Students and parents from Courtlandt School, PS1X, make their case for keeping their principal, at the Community Education Council District 7 meeting in June. By Christine Zeiger.

Local schools can soon expect an infusion of badly needed funding that is expected to help reduce class sizes and upgrade education for students in special needs categories, among other benefits, but some wonder if it’s enough.

At the June 4 meeting of Community Education Council District 7, South Bronx schools superintendent Dr. Roberto Padilla told the audience that local schools are earmarked to receive $19 million out of a pot of $800 million the state awarded the city, as the result of 2007 legislation.

The meeting took place at John Peter Zenger PS 18 on Morris Avenue in Mott Haven. Public meetings, where CEC 7 officials meet in local schools with parents and students from Mott Haven, Port Morris and Melrose take place once monthly during the school year, to discuss educational issues.

Under Contract for Excellence legislation, which passed in 2007, New York State is giving money to city schools to reduce class sizes, expand hours for pre-k, and provide more focus on students with special needs such as those with disabilities or below the poverty line, among several features.

South Bronx schools have reached the necessary threshold to receive the funds, but a member of the audience questioned whether the allocated amount will serve its purpose.

“Is the amount enough?” she said. “District 7 is under-resourced, and we need to be sure that we are leveling up to meet the needs of our children.”

Padilla suggested the public submit comments about the city’s proposal to, and told the crowd that education administrators are listening to suggestions.

“We can think of more teachers, more space, or restructuring,” he said. “This feedback will be used to inform the city council, the relevant elected officials…and me.”

The public has until June 24 to submit feedback on proposed legislation.

Responding to concerns about excessive absenteeism, Padilla said attendance has been stellar in local schools. He showed a graphic from the education department in his slideshow, showing attendance for pre-K to be tops among the six Bronx school districts.

“Kids are showing up at school more than any other district in the Bronx,” he said, adding “we are one of the best attended [districts] in the entire city. Families have responded positively to the stress we have placed on parents and caretakers about attendance.”

As the superintendent was making his presentation, a group of students and parents from another area school filed into the auditorium, with an entirely different matter on their minds—-the future of their interim principal, Pedro Rivera. Some from the group of about 50 held up signs with their own school emblem on it, Courtlandt School B1X.

When the meeting ended, they stood to urge district leadership to reinstate Rivera as the principal, touting his leadership so far. A woman who announced herself as a member of the parents association at Courtlandt School made her pitch.

“We feel he has done a great job,” she said. “You shouldn’t let him go!”

Standing in a group of parents wearing shirts with the Courtlandt School logo, one woman told Padilla in Spanish, “Mr. Rivera has been available to us parents and has brought a change in our kids’ lives.”

A man in the group said, “Mr. Rivera was the first person at school and the last to leave every day. Our lives were dark, and he brought the light.”

”There has been a long process already in place,” Padilla responded. “I will make a decision within the next two weeks and I will include what you have said about Mr. Rivera in making my choice.”


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