New Democratic Movement
The Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner Academy
The Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner Academy, proposed in 1995, and named after three civil rights workers slain in Mississippi in 1964, was envisioned as a way to promote better understanding between black and Jewish youngsters. But finding a place to put the school has been like losing a game of musical chairs: its proponents have unsuccessfully sought a home in two Brooklyn school districts.
Beth Lief, the president of New Visions for Public Schools, which has helped community organizations establish nearly two dozen schools, said both examples point to the challenges of selling a new school to local officials. Beyond the educational merits, advocates must contend with other, unforeseen factors, like a lame-duck superintendent or a politically divided board.
The Chaney school, for grades 6 through 12, was to have opened in a neighborhood that had become a symbol of enmity between blacks and Jews: Crown Heights. Last spring, the proposal received a green light from Chancellor Rudy Crew.
But that was not enough to bring the school to life. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the superintendent of School District 17, who supported the idea, left in 1996 and was replaced by an interim chief with little influence. Moreover, the proposed school became enmeshed in a power struggle within the District 17 board, which had been taken over by the Chancellor last year and was split between its elected members and the Chancellor's appointees. A chief architect of the proposed school, Don Murphy, said it became clear that the academy would not find a home in District 17. Board members did not return numerous phone calls last week.
District 15 board members have said they cannot consider the Chaney proposal for this fall because they must solicit proposals for new junior high schools more widely. I think you need some kind of process, said a board member, Margaret Kelly. We're doing this as fast as we can.
The backers of the Chaney school did not give up on District 15. But they have also begun talks with the board of District 21 in Coney Island and are prepared to amend their proposal by turning it into a high school and later adding the lower grades.
If we are at fault here, said Esther Kaplan, the director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and a driving force behind the school, it is that we weren't being cynical and savvy enough to know how political it is.
Individual endorsers of the event included Paul Washington.
The Manifesto Commemoration Committee included Eric Canepa, coordinator; Sam Anderson, Sylvia Aron, Steve Brier, Mary Boger , Kira Brunner, Andrew Comer, Peggy Crane, Steve Duncombe, Peter Filardo, Rosa Garcia, Dan Georgakas, Joan Greenbaum, Ron Hayduk, Bill Henning, Diane Greene Lent, Danny Luce, Bill Koehnlein, Biju Mathew, Eli Messinger , Liz Mestres, Yusuf Nuruddin, Adele Oltman, Ed Ott, Leo Panitch, Renee Pendergrass, Merle Ratner, Colin Robinson, Rosina Rodriguez, Frank Rosengarten, Rob Saute, S Shankar, Sean Sweeney, Kit Wainer, Paul Washington, Juanita Webster, Ethan Young.
- Hard Lessons in Creating a School By SOMINI SENGUPTA Published: April 13, 1997
- Mail Archive website: Communist Manifestivity Conference Schedule, Oct. 28, 1998
- Dem. Left, Spring 1999 page 2