Parents, Council Members Debate Best Middle School for Upper East Side
Upper East Side parents came in droves to a Community Education Council District 2 (CECD2) meeting on Jan. 25 to advocate for one of two resolutions that would decide what type of middle school will open when space at P.S. 158 becomes available: a school for general education students or for the gifted.
After listening to the public outcry, CECD2 members voted for the creation of a district middle school in the top floors of the P.S. 158 building and opposed the introduction of a satellite campus of The New York City Lower Laboratory School for Gifted Education, or Lower Lab.
P.S. 158, located on York Avenue and E. 77th St., is situated in an area where a middle school is in high demand. “District 2 is a tremendously sprawling district that almost covers all of Manhattan,” said Alan Cohen, the Lower Lab PTA co-president. Cohen advocated for the opening of Lower Lab Middle School. “There are not enough middle schools in the Upper East Side,” he added.
P.S. 158 parents strongly opposed the Lower Lab expansion. “The middle school should be open to all District 2 students,” said Alison Bower, a parent who called the resolution an “elitist and self-serving proposal.”
Ann Lindenbaum, another P.S. 158 parent, clamored for a freestanding school. “It is imperative that all children in District 2 have equal access to these new seats,” she said.
The meeting got heated when Lower Lab parents spoke to the audience. “I will not tolerate potshots at our kids,” said Lower Lab parent David Cohen.
During their deliberation, CECD2 members openly expressed their reluctance to the Lower Lab expansion. “The resolution, as it stands, I will not support,” said Tamara Rowe. Another member, Sarah Chu, said, “because we were hit with all this data today that we don’t understand, I think that we can’t definitely say yet what we need in this community.”
CECD2 members also raised the question of how the principal would administer the Lowe Lab Middle School if it were housed in P.S. 158 — nearly 20 blocks away from the elementary school.
Demetri Ganiaris, a CECD2 member, suggested a special session to specifically express the logistics of the resolution to expand the gifted and talented school. However, the other members did not uphold his request and the majority voted against the proposed expansion.
Parents also expressed their dissent to housing a charter school in P.S. 158 or anywhere else in their district. Earlier that week, a Daily News article announced Eva Moskowitz’s plans to expand her dynasty — Success Academy charter schools — into high-performing neighborhoods. “We definitely do not want a charter school in our building,” said Cynthia Wong, a P.S. 158 parent.
At the meeting, CECD2 First Vice President Simon Miller said there have been talks percolating in the Department of Education about opening charter schools in affluent neighborhoods like the Upper East Side for some time. He then said: “You really have to remain vigilant.” #