24 for his contributions to local schools, blasted Carranza for a variety of school-related issues in Maspeth.

Holden slammed the DOE for investing $30 million to fix up PS 9, a District 75 school for special needs students located in an industrial part of Maspeth. The councilman called the site “the worst building in the district.”

“Those poor children,” he said. “They deserve a better building, not a building in an industrial area surrounded by trucks.”

The DOE, meanwhile, said the upgrades it’s making to the landmarked PS 9 building are making a difference for students and families. The agency will work with the School Construction Authority (SCA) to ensure it remains a safe space for students to learn, a spokesperson said.

For close to a year, Holden fought for a new District 75 school at 78-16 Cooper Avenue, a former factory site in Glendale. He said he was promised a new school “until the chancellor got involved.”

Because PS 9 received investments to the building, the city decided not to open a new District 75 school in Glendale. Instead, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) announced that the Cooper Avenue site would become a 200-bed homeless shelter.

“We need a District 75 school and I’m still fighting,” Holden said. “That’s what I wish we can talk to the chancellor about.”

The councilman also hammered DOE over a grade-fixing scandal at Maspeth High School. Holden said whistleblowers who were former teachers came to him with a “mountain of evidence.”

But when he presented what he called “grade fraud” to the chancellor, Holden said, Carranza “never addressed the issue.”

“Why are we allowing this? We’re cheating the kids,” he said. “The administration at Maspeth High School has to be called to the carpet to answer some questions.”

Holden said the scandal amounts to “organized crime.”

“The DOE should be investigated,” he said. “The DOE has been ignoring this.”

The agency responded that there is an ongoing investigation of the allegations at Maspeth High School, and that it takes any allegations of academic misconduct seriously.

As for the chancellor’s efforts to address desegregation, Holden said the SHSAT should “stand pat.” He has also introduced legislation to expand the Gifted & Talented programs.

On that issue, DOE said it’s having ongoing conversations about the test. The underlying reality, a spokesperson said, is that the segregated specialized high schools won’t change until the test is eliminated.

Several meeting attendees expressed their frustration with the chancellor audibly and visibly. One person even put a chair with a picture of the chancellor attached on the auditorium stage, where it remained for the remainder of the meeting.

“I wasn’t surprised he cancelled tonight,” Holden said. “I don’t think he wanted to come tonight because there would be some tough questions.”

Accardo noted she was “extremely disappointed” that the town hall was cancelled.

“We had a phone call saying this was cancelled, and ‘we wish you guys the best, we’ll be in touch,’” she said. “I was shocked, and I did express that in an email.”

The CEC president said 300 people had RSVP’d on EventBrite, and that notice was given to 600 people on their email list and nearly 1,000 people on their Facebook page. The group also reached out to local civic associations.

Accardo said she was concerned that the town hall would turn out a massive group of parents, only for the chancellor to not attend.

“You’re leaving us to hang out to dry here because you cancelled the meeting,” she said. “We’re disappointed with the top-level people.”

In a statement, DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson said, “We’re sorry that the council member used valuable time at the CEC to continue to make false claims and push forward his irresponsible political agenda.

“We hope that going forward, he will allow for a productive, collaborative meeting in the best interest of our 1.1 million kids,” she added.
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