Crammed on the water-slick steps of Tweed Courthouse on Wednesday, dozens of parents tried to elbow their way through the glass doors and past security, all vying for the chance to tell Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott just what they think of District 75.
About 120 parents and educators packed into the building’s back room — and an additional 30 or so sat in the hall on chairs set up to accommodate the overflow — where Mr. Walcott spoke briefly on efforts to integrate District 75 children with the general student body.
“We’re making a concerted attempt to make sure we have one student population,” he said. “One of our goals is to make sure we make ourselves accessible to you.”
At this, one parent stood up and called out from the back corner to say that the chaos of just getting into the building is comparable to the disorder within District 75.
“This is kind of our everyday life,” she said. “We’re doing the best that we can, and we just want to make sure you heard us.”
A lack of occupational therapists and school inclusion programs, like sports and after-school activities where District 75 students could have more opportunities to socialize, were the main grievances parents brought to the attention of Helen Kaufman, the administrative assistant superintendent for clinical support services, who served as the sounding board for most of the complaints that were raised.
Ahjaah Jewett, 11, who is autistic, stood up during the meeting to talk about her personal disappointment with the after-school program at Public School 138 in Manhattan. (She is a P.S. 138 student at J117 but attends Esperanza Preparatory Academy as an inclusion student, according to her mother.)
“Hi, my name is Ahjaah, I’m in middle school, and I got this letter a few days ago that I was attending after-school, but they told me I couldn’t attend,” she said.
Her mother, Patricia Jewett, 55, of the Bronx, said their family selected P.S. 138 because they were told three times — twice during two on-site visits and once on curriculum night — that its after-school program was open to District 75 students.
Ms. Jewett filed the necessary application paperwork before the school year began only to receive a letter days after Ahjaah already started the semester, she said. The letter said the application was sent out to District 75 students by mistake.
“We chose this site because it said that it attends children with special needs,” Ms. Jewett said. “The schools say she needs socialization — well, gee, maybe it would help if she could be in a program where she got to socialize.”
Before the meeting started to wind down, one parent directed a question to Ms. Kaufman that was followed by loud applause: “How do we know as parents that our child isn’t getting services based on what money is available?”
To that, Ms. Kaufman said, “There has never been a dollar amount attached to a child in special ed.”