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Protestors hold their sign at the Don't Stop Possible education rally on Foley Square Oct. 2

Bronx charter students and parents rally in Manhattan against failing public schools

Thousands of parents, teachers, and charter school students dressed in all red “Don’t Steal Possible,” t-shirts rallied Oct. 2 in Manhattan’s Foley Square to call attention to the failures of the Department of Education.

Instead of pushing pro-charter demands, participants focused on persistently failing schools in the city system, a rallying cry meant to call attention to charter schools as solutions.

Omar Soto, 7, from Success Academy Bronx 1 holds a  Don't Stop Possible sign in Spanish. Jamari Hysaw/BRONX INK

Omar Soto, 7, was excused from Success Academy Bronx 1 on Oct. 2 to join the Manhattan “Don’t Stop Possible” rally with a hand-painted contribution. (Jamari Hysaw/BRONX INK)

“I’m shocked to say that more than 143,000 students city-wide are stuck in failing schools,” said democratic Assemblyman Robert Rodrigues who represents East Harlem.“That’s not a statistic that’s a crisis. We must stop playing politics with the future of our children.”

Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who represents the Bronx and Westchester, took the mic to describe a Carribbean-born Bronx mother, whose children were first placed in special education in a public school and are now earning straight-As in a Bronx charter school.

More than 9,000 children from 32 charter schools in the Success Academy charter network were excused from school Thursday and given the option to attend the rally if they were accompanied by a chaperone.

Throughout the event, Emcee Samantha Tweedy announced the rally was “21,000 strong to fight for every single kid in our city to have a great school.”

After the rally, organizers from the Success Academy charter networks gave parents metro tickets to return home, or to bring their children back to school for a half day.

Families for Excellent Schools, the primary pro-charter organizing advocacy group, was expected to use the event to openly push legislators to expand New York State’s charter cap. The message in the end was more subtle. The rally’s location near Tweed Hall, headquarters of the Department of Education, was an indication that the agenda was targeted toward City Hall public school policies. Currently, New York City has 183 charter schools, with 28 more approved but not yet open, a small percentage of the total 1,750 public schools.

Public school parents from a public advocacy group handed out fliers at the rally calling for Families for Excellent Schools and other organizing groups to reveal their hedge fund-backed donors.

“The folks funding this have done nothing but steal the very ‘possible’ out of our schools,” said Zakiyah Ansari, the advocacy director at Alliance for Quality Education, a public school advocacy group. Ansari walked through Thursday’s crowd with another public school teacher distributing their counter message.

The funders, Ansari claimed, are the “one percent of the one percent,” and their goal is to privatize the schools, not provide a quality education. “These are the same people that crashed our economy,” she said. “Public school families are tired of seeing them try to make money privatizing our schools.”

Protestors hold their sign at the Don't Stop Possible education rally on Foley Square Oct. 2

Critics of the protest claim that charter rally organizers represent “the one percent of the one percent.”  (Jamari Hysaw/BRONX INK)

Other counter protesters carried a large sign that read “#RevealYourDonors Wall-St? Wal-Mart?” “These are Wall Street Tycoons using education as a political front to block a minimum wage increase and more affordable housing,” said Elzora Cleveland, parent leader with New York Communities for Change, a pro-public school advocacy group.

A special education teacher in a Harlem public school said she believes the slogan, “Don’t Stop Possible” is a joke.  “For eight years, Harlem Success Academy has stolen from us,” said Mindy Rofier, who teaches in a public school in Harlem, a neighborhood with the highest concentration of charters in the city. “My school has the castaways Harlem Academy doesn’t want.”

Rally organizers did not reveal the total cost or source of their funding. However, they did point out with pride their own personal public school roots.  Included in the group of public school alums were Sen. Klein, musical performer Questlove, Assemblymen Rodrigues and Marcos Crespo, Harlem Success Academy 5’s Principal, Khari Shabazz, and parent organizers Shamona Kirkland and Au Hogan.

Charter school officials rallied what they claimed were more than 20,000 parents and students on Foley Square in Manhattan  calling for "great schools" (Jamari Hysaw/BRONX INK)

Charter school boosters gathered what they claimed were more than 20,000 parents and students on Foley Square in Manhattan calling for “great schools” (Jamari Hysaw/BRONX INK)

The Bronx was well represented at the rally. Andrea Soto of the Bronx brought her son, Omar, 7, who attends Success Academy Bronx 1. “I’m here because I want everyone to have not a failing school, but a good school with supplies,” said Omar holding a painted sign that read “Niño’s No Pueden Esperar!

“I’m here to support you,” said his mother.

Posted in Bronx Beats, Education, Featured, Politics0 Comments

Police searching for missing 11-year-old

CBS: Police are looking for a missing 11-year-old boy in the Bronx. Sgroilin Santana, who lives on Elliot Place near Grand Concourse, was last seen at his school around 7:30 a.m. Thursday, police said.

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Pedestrian killed by MTA in Mott Haven

ABC: A man was struck and killed by a city bus early Friday morning. Around 1:30 a.m., the pedestrian was hit at Willis Avenue and East 147th Street in the Mott Haven section. 

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Man arrested for intruding on school grounds

News12: A man was arrested Thursday for allegedly intruding on the grounds of a Bronx school.

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NYCHA’s Parkside Houses to get $3 million in security upgrades

THE BRONX – New security measures are on the way for one housing development in the borough. Local leaders held a press conference at the Parkside Houses to announce a $3 million grant to help NYCHA step up safety there.

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Armed 19-year-old shot by police in Mott Haven

THE BRONX – An armed teenager was shot by police in Mott Haven Monday night. According to investigators, two officers chased the 19-year-old after he allegedly fired a .22 caliber revolver near East 146th Street and College Avenue at around 6 p.m. 

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Teen killed in in double stabbing outside Samuel Gompers High School


teenager is dead following a double stabbing outside a Bronx school. The stabbing happened near Samuel Gompers High School on East 147th Street and Wales Avenue at around 4 p.m. Monday. According to police, 18-year-old Joshua Acosta died Tuesday morning at Lincoln Hospital after sustaining stab wounds to his torso. 

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Defendant’s Girlfriend Testifies Against Him with iPhone Footage of Alleged Assault

A 25-year-old mother of two testified against the father of her six-month-old infant in Bronx Supreme Court on Wednesday, as the first witness in his trial on 28 counts of assault, possession of a weapon and attempted murder.

The witness, Vateya Prentiss, covered her face as the prosecutor showed the jury graphic video Prentiss had taken with her iPhone, recording the alleged crime that took place on January 6, 2013. “It’s disturbing. It bothers me, the way I was reacting and everything,” she said when Bronx District Attorney Marisol Martinez Alonso, asked why she had averted her gaze. Across the courtroom, wearing a trim dark suit, the defendant, Rodrigo Neri, 28, looked away as well.

Prentiss testified that she and Neri, her boyfriend of three years, were on their way to a friend’s house when they spotted an acquaintance, Jamell Mungin, standing outside of his apartment building at 863 Melrose Avenue near 161st Street. They saw Mungin run inside and come out again and Neri told Prentiss he thought Mungin had a gun, she said in her testimony. The two men began exchanging blows in a fistfight that Prentiss captured on her pink and white iPhone 4S.

The DA also played two other video clips, both from surveillance cameras outside of the victim’s building.

Together, the footage clearly shows Mungin swinging at Neri with a knife and stabbing him through his jacket before Neri shoved him down the concrete steps in front of his building. Mungin hit the pavement and lay there motionless. Neri, wearing Timberland boots, stomped Mungin’s head half-a-dozen times. Then Neri went up the stairs, calmly walked back down, and sliced Mungin’s face from his ear to his mouth. Mungin later received treatment for a fractured orbital socket and 60 stitches, according to the criminal complaint. Mungin has not been charged in the incident.

“I’m an animal,” Neri can be heard saying in iPhone the video.

Prentiss’s voice can be heard throughout the three-minute brawl, too. “Get that nigga, babe,” she said while continuing to film the altercation. “Get that bitch. Fuck him up.”

For egging her boyfriend on, Prentiss was also charged with assault and attempted murder. She pleaded guilty to the felony of assault with intent to cause serious physical injury, agreeing to testify in his trial in exchange for a sentence of five years probation.

The couple was also arrested for giving a false report to police on the day of the incident.  Leaving Mungin lying unconscious in a pool of blood, they took a cab to St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan –rather than going to nearby Lincoln Hospital — after Prentiss noticed that Neri was “leaking blood,” from stab wounds, according to her testimony. They told police at the hospital that Neri had acquired his wounds in a fight at a train station in the area.

At issue in the assault and murder case is whether Neri attacked Mungin with the intent to cause serious injury or to kill. The prosecution will argue that once Mungin was lying unconscious on the pavement and was no longer a threat, Neri crossed the line from self-defense into violent crime.

During a break in the trial on Wednesday, Neri dandled his young son, Princeton, on his hip for a few minutes before handing him over to a babysitter. After Neri left the area, Prentiss held Princeton and then pushed him in his stroller through the airy halls of the courthouse.

Prentiss said she and Neri are still a couple, but by court order, they are not allowed to see each other.

“It was nerve wracking to get up there and show people that video and have them paint whatever image they’re going to see of me based on that,” she said. “But the truth is the truth.”

Prentiss also faces a year in prison for an unrelated charge of assault against a friend, which violated the terms of her plea deal in this case.


Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime0 Comments

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