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Racial tension simmers over PS 307’s rezoning proposal

Racial tension simmers over PS 307’s rezoning proposal

Roy Ratliff, 28, a resident of the Farragut Housing project in Vinegar Hill, has been using his free time between his full-time job and being a DJ to petition against the rezoning of PS 307. Ratliff has been knocking on the door of each apartment in the housing project with a simple petition- ‘Stop Rezoning PS 307.’

“It is straight and to the point. You don’t want to put too much or people won’t really understand,” he said. He managed to get 400 signatures within two days of petitioning, which include signatures of current students at the school.

In September 2015, the Department of Education put forward proposal to rezone PS 307 in Vinegar Hill to accommodate students from the overcrowded PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights. PS 307 has predominately low-income students of color, largely from the Farragut Housing project. PS 8 students come from more affluent, white families in DUMBO.

Ratliff, a man of color, attended PS 8 as a child. Three buildings of Farragut are zoned to PS 8 and form an integral part of their community. “We used to have a school bus from Farragut to PS 8. We don’t have that anymore and that forced people to have less choice,” he said. His concern is that the rezoning may gradually push the existing PS 307 population to the fringes of the community.

Ratliff is amongst several others objecting towards the rezoning. Reverend Mark Taylor of the Church of the Open Door was vocal about his opposition at a community meeting in PS 307 on September 30th. “This plan omits the obvious racial tension…to say race and class are not issues and that everybody is going to automatically fold together is naïve at the best, dishonest at the worst,” he said, to cheers from the audience.

The PS 8 community credits PS 307 for having smart leaders and abundant resources due to Title 1 funding. This month, the school received $52,000 for a mobile STEM lab in addition to its Magnet STEM grant. “We have amazing partners at the PS 307 PTA, we wish this can happen differently,” said Ansley Samson, a PTA member at PS 8.

Community Education Council 13 will make the final decision in early January. “If there’s trust and accountability, you can do a hell of a lot in 9 months,” said Amy Shire, a board member of the Community Education Council.

The Council is still processing community feedback and both school communities are not exclusively polarized to one side or other. Still, the voices of dissent say that the plan excludes the black community.

Dr. Darian Marcel Parker, the author of ‘Sartre and No Child Left Behind: An Existential Psychoanalytic Anthropology of Urban School’ spoke about the inevitability of conflict during transition. “The country’s history of racial tension is one underlying cause of the currently segregated state of the community and its schools…a hasty plan of forced integration is likely to encourage, rather than diminish, discord,” he said.

 

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November 22, 2015