Parents in one of, if not, the lowest performing school districts in the city took to the streets last week to demand better educational opportunities for their children.
“Priority” and “focus” schools – designated as in need of the most improvement – make up about 40% of all schools in Community Education Council District 9 in the southwest Bronx.
The Oct. 17 “Walk in Our Children’s Shoes” march through Mt. Eden followed the path that Araceli Espejel’s two children – Angeles, 1, and Guadalupe, 3 – would take through their school years in the district, from kindergarten throughout high school.
The district covers Grand Concourse, Morrisania, and Tremont.
The protest march, organized by the New Settlement Apartments Parent Action Committee, included stops at PS 64 and the Taft Educational Campus.
It drew about 50 parents, as well as Senator Gustavo Rivera and a representative from Councilwoman Helen Foster’s office.
“We, the mothers of this community, are here today so that our voice will be heard, so that there will be a change in District 9,” said Espejel. “Now we will march to my daughters’ zoned schools.
“All are on the priority list, which means that they are in the bottom 5% of schools in the state. I don’t want this for my daughters, nor for any of the children of this community.”
The march started at the Espejel home and ended there, and along the way parents were vocal what they saw as concerns in local schools, sometimes making allegations of harrowing situations involving their children.
Parent Yoshika Buchanan said that her daughter Tracey was not challenged enough when she was in Kindergarten at PS 64.
She was traumatized , they added, when she was left alone in front of the school when she was late once picking her up.
“Tracey’s kindergarten teacher was outstanding, but Tracey already knew a lot of what they were learning in kindergarten because I take the time to work with her at home,” said Buchanan.
“I felt she wasn’t being challenged, and I want her to be challenged, and to get the best education,” her mom continued.
“I wanted to go observe the classroom, just to see how she was doing and what they were teaching her, but the school said no.”
Valerie Fernandez, the parent of Nick Ruiz, a fifth-grader at PS 64 , echoed Buchanan’s concerns on children needing more challenging classwork.
“They need more challenging programs here,” said Fernandez, adding that she would like to see new staff members at the school, but believes that the principal should be given a chance to improve it.
Senator Rivera reiterated his pledge to visit every school in his district.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393