A few weeks ago, I attended a Town Hall event at PS 811 in Sheepshead Bay. I went there because my older daughter, Isabelle, is a fourth grader at Success Academy Bensonhurst, and she and her classmates need a space for a Success Academy middle school next year.
This issue is especially important because at our zoned school student achievement is below the city average — and that average is far below that of Success Academy Bensonhurst. While district school families have known for months what their options are, Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education have been continually stonewalling Success Academy’s requests for middle school space. Their actions have left Success Academy parents like me in a constant state of anxiety, not knowing if I would have to uproot my daughter’s life by sending her to a district school.
So at the Town Hall, I asked Mayor de Blasio when we would hear about middle school space for our children. I explained that I was desperate, and so were other parents. I am truly terrified of public speaking, so the fact that I asked this question was a sign of despair after nothing else seemed to work.
Instead of giving me a real answer or even an honest response, Mayor de Blasio pretended he had no idea what I was talking about — despite being on the record on the issue many times before.
I followed up in person with Dr. Dorita Gibson, the DOE’S deputy chancellor. Her response? “You have nothing to worry about.” She assured me over and over that the DOE would follow up with me personally with an answer to my question: When will my daughter have a middle school space?
What did Dr. Gibson and Mayor de Blasio do instead?
They bounced me from one impersonal email to the next, with vague promises of getting an answer soon. Finally, after waiting and waiting, this was the administration’s response:
It doesn’t take a high-achieving Success Academy scholar to realize that this is a meaningless form letter. After openly discussing my daughter’s future in public, I was insulted with this generic, nonsensical response.
I wonder: in the Mayor’s position of power, how would he feel if someone who reported to him, someone he had to hold accountable, responded to an important question of his this way. After all, don’t the Mayor and Dr. Gibson report to New York City families? Their responses have been unprofessional, especially for public officials, and parents like me expect far better.
Success Academy has been the only educational solution for my family, and I have been thrilled with both of my daughters’ educational experiences there. Success Academy Bensonhurst is in the top 2% of all schools in New York State in English, and the top 1% in math. The children there receive an extraordinary education, and have incredible, loving, well-trained teachers. I can only hope that my daughter has the continued opportunity to go there for middle school.
I urge the Mayor to listen to his constituents and honor our request: Provide Success Academy families an immediate resolution on middle school space.
Ilona Bobritsky is a lifelong Brooklyn resident and the mother of two daughters who attend Success Academy Bensonhurst.