RACIAL HARMONY SCHOOL HOMELESS

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Creators of a small public school based on the theme of racial reconciliation are homeless once again after a second Brooklyn school board brushed off their requests for schoolhouse space.

Since late last year, the backers of the Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner Leadership Academy middle school have sought approval from Community School Board 15 to provide them with space in a partly-vacant Carroll Gardens school. The school board, which has been torn recently by internal battles over the ouster of its superintendent, has thus far failed to even consider the proposal for the 400-student alternative school.

“We need a resolution within the next month to get the school going by fall,” said Don Murphy, a former teacher in Red Hook and recipient of a grant from the New Visions Foundation, a public-private partnership that has developed several small schools.

“Every school that wants to start up needs approval from the central board, but they won’t approve of your existence if you don’t have space,” Murphy added. “We’ve gotten just about every other element of this plan together except the space, but without the space we’re dead in the water.”

Murphy and his colleagues gave up trying to base the school in Crown Heights a few months ago after school board members there said the school’s racial theme wasn’t afrocentric enough (see City Limits, January 1997). Since then, Murphy has canvassed the Carroll Gardens district and made plans to modify the school to accommodate bilingual needs of students in other District 15 neighborhoods including Red Hook and Sunset Park.

“I think the [academy] is a wonderful program,” said School Board 15 member Margaret Kelley. “But we don’t have a process for making these kind of decisions and we don’t want to rush this.” Kelley said the district would probably mail out a request for other small-school proposals before even considering the Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner school.

“That might kill us,” responded Murphy, who said he is tiring of peddling the school district by district.