By David Brand
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza visited Jamaica Hills Wednesday for the latest stop on his citywide school district tour, an event that alienated several local parent leaders who questioned why a meeting with Carranza was abruptly capped at just 20 attendees from three large school districts that span Central and Southeast Queens.
An official from the Department of Education’s Queen South office emailed parent coordinators from Districts 27, 28 and 29 about the Aug. 7 “DOE In Your Borough Community Chat” on July 29. The three districts cover a wide swath of Queens, including the neighborhoods of Laurelton, St. Albans, Ozone Park, South Jamaica and Richmond Hill.
“At this time, I am asking that you please send me a list of up to three parents’ names you feel will want to be part of this visit,” the official wrote to school officials and parent leaders in an email obtained by the Eagle. “The selected parents should be active in your school community. During this visit, parents will have the opportunity to ask the Chancellor a question.”
The email noted that parents would have to submit their questions by Aug. 1 in advance of the event, which took place at Thomas A. Edison Career & Technical Educational High School in Jamaica Hills.
On Aug. 5, two days before the event, the DOE official sent another email informing parents that only the first 20 parents who responded to the email could attend “due to limited spacing.”
“Please be aware that we will not have the liberty to accept additional participants at this point, unless we receive a cancellation notice from the current participants,” the DOE official wrote in the Aug. 5 email obtained by the Eagle.
Queens South parents who were excluded from the event reached out to the Eagle and said they didn’t buy the excuse that there was “limited spacing” at a school with a large auditorium. The parents asked to remain anonymous out of concern for retribution from the schools or DOE, but said there were a lot of issues they hoped to raise with Carranza, including an inadequate number of guidance counselors and access to gifted and talented programs.
There other citywide education issues that hit Queens particularly hard.
A 2018 City Council report determined that Queens schools are the most overcrowded in the city, with capacity at 108 percent on average. District 28 was listed as among the seven most crowded districts, with a “utilization rate” of 105 percent.
Hundreds of Queens schools are forced to schedule extremely early lunch times, often due to that overcrowding, City Limits reported in June.
DOE spokesperson Will Mantell said the event Wednesday was the “latest of several successful small group conversations” between parents and Carranza, but added that PTA members “do not automatically attend.”
“Superintendents are able to invite any parent from their district, and are asked to invite a small group of parents and parent leaders,” Mantell said. “This includes parents who might not have other opportunities to meet with the Chancellor and senior DOE leaders. The CEC president and PTA president of the host school are also invited to DOE In Your Borough Community Chats.”