Conversation with Karen Watts

On Monday 05/13 I met with Executive Superintendent Karen Watts who is in charge of North Brooklyn.

On Friday 05/17 we met again.

This is the topic of our conversation: Read also the comments below where I will add updates

The many conversations I have had with all stakeholders have led me to believe that, unless BHS can be expanded, we need to find an inter-district solution that would serve all DLP students at PS110, PS133, PS20, PS58, and ultimately PS03 and PS05.

Geographically, most of the French-speaking families have lived in what is roughly the North-West part of Brooklyn which encompasses D13, D14, D15, and D16.

Finding a second, more centrally-located school in that area could serve all families in the DLP programs as well as others --whether they are heritage speakers, ELLs, advanced students, or just interested in this idea.

I believe the school would be diverse and integrated. It would provide equity and quality for all students. If the school were to replicate BHS's IB/DLP model, it would provide a strong DLP continuum, one that other linguistic communities could replicate.  

I believe that this school would be a better sell for the current 5th grade families in the appeal process. I also believe that I can help the DOE garner enough support from parents, community leaders, Embassies and consulates, and the business community to make this school flourish.

As a result, Karen Watts and D14 Superintendent Alicja Winnicki are working on a French DLP at IS318. The program would be open to families from the other districts ( the school has a strong chess program which is already borough-wide). Starting the IB at IS318 is under consideration (Karen Watts is a strong proponent of the IB and helped start the IB program at BHS.

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  • On Friday 5/17 I attended a workshop organized by D14 Superintendent Alicja Winnicki at PS18 in Williamsburg, home of a Spanish and a German dual language program. The event focused on partnerships between schools and cultural organizations such as Goethe Institute, Cervantes, China Institute, and others. I represented the Embassy. Karen Watts attended as well as her team.

    Karen Watts talked to me on the side and said she has already submitted a proposal for a new program in response to my request. She did not elaborate. Alicja Winnicki who has been pushing for a French DLP at MS318 reiterated her will and desire to see this program materialize in this middle school. She told me she could open it to families in the other districts and make it borough-wide if necessary (she mentioned that the school has a strong chess program which is borough-wide). 

    I repeated that adding the IB would play a big part, and she is looking into it along with Karen Watts who is a strong proponent of the IB (and helped start the IB program at BHS).

    My feeling is that this group is now working on finding us solutions. Of course, I'd rather have them give us a concrete answer sooner than later. But I believe our call is coming through.

    Now, I also think we should pursue our own conversations with the principals of the schools listed in our forum. Some of you might be willing to help our group and reach out directly to the principals of MS915, MS313, and MS113 to see if they can entertain the idea of a borough-wide French DLP and/or IB program.

    • This is good news, indeed! Thank you for keeping us in the loop, Fabrice!
    • very encouraging! thanks Fabrice

  • I was able to meet with Karen Watts and Anthony Pizzillo, Director of Multilingual Learners. Also in the room, Elsa Nunez from the office of D14 Superintendent Winnicki. All were supportive of the idea described above.

    Schools being considered MS113, MS313, MS915, MS318, plus a school in D16 that is considering an IB. Anthony will reach out to the school principals. MS113 had them really interested because the school has a Spanish DLP and has considered a French DLP in the past. 

    We touched on expanding BHS, or replicating the model if that was not possible. I insisted that the IB + DLP model is a stronger sell. This would exclude candidate schools that are too big or with a school culture already established.

    I repeated that a central middle school, and even a high school, make sense for the French DLP families and the Francophones who reside in the North-West part of Brooklyn. (as opposed to a school in Sunset Park)

    I insisted that DLP students deserved a clear path, a continuum. (as opposed to the current vagueness on what dual language education can be for NYC)

    I believe this office has listened. But I also came to understand that each district superintendent is fighting to retain its students in their district, which makes my proposition for an inter-district solution something they might reject (or absolutely want if their district is under-enrolled).

    All promised to get back to us soon.

    • Thank you, Fabrice! Your help is very much appreciated.
    • Thanks Fabrice for your advocacy. How can we help you build a strong case? We are at your disposal!
    • Right now, any help to get 5th grade parents to sign up to this group would be greatly appreciated.

    • Thanks Fabrice!
      Few comments/questions:
      - about the will to keep students within their district, which we can understand: seems like some/a lot (?) of families within this group reside in D13 already, so that would meet this requirement, no?
      - @Fabrice: I know these conversations are still preliminary and exploratory but, if this project goes through do you think something can be done realistically for september 2019 already or would be for 2020 anyway?
    • During my meeting I insisted that they acted fast. When I asked about feasibility for September, they said it had been done before. MS113 already has a Spanish DLP, and had thought about a French DLP. They already have the experience. I did push them about starting the IB there too as I think this will make a better program.

    • Thank you Fabrice, I think it is great to push for another MS option definitely in D13. Let's hope something can transpire by September.



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