Karel Klimnik transcript of testimony before the BOE, August 16, 2018

Good evening everyone.

I wanted to update Board members on the situation at Strawberry Mansion high school. Many of you expressed a commitment to transparency and community involvement. None of which were present at the District called Mansion Community Meeting on August 14. It was not surprising but appalling. Details were in short supply at this meeting. There was no sign in sheet, agenda, handouts, or power point. At one point a community member asked how many students were presently enrolled in each grade for the upcoming year. No one knew the answer. Every topic that District staff raised from sports to the culinary program was so vague that community members had to press for details that still were not forthcoming. A staffer from Sen Hughes office felt compelled to ask District staff to define their vision for Mansion. She offered help finding partners. Why wasn’t the senator’s office involved from the beginning? The District announced their plans in late March so why are they scrambling to find programs now? A parent with a Special Needs child at Mansion said “I have heard nothing about Spec Needs students. There should have been someone here tonight speaking about the Spec Needs population.”

One Bright Ray is occupying the fifth floor and no info has been provided about sharing the cafeteria, gym or other spaces. The district response to community requests to meet with them was that you can meet them at the cook out on August 25. At the July 31 working group meeting we were told that the District was meeting with One Bright Ray that Friday. The community was not invited. There are serious concerns about placing a program for adults from all over the city into a comprehensive high school with no apparent plan. Community members have offered resources for students including a neighborhood auto mechanic willing to accept apprentices and a financial services worker eager to lead Financial Literacy classes. This young man came to the Aug 14 meeting with a handout describing classes his group is offering at other District schools. The community is invited to working group meetings and shut out from any participation in decision -making. Dr. Hite has created a wall of distrust with his pronouncements that routinely exclude stakeholders.

The June 21 SRC resolution A19 truncating the 9th grade at Mansion makes no sense unless the ultimate goal is closing the comprehensive high school and turning it into a beehive of vendors such as One Bright Ray. The district acts like a colonial invader mandating actions independent of any stakeholders. It’s time to stop this and emerge from your fortress and listen to the community you are invading.

We ask you to pass an action affirming that 9th graders will be admitted to the Strawberry Mansion Comprehensive High School for the 2019/20 school year. This dismantling of our public schools has got to stop. Our schools need support and resources, not selling off to vendors.