Subject: The Columbia Spectator - article from Anne Whitman
Date: 10/25/2005 12:46:12 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)
STAFF EDITORIAL: Bloomberg's School
Don�t conflate magnet school plans with expansion
October 25, 2005
Mayor Michael Bloomberg�s plan for a public high school devoted to science and engineering in the Manhattanville area holds great potential for the neighborhood. Announced at a campaign event held in Low Library last Friday, the project will be linked to Columbia, with faculty helping to design the curriculum and providing research opportunities for students. But don�t mistake this school for something it�s not.
It is not a Columbia-run project, and it is at most a corollary to the University�s expansion plans. Unlike Columbia�s elementary school, this school will be public, under the jurisdiction of the city�s Department of Education. Mayor Bloomberg made the announcement; Lee Bollinger listened politely from the audience.
So however nice the school might be for the neighborhood, it appears to be more an example of Columbia grabbing on to the mayor�s coattails than a real example of Columbia reaching out to the community. After Bloomberg�s announcement, Bollinger said proudly that �it�s my view that the general sense of Columbia in [Manhattanville discussions] ought to be and will be affected by what we are doing in conjunction with this project.� That statement provides cause for concern.
The worst mentality Columbia could bring to the community is one of a balance sheet��We did a good thing by helping with the school, so the community should be willing to give a little on the eminent domain issue,� or whatever the primary bone of contention turns out to be. Regardless of what we might like to think, expansion is not a meeting of equals, nor is it not a game of give-and-take. Columbia�s participation in Bloomberg�s campaign project cannot be used to justify any fudging of community benefits in its expansion plans. Community Board 9 Chairman Jordi Reyes-Montblanc characterized the situation aptly: �The expansion is the expansion and the school is the school.�
The school itself may present problems as well. The assurance that it will give preference to children from above 96th is no guarantee that it will in fact benefit the residents of the immediate neighborhood. And while it is nice to imagine Columbia faculty helping create the school�s curriculum, that commitment should not detract from the faculty�s research duties and, most importantly, their ability to teach college classes.
That said, the school can offer great promise for a lagging area, as long as Mayor Bloomberg (or his successor) treats it as more than a political score. Although it will be a small school capable of enrolling only a tiny percentage of the area�s children, a top school could have a strong halo effect, raising the profile of Manhattanville as a neighborhood�expansion or no expansion.