Metro

NYC pol John Liu calls Gifted and Talented parent forums ‘Orwellian’ theater

State Sen. John Liu ripped the city’s Gifted and Talented parent engagement meetings as staged “Orwellian” theater Wednesday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio nixed the advanced learning format last month in favor of a new structure that would offer accelerated material in general education classrooms.

Along with schools Chancellor Meisha Porter, de Blasio pledged to hold Zoom meetings in all districts to draw feedback on the future of advanced learning.

But some pro-Gifted and Talented parents said the sessions are basically marketing seminars for City Hall’s vision instead of meaningful exchanges of opinion.

Critics charge that the meetings are too short and dominated by DOE officials — leaving scant time for parent comment.

“They pretend to get viewpoints, but in the end it’s all predetermined to support the DOE’s proposal,” said Chien Kwok of Community Education Council 2 in Manhattan.

After tuning in to several of the forums after being flooded with complaints, Liu said the forums fail to adequately involve families.

“It’s theater at best,” he said. “But theater is entertaining and not harmful. This evokes the worst portrayals of Orwellian government.”

At a District 4 meeting earlier this month, pro-Gifted and Talented parents said that the Zoom chat function was disabled because program backers were predominating the conversation.

“This is not parent engagement, this is a lecture,” wrote one poster.

Community Education Council 4 President Kaliris Salas said the chat was halted because some parents were creating a “disrespectful” environment and spreading “misinformation.”

“I am all about open conversation and I welcome discourse,” Salas told The Post Wednesday. “But these people were literally disrupting the meeting. They were questioning everything that was being said, they were calling people liars.”

Naomi Pena, of Community Education Council 1 in Manhattan, said that additional meetings are being held at citywide Gifted and Talented schools and that other viewpoints are being heard.

Salas acknowledged that the hourlong meetings are likely too brief and lamented that only three parents had time to speak at the District 4 meeting.

Protesters gather at City Hall to condemn Mayor Bill de Blasio's handling of the Gifted and Talented public school program on Oct. 14, 2021.
Protesters gather at City Hall to condemn Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the Gifted and Talented public school program on Oct. 14, 2021.
AP Photo/John Minchillo

Parents from other districts said the only meaningful exchanges of opinion come during breakout sessions — but that the content isn’t made accessible after the meetings.

The DOE stressed that chats will remain open for Zoom meetings moving forward.

Opponents of Gifted and Talented programs argue that the admissions model — where kids young as four take a standardized test — is outmoded and confers undue advantage to families of means.

While some backers agree that admissions should be reformed, they counter that advanced learners should have access to accelerated education with peers of comparable ability.

The programs should be expanded rather than eliminated, they contend.

“Parent engagement is critical to Brilliant NYC and these meetings are set up to foster productive discussion and feedback,” said DOE spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon. “We’ve received incredible feedback from parents, educators and community leaders about the meetings that have already been held across the city and can’t wait to visit every district in every borough to continue these conversations.” 


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