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City Official Accused of Silencing Critics of School Desegregation Plan at CEC 24 Meeting, Schools Chancellor Apologizes

P.S. 7 at 80-50 Cornish Ave. in Elmhurst, where a CEC 24 meeting was held on Oct. 23 (Google Maps)

Oct. 26, 2018 By Laura Hanrahan

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has apologized after a city official was accused of silencing parents critical of a school desegregation plan at a Queens District 24 school board meeting.

District 24 Community Education Council (CEC) President Lucy Accardo detailed the account, which took place at a Tuesday evening CEC24 meeting at P.S. 7 in Elmhurst on Facebook earlier today.

At the meeting, two representatives from the NYC Department of Education gave a presentation on the city’s plan to change the eligibility requirements to attend a Specialized High School.

The new plan would see the top students from each middle school admitted to the schools, rather than relying on Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) scores.

De Blasio hopes this move will help to desegregate the schools and give opportunities to more black and Hispanic students.

The meeting on the controversial topic saw some attendees booing and speaking out, according to Accardo, who wrote that she worked to maintain a peaceful atmosphere during the event.

After the presentation, Accardo began calling on the long list of individuals who had signed up to ask questions and offer feedback on the plan. She said attendees had waited three hours up until that point to speak.

With about 10 speakers left, a man confronted Accardo and demanded that the meeting end.

The man, who Accardo writes did not introduce himself during the meeting, was later identified as Robert Perez, senior adviser to the office of the mayor.

“It was completely shocking and scary to say the least,” Accardo wrote in the post, adding that Perez has been known to attend CEC meetings in an attempt to silence attendees on this issue in the past.

In an email to Chancellor Carranza sent on Wednesday and included in the Facebook post, Accardo alleges that Perez told her to “please stop this already” and “this is ridiculous.”

Accardo describes Perez’s behavior as aggressive, hostile and threatening.

“[The] parents were essentially being told to shut up and go home, indirectly, through CEC24 whose meeting was in session,” Accardo wrote in her lengthy Facebook post.

Carranza, according to the post, responded to Accardo’s e-mail within the hour.

“I apologize for the behavior you describe in this email,” part of Carranza’s response reads. “I will follow up on this concern with the appropriate staff.”

Council Member Bob Holden, who opposes the removal of the SHSAT, spoke out against Perez’s actions.

“As public servants, our job is to listen to the concerns of our constituents and address them, period,” Holden said. “It is appalling that someone who is paid to represent the people would not only attempt to silence these concerned parents at a public meeting, but do so by intimidating members of the CEC.”

Accardo said in sharing the post that she hoped to raise awareness of the incident, and gladly shared information with the press “as a moral obligation to parents and other leaders across the city.”

She also wrote that the mayor’s SHST plan “makes very little sense to anyone,” and said parents and other attendees at the meeting had “every right” to be angry and frustrated with the proposal.

“We stand together as one voice and oppose this proposal,” Accardo wrote. “We also oppose anyone who attempts to shut down a parent’s right to free speech.”

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