Cypress Hills

Job description

New York

Parents want their struggling school to get more time to improve

I.S. 171 Parents at an "early engagement" meeting. Parents at a school they say was left to fail by a former principal are hoping that a new administration can keep the school doors open. After receiving a failing grade on its progress report this year, I.S. 171 in Cypress Hills is one of 20 schools the Department of Education is publicly considering for closure. But at a meeting to discuss the school's future Wednesday evening, parents, students and alumni said the school shouldn't be judged based on its past performance because new school leadership has already begun to turn things around. First-year principal Barbara Kendall was hired a week before the year began after former principal Yolanda Fustanio resigned at the end of the last school year. Parents and students complained that under Fustanio's leadership, enforcement of the school's discipline code eroded so badly that the school had become unsafe. "The hallways were like traffic in Times Square," a sixth-grade girl said at the meeting. Shamona Kirkland, a District 19 Community Education Council member whose son is in seventh grade at I.S. 171, said Fustanio had turned into an absentee principal by the end of her tenure. District 19 Superintendent Rosemary Mills gives opening remarks at I.S. 171 "I saw her maybe once or twice the whole school year," Kirkland said. "I had to keep reminding myself what her name was every time I saw her." The comments came at an "early engagement" meeting with Rosemary Mills, District 19's superintendent, in the school's auditorium. It was part of a series of meetings that the DOE is organizing for each of the low-performing schools before it decides whether to shutter them. Two other meetings at I.S. 171 included officials from the United Federation of Teachers and the school's internal leadership team.