News | West Harlem

At Department of Education meeting, talk of how to fix school

  • Eva Kalikoff for Spectator
    LET'S TALK | Wadleigh principal Tyee Chin and DOE employees Colleen Kida and Bonnie Laboy at Monday’s meeting.

At a sparsely attended meeting to examine performance struggles at a West Harlem school, parents and teachers identified a lack of communication as the main problem.

In the old but ornate auditorium of Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts, parents, Department of Education representatives, and school principal Tyee Chin gathered to address the problems that led to the middle and high schools’ D and F grades, respectively, on the DOE’s annual report cards.

Around 10 parents huddled in the front next to the auditorium’s paint-chipped purple pillars to raise concerns based on their experience with the school.

“We know that student performance at the school is not where we want it to be,” said Bonnie Laboy, the city’s deputy chief education officer, who ran the meeting. 

Wadleigh Middle School saw drops to 3 percent and 0 percent passing on state English/Language Arts and Math tests, respectively. The high school saw a 10-percent drop in the six-year graduation rate and a one-point increase to the four-year graduation rate, now 44 percent.

Chin shared the school report card data with the group and fielded questions about specific class and communication problems. He acknowledged that he has had to step in for a middle school math teacher who has been on medical leave, which has resulted in understaffing issues.

Parents also named other staffing problems, the construction of the library that will prevent its use for another year, and an overall lack of resources as additional obstacles that have prevented the schools from passing on the report card.

“What is it that we can pull together, as a support structure, to shift the grade in the right direction?” Chin asked.

The DOE is organizing a working group to propose changes to the school, Laboy said.

“First we want to hear your input, then to work with the network team to come up with a plan,” Laboy said. “We’ll be working in conjunction with the principal and the network team.”

Michelle Griffin, the mother of an 11th-grader, shared her frustration with the school’s prevention of her daughter’s enrollment in after-school Regents test preparation classes.

“It’s really not available for her because it’s for the kids who really have to graduate,” Griffin said. She said that students are not allowed into those classes until they have already failed the test.

Attendees agreed that promoting parental involvement and interaction with teaching staff would be vital to raising the grades.

Laboy said she had already met with students, the School Leadership Team, and teaching staff.

“At the SLT meeting, communications with parents came up, and that’s an area that we want to explore more,” she said. “In today’s day and age, there need to be more ways of communicating with parents.”

Alverine Thomas said that she is aggressive in making sure that her 11th-grade daughter is actively communicating with the school.

“My child is getting what she needs because I am behind her,” Thomas said. “You can’t leave everything up to the school. Parents have to be involved.” 

Griffin had a slightly different idea as to how communication should work. 

“I think the teachers need to reach out to the parents so that you can get on your child before they fail,” she said. 

Several parents were concerned that they had not heard about the meeting until the last minute, and many said that they had trouble getting in touch with teachers and guidance counselors to get updates on their children.

Chin said that in order to move forward, there must be further parental involvement. He said that for this meeting in particular, there were emails and phone calls to parents, as well as flyers sent home in backpacks.

“The turnout for parents is low,” he told Spectator. “The information is going out. The question is, where is it going? There is a missing link that we need to figure out.”

eva.kalikoff@columbiaspectator.com  |  @evakalikoff

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Anonymous posted on

Maybe the scores at Wadleigh would be better if its parents cared more about their children's education. Obviously they don't, as only 10 parents even bothered to show up to this meeting.

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