Central Park East Schools History in 1994 Article

City Journal – Winter 1994
Original Link: www.city -journal.org/printable.php?id=1414 1/10

City Journal Article by Seymour Fliegel 12-1994 – Click Here to Download PDF

Debbie Meier and the Dawn of Central Park East
When Teachers Take Charge of Schooling
by Seymour Fliegel
In the early 1970s East Harlem epitomized the collapse of the New Y ork City school system. Only 16
percent of School District Four’s children were reading at or above grade level; morning attendance at
Benjamin Franklin High School on East 116th Street was 44 percent of enrollment, and by graduation
time 93 percent of the high school’s ninth graders had dropped out. But in 1974 East Harlem’s
predicament began to change with the founding of the first alternative schools. Ironically, it was the
severity of the situation that provided us with the opportunity to spark a revolution in public
education. School board officials, community leaders, and parents were all desperate; and the central
board, embarrassed by one of its most conspicuous failures, was inattentive.
In 1976, Anthony Alvarado, District Four’s School Superintendent, asked me to direct the school
district’s new Office of Alternative Schools. The few alternative schools recently established in District
Four were facing a number of common problems, and Alvarado felt that they needed a “friend in
court” at the community-school-district level. For someone whose career had been formed in special
schools like P.S. 129 and P.S. 146, this was where I belonged. I said yes.
Two weeks after I had moved into my new office, Alvarado called me with an immediate, urgent
assignment. “I’ve got a problem in the Central Park East School between Debbie Meier and some of
her parents,” he said. “Go see what it’s about.”
I went over to Central Park East, which was then a fledgling alternative school just completing its
second year, to introduce myself to Debbie Meier, the school’s director. I did not know her at the time,
but she struck me as a smart, strong woman. I could tell from the way she looked at me that she
didn’t trust me; to her I was just another annoying bureaucrat from the district office meddling in her
Her wary demeanor aside, Meier knew she needed help, because a group of the Central Park East
parents were unhappy with how she was running the school. They had asked the superintendent to
remove her from the directorship, and she didn’t understand why the superintendent wasn’t defending
her unquestioningly. “How could Tony Alvarado have so little confidence in me?” she asked. And I
really couldn’t answer. We talked a little about the school, and I thanked her and went off to see the
parents who were complaining. They proved to be a very articulate and angry group of parents. The
problem, as they saw it, was not minor: they wanted Meier removed. “She doesn’t listen to anybody,”
one of them said. “She runs the whole place herself,” added another. “She’s out of control,” said a
I was on the spot and had to do something. But what? Debbie Meier has since become a nationally
known authority on education, the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award, but in June
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1976 that wasn’t the case. Central Park East was a struggling school that might well fail; in fact, it
had attracted conflict from its very inception. What was not yet clear to outsiders was that it had been
deliberately designed to thrive on conflict.
Before taking any action I decided to acquaint myself more with this upstart school and its embattled
Deborah Willen Meier had grown up in Larchmont, New Y ork, and had attended the private Ethical
Culture and Fieldston Schools in New Y ork City. After two years in the cooperative work-study
program at Antioch College, she embarked on graduate-level study in history at the University of
Chicago, during which time she married and had three children. Soon thereafter Meier began her
teaching career, substituting in public schools around Chicago.
Once this product of private education began to teach in the public schools, she was hooked:
From the first moment I walked into a public school I was intrigued. I started teaching
kindergarten in the school across the street from my home, but soon I was substituting all over
Chicago from grades one to eight. I frequently went into classrooms which had never had a
regular teacher. They were forever assigning me to what were called “opportunity classes,”
which, of course, meant the reverse. Parents were not allowed near the schools. Principals
were unbelievably rude, not only to students and parents, but to their own teachers as well.
And the teachers passed it on! The way teachers talked about kids in those days was scary.
Meier continued as a substitute teacher after she and her family moved to Philadelphia. Then she
came to New Y ork and began to work full time, first in schools and then in the education program at
City College, where she worked with public school teachers committed to finding new ways to reach
difficult students. “The principals paid lip service to us and our aspirations,” she remembers, “but the
changes didn’t last.” By the end of 1973, just as she was becoming disgusted by her lack of progress
working within the established system, she got a call from Bonnie Brownstein, a science coordinator
in District Four. Brownstein told Meier that Superintendent Alvarado had heard about her work and
wanted her to start a new school in East Harlem. Meier, attuned to the ways of educational
bureaucracies, was skeptical at first, but when she met with the new superintendent, he convinced her
that he was serious.
Debbie Meier had been thinking for some years about what kind of school she would start if the
opportunity ever arose. She had worked with Lillian Weber, the director of the City College Workshop,
on open education, and she had tried to create “open classroom” programs in District Two on
Manhattan’s East Side. She had developed an educational method which she believed reflected the
cognitive development of children, combining John Dewey’s learning theory with more recent
psychological investigations of Jean Piaget. In place of the standard system, which emphasized
covering a prescribed curriculum, Meier and her associates proposed a pedagogy based on “open
classrooms” where teachers would provide children with stimulating materials, observe them working
and playing with those materials, and, guided by their observations, offer each child assistance to
extend his or her skills and interests. Meier wanted a school that was small and run by the staff, not
from above. Now with Alvarado’s backing she would have a chance to put her thoughts into action.
It would not be easy. Meier’s new elementary school, Central Park East, was to be housed on the
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second, third, and fourth floors of P.S. 171, a run-down, seventy-five-year-old elementary school on
East 103rd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues. The physical facilities could hardly have been
less hospitable to the open classrooms the staff aimed to create. Neither the parents in the
neighborhood nor the other teachers in District Four understood what the school was trying to
accomplish, and they regarded Meier’s efforts with attitudes ranging from indifference to outright
hostility. Local educational conservatives, on the other hand, were equally mistrustful of what they
saw as the school’s permissiveness.
Debbie Meier was undeterred.
She wanted to start slowly, with just a kindergarten and a first grade. She asked for the authority to
hire her own staff, which would develop its own curricula. There would be one rule: Children would
come to Central Park East because their parents chose that school for them. It was a choice school
from the start, and parents were required to visit with their children in order to gain admission.
Beyond that, Meier set forth no policies and promised no particular results.
Meier had little difficulty recruiting a group of teachers who shared her dream for a new kind of
public school. When Central Park East opened its doors in the fall of 1974, there were just thirty-two
students, twelve each in two kindergarten classes, and eight more in first grade. Nevertheless, those
children who walked through the doors for their first day of classes discovered a rich world welcoming
them. As Meier recalls:
When we arrived in mid-August we built at least ten storage units, two playhouses, a puppet
stage, three writing tables, several book display racks, room dividers, etc. We organized and
stored all our personal materials—paints, magic markers, science equipment, art materials,
and books. We bought some things—typewriters, a variety of beginning reading books, wood
and drywall for building, paint and brushes, rugs for the reading corners.
As the first school days passed, parents with small children in tow began appearing in Central Park
East classrooms, asking to enroll their children. Within three months enrollment in the kindergartens
grew by 50 percent, and a waiting list burgeoned of parents interested in enrolling their children the
following year. By midyear, as parental interest swelled, enrollment reached eighty-five students.
Some parents were well educated and liberal, others were poor and uneducated. But in Central Park
East they all found a school that seemed right to them and their children. One of the students later
described her experience this way:
Where we came from it was all sitting down at a desk and writing at the same time, and doing
math at the same time. As the first week went by at Central Park East we were all very excited
about the school, and what we were doing was so different from what we had done before.
From the beginning the staff at Central Park East fought to integrate children who would otherwise
be certified as “special education students” into the mainstream program. They resisted giving up any
students to the ostracism of a special-education setting, believing that if they could retain slow
learners in the regular environment, they would find a way to help them learn. Originally a source of
bitter contention, the Central Park East approach was fully vindicated in time by Meier’s receipt of the
MacArthur grant and the local families’ loyalty to the school.
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The Central Park East staff tried hard not to pressure students to worry about any “normal” pattern of
achievement, but by midyear, many of the older children who had entered Central Park East as
nonreaders were reading without difficulty. Meier confessed that their progress was so startling that
she suspected that the children already knew how to read, but had been unable or unwilling to reveal
it to their parents or teachers.
The school tried to create an environment that was an extension of the children’s families, a place
where both children and parents knew they would be accepted and cared for rather than judged. In
matters of discipline, Central Park East stressed mutual respect rather than fear. Teachers spent time
explaining to students why certain forms of behavior made it impossible for others to do their work;
they tried to teach children to empathize with others and to understand the impact of their actions on
others. In short, during a decade in which some floundering schools questioned whether any values
should be transmitted through public education, Central Park East strove to instill a moral sense in its
Central Park East especially tried to enlist parents in the learning process, informing them regularly
about what was happening at school so they would not see education as a threatening or alien
activity. Parents were encouraged to spend time on homework and to read aloud to their children or
to have their children read aloud to them. Moreover, there were frequent parent-teacher meetings, at
which teachers dealt with parents on a basis of respect: the message was that Central Park East
valued the parents’ ideas and contributions.
The essence of Central Park East was a group of highly dedicated teachers who understood that the
child must be the center of education. They believed that educational programs must be built around
the abilities, interests, and needs of particular children, fortified by a loving humanism. It was a
progressive program of child-centered education. But it required complete commitment, long hours,
and many practical innovations to implement effectively.
Meier, for example, organized her own class around the theme of New Y ork City’s natural
environment. Children studied New Y ork’s geography and visited Central Park often; they observed
animal and plant life and noted the rock formations. These trips were supplemented by visits to
museums. Meier believes that such outings enabled her children to get to know the world beyond East
Harlem and gave them a sense of resources they could return to throughout their lives. She observed
that “outside the classroom children tend to observe things more keenly and to ask more questions.”
Everything went surprisingly smoothly during Central Park East’s first year, and Alvarado expressed
his confidence in the school’s success by asking the staff to double Central Park East’s size to 150
students by the next September, adding grades two through five to the program. And yet, in the fall of
1975, Central Park East’s very existence was threatened by deep-seated conflicts. Bedeviled by another
of New Y ork’s perennial financial crises, the administration of Mayor Abraham D. Beame had forced
drastic cuts in the Board of Education budget, which meant that thousands of teachers were laid off.
There was a system-wide reshuffling of teachers, as those “excessed” from one school exercised their
seniority rights and claimed positions in others. As Alvarado recalled, “We tried a number of creative
ways to ensure the kind of teachers that were required to run a program like Debbie’s, and it involved
a lot of risk-taking.”
Bending the rules when hundreds of teachers were defending their rights to their jobs was not always
easy. To make matters worse, when Central Park East opened for its second year in the fall of 1975,
two teachers were unexpectedly stricken with serious ailments. Debbie Meier was teaching a
combined class of forty-two third, fourth, and fifth graders, most of whom were new to the school,
while continuing as director.
As the year went on, strains within the staff began to mount. The democratic staff organization that
had seemed to work so well the year before was now breaking down. From the beginning Meier had
brought the staff together to function as a sort of teacher collective. “What I was seeking was the kind
of ease, trust, and mutual respect that would permit us to avoid absolutely rigid distinctions and fully
spelled-out roles.” But in practice, the staff’s search for consensus consumed more and more time.
While the teachers acted as if all were equal, they held Meier responsible for solving major problems.
And while Meier professed a belief in functioning democratically, she believed she had the right to act
unilaterally when it came to make-or-break issues affecting the school’s best interests.
Opposition mounted outside Central Park East as well. The central board refused to grant waivers to
keep schools open beyond specified hours for those teachers who wanted to come in early or stay late.
The new principal of P.S. 171, which housed Central Park East, waged a series of time-consuming turf
wars over who had what prerogatives within the school building. The teachers’ union became
suspicious of Central Park East’s flexibility. And a small number of vociferous parents voiced
misgivings about having their children’s education controlled by “a white Jewish lady.”
Toward the end of the school year, a group of angry parents brought their complaints about Central
Park East to Alvarado, and this is where I came in. For the next week I made it my business to visit
the school every day. I talked to Debbie Meier, to the teachers, to the students, and to the parents. I
looked around the school. Whenever I go to a school I observe the children, and if they are involved
and paying attention, I know that there is learning going on and that it’s a good place for a kid to be. I
was not disappointed with what I found at Central Park East.
I held three meetings with the parents before going back to Debbie, listening attentively to their point
of view so I really could understand it. There’s a mnemonic I used: AIR, which stands for
“acknowledge” (I acknowledged to the parents that their information was serious and important),
“investigate” (I spoke to the teachers and observed the students), and “respond” (I met with the
parents on a number of occasions to tell them what I had found out).
The truth is, after all my investigating, I determined that Debbie Meier was running a superior school.
She regarded kids as individuals, an approach that my own teaching experience had convinced me
was essential. She cared about youngsters, about learning, and had assembled a staff excited about
education. There aren’t enough people like that in the world, so when you find the Debbie Meiers, the
people who really try to do something, you have to stand by them. They will make some mistakes,
and they will always draw fire. But ultimately, people like Debbie and schools like Central Park East
are always worth protecting.
The dissident parents in this case simply wanted control of the school and would not be satisfied with
anything less. They distrusted a white outsider like Meier who thought she knew what was best. I
could see how Meier could be too forceful in her opinions, but I also knew that she was the right
person for that school. I therefore strongly recommended to Alvarado that we back Meier to the hilt.
Y ou support good people, I told him, even when they make mistakes. That’s what support is all about.
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And Alvarado agreed.
So I went to the parents. I told them in the nicest possible way that even though some of their
complaints were true, they were far outweighed by the fact that Central Park East was a really good
place for kids. Meier was staying, I told them, but I would do everything I could to see that their
children were placed elsewhere if they so chose. In the end fifteen families decided to leave Central
Park East, and I got every one of them into a school of their choice. The crisis was over, the credibility
of the new Office of Alternative Schools was enhanced, and a lasting friendship began.
I had learned an important lesson, too. When push comes to shove, you have to support your good
people. Debbie Meier soon decided to leave the classroom and assume the role of full-time director.
She had come to see the importance of having one person clearly responsible for making sure that
staff decisions are implemented, and, taking a page from my book, she told each of the teachers that
they were free to leave Central Park East if they wished. Two of the school’s seven teachers chose not
to return.
When the air cleared, we saw that the over-whelming majority of parents had decided to keep their
children in Central Park East, and a similar proportion of the faculty had chosen to stay, a vote of
confidence that gave the school a newfound vitality. We did not know it at the time, but we had
inadvertently discovered the invigorating power of choice. By the time classes resumed the following
year, Central Park East had entered a new phase and had begun to develop its own distinctive culture
—and an approach to urban education that would soon spread to other East Harlem schools.
Inside their own classrooms, Central Park East’s teachers were able to realize the dream of virtually
all teachers—they could run their classes on their own, without interference or interruption from
outside authorities. The result was an astonishingly rich educational program. One year, for example,
Central Park East’s curriculum included extensive mapmaking, studies of Native American woodlands
culture in seventeenth-century Harlem, Egyptian and Roman history, the Dutch settlement of New
Y ork, printing and newspapers, the emergence of cities (including a mini-study of the neighborhood
around the school), and African-American history.
But children at Central Park East were not simply presented with a set of facts to learn from a text
book; instead they were given the opportunity to explore unfamiliar territory. They participated in a
wide variety of activities aimed at bringing civilization to life, thus enabling the children to understand
and appreciate that civilization more fully. When Leslie Stein’s third-grade class studied medieval
society, they not only read books but built castles, made armor, and visited the Cloisters in upper
Manhattan. Carol Mulligan’s kindergarten and first grade developed the idea of building a mythical
city, one that might resemble one of the very first cities of the ancient world. Central Park East’s
approach taught children how to ask questions and helped them form the proper foundation for
critical thinking.
Meier’s pedagogical goals have remained clear and constant for nearly twenty years at Central Park
East. She aims to create a better informed, better equipped, and more engaged person who can play a
greater part in her community.
My ideas on teaching and learning focus on small “d” democratic values, by which I mean a
respect for diversity, a respect for the potential of each individual person, a respect for opposing
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points of view, and a respect for considerable intellectual vigor. My concern is with how
students become critical thinkers and problem solvers, which is what a democratic society
needs. If we believe that our schools are failing us and that children can’t learn the basic skills,
then what we are saying is that democracy is a utopian ideal, an impossibility, and I just don’t
believe that. There is nothing in the nature of being human that makes democracy an
Admittedly, not every teacher would favor adopting Central Park East’s methodology. Debbie Meier is
a politically committed, unabashed social democrat, and she and her cohorts were staunch believers
in progressive education. In some quarters Meier’s agenda provokes substantial skepticism; the
average parent may not know much about the educational crisis, but strongly suspects that it all
started with the new math. To a lot of people, “progressive education” sounds like something that has
failed already.
Disputes about educational methodology, however, miss the point here. In practice a capable,
committed, caring teacher can use almost any method and achieve good results. The really important
factor is the energy and effort expended. If the school is doing its job well, it will find a receptive
audience, and it will provide quality education, as long as it has a methodology and philosophy. Other
District Four alternative schools were to be far more traditional in their curriculum and methodology
than Central Park East, but they would have no trouble attracting students and parents for whom
their approach was well suited. A diversity of schools, in fact, is healthy. I have never felt
uncomfortable knowing that Debbie Meier considers Manhattan East, an alternative school we
established in 1981, to be elitist, because it seeks out high-achieving students in academics and the
arts. She is entitled to that opinion, and the students, parents, and teachers who built Manhattan East
are entitled to theirs. As educational researchers have consistently found, schools that are given the
opportunity to define their own missions are routinely superior to those that have been dictated to
from above.
Thus, a second and equally valuable aspect of Central Park East’s “open classrooms organized around
a theme” methodology was that it gave teachers an opportunity to follow their own interests, rather
than repeat the same lessons year after year. “Curriculum development,” as it was called, gave
teachers a good reason to read about societies that interested them, to fill in gaps in their education,
and to take interesting trips in the summer. It motivated teachers as well as students.
Alice Seletsky, who has taught at Central Park East since 1977, opens a window on the school’s ethos
when she says, “What I like best about teaching is that there are no easy answers to anything. Even
after thirty-five years, I have to keep wondering, tinkering, changing my mind, learning.” Seletsky is
an innovative teacher, but her innovation is nothing mysterious. What she does is spend time with the
kids who most need her. “I believe I come to know children more fully through their works,” she
explains, “and they begin to know themselves through producing them.” These are the words of a
gifted teacher. But her gift does not reside in the fact that she uses a particular educational
methodology. It resides in the fact that she is willing to give of herself freely, fully, and lovingly to her
students in ways that suit her and her students best. All Alice Seletsky needed to be a good teacher was
a system that would let her do just that.
By matching teachers with compatible educational environments, schools of choice enabled oncefrustrated
educators to feel better about themselves. Having teachers participate in curriculum design
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might improve the curriculum, but it definitely improves the morale of teachers, who sense that they
are making a positive contribution. And good morale, above all, makes for a good school. Classrooms
like Alice Seletsky’s constantly stimulate children to ask new questions and try out new skills. Her
classroom reflects her own personality, curiosity, ethical concerns, and educational commitment.
Most of all, it reflects her selfless hard work, a contribution no one in any school can absolutely
guarantee, but which a choice system by its very nature does the utmost to encourage.
When you feel you have a stake in your school, whether you’re a teacher or a
student or a parent, you’re willing to work harder, make sacrifices, and protect and build up your
highly personal investment. The sense of ownership that naturally develops is what has energized the
students, parents, and staff at Central Park East for nearly twenty years.
Central Park East’s children came to feel they owned the school, and this is partly because of the
enthusiastic participation of their parents. Aurea Fernandez was one of Central Park East’s original
students in 1974. Her mother, Josie, began to work at Central Park East as a school aide, helping out
in the lunchroom. Later, Josie worked as a paraprofessional in the classrooms, and ultimately she
became the school secretary.
Two of Josie’s other children also came to Central Park East. They were nice kids, and the education
they received, coupled with the opportunity to interact with children from other parts of the city, gave
them the boost they needed to grow beyond the world they had known in East Harlem. Aurea
graduated from Central Park East and went on to an alternative junior high school in District Four.
Her brother Manuel did the same, and attended Cathedral High School. Both children went on to
Brown University on full scholarships.
Then Aurea returned to New Y ork and entered graduate school at Columbia Teachers College. Josie
died a few years ago, but not before she had the satisfaction of seeing her kids make it in the world. In
the fall of 1992, Aurea Fernandez joined the faculty at the Central Park East Secondary School.
Teachers at Central Park East show an extraordinary degree of dedication. In the standard New Y ork
City public school, teachers rarely talk with each other informally about what is happening in their
classrooms. In weekly grade conferences, teachers may discuss issues, but all too rarely is education
the focus; more often it’s the overcrowded faculty parking lot or some other utterly superficial side
issue. In contrast, at Central Park East the teachers talk about what’s going on in the heads of
children—for instance, do they really understand what democracy means when they have to ask for
permission to go to the bathroom? Such child-centered talk is a constant preoccupation of the staff,
whether in the teachers’ lounge, in car rides to school, in the hallways, on school trips, or on regularly
organized staff retreats. All of this dedication and hard work rubs off on the kids—they reflect it right
As enthusiastic reports about Central Park East spread, the waiting list of prospective students grew so
long that Meier opened a second elementary school in 1980, Central Park East II, and a third
elementary school, River East, in 1982.
In the wake of their success, Meier began to see the need for a secondary school as well, to
accommodate not only the graduates of her schools, but other students who might respond to open
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classrooms. Though Meier had spent her entire career as an elementary school teacher, she was
fascinated by the challenge of starting a secondary school that ran from grades seven through twelve.
About this time, Professor Theodore Sizer of Brown University was Organizing his National Coalition
of Essential Schools. Sizer propounded nine principles. Briefly stated, these principles include the idea
that less is more; that it is better to know some things well than to attempt to cover many things
superficially; that high standards must be set for all students; that students demonstrate mastery of
their subjects through exhibitions and portfolios; that teaching and learning must be personalized;
that students are perceived as workers and teachers as coaches; and, finally, that youngsters discover
answers and solutions to problems by being active learners. In Sizer, Meier found a kindred spirit and
an effective ally. She based her new high school, Central Park East Secondary School, on Sizer’s
principles, and the school opened its doors in 1985.
The achievements of the Central Park East schools have been gratifying. Out of the more than two
hundred students who graduated from Central Park East in the years 1977 to 1984, only two are
known to have dropped out of secondary school. (In the city as a whole, more than 40 percent drop
out; more than 60 percent of minority children drop out.) Just as impressive, in Central Park East’s
first decade not a single student was suspended. Of the first two graduating classes of the Central Park
East Secondary School in 1991 and 1992, over 90 percent went on to college.
Scores on citywide standardized tests reinforce this picture of educational achievement. Since 1979, at
least 90 percent of the school’s sixth graders have scored at or above grade level—a startlingly high
figure when one realizes that for most of the years under study, a large majority of Central Park East’s
second graders were reading below grade level. The data indicate that many Central Park East
students caught up with and surpassed the national norm during their school years.
Such statistics would be misleading if Central Park East had simply skimmed the cream of the
community’s students, selecting only the motivated and well-prepared children. But this was not the
case. Central Park East generally followed a first-come, first-served policy, from which it deviated
only in two ways: it strove to be racially integrated, and it gave preference to the younger siblings of
current students. Indeed, in many instances the opposite of skimming took place. Many parents chose
Central Park East because their children were not doing well in neighborhood schools and because it
had a reputation for handling difficult children. Some 20 per cent of the students at the Central Park
East schools have learning disabilities, but they are “mainstreamed” into heterogeneous classes rather
than isolated in special ed classes.
Meier’s success did not go unnoticed. In 1992, Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez invited Meier
to create a series of new schools Working with Theodore Sizer, Meier raised three million dollars to
help create six new schools on the model of Central Park East Secondary School. The new schools
began operating this fall on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The plan is for the schools to
eventually replace Julia Richman High School, a failing school of several thousand students on East
68th Street. Instead of entering Julia Richman, this year’s ninth graders have been enrolled in the
new schools. In two years, the plan calls for the new schools to move into the Julia Richman school
building, whose space they will share. Meier was recently invited to create six more schools, and sites
throughout the city are being studied.
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The Central Park East schools are an example of what talented teachers can do when they are free to
design their own curricula and run their own schools. In District Four, we told teachers with ideas for
their dream schools, “Go ahead and try them. We’ll support you.” The most common initial reaction
was disbelief. Their second reaction was to go out and start a lot of wonderful new schools that did not
look like one another or like regular public schools.
What started as a desperate response to a crumbling school district has turned into a vigorous and
vital renaissance with the potential to transform the city’s schools. Indeed, the transformation that
Debbie Meier and other educators have brought about in East Harlem can be a model for reversing
problems in the schools on a national level. We believe that bureaucracy does not solve problems; it
creates them. We understand better than ever today that there is no such thing as just one way to
educate all children. These forces are leading us in the direction of de-bureaucratization,
decentralization, school-site autonomy, and choice for parents, students, and teachers. It worked in
District Four, and there is more than sufficient reason to believe that it will work in many other places
as well.

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