Parents, students, teachers and some community members are demanding the closure of an alternative school in Poughkeepsie. They gathered in front of the school Tuesday morning in protest.
Dominique Suddith, a former substitute teacher in the Poughkeepsie City School District, says she is launching a group called PASS, or Parents and Advocates Supporting Students. She and others stood in front of Poughkeepsie’s Academic and Career Excellence, or PACE, academy, on South Perry Street. It’s an alternative program for grades 7-12. And she wants it closed.
“We are important because we are the parents, we are the brothers, we are the sisters, we are the family members of these students located in this building. And we’re going to stand for them,” Suddith says. “We’re going to continue to ask people to come out. We’re going to continue to ask people to stand up and speak out for their own kids.”
Her brother Dante Jackson is a senior at PACE.
“He’s supposed to graduate this year and every time we turn around there was another obstacle put before him. There is something else in place where they’re not giving us any proper protocols on how they’re making these decisions, okay,” Suddith says. “They’re telling him that he has to take an extra online course, but he’s been here since the beginning of the school year. That was not stated before.”
After venting and in tears over the matter, Jackson stood before protestors in the street in front of the school building.
“Nobody cares. Where’s the community at?” Jackson says. “Just because it’s not your child doesn’t mean it can’t be your child.”
His mother, Emilia Suddith, said she was upset that she had trouble getting him out of school in the morning.
“It has to stop. The abuse from the school system, it has to stop. Okay? I mean, we’ve been in this fight, and I’m trying not be upset, but for somebody to tell you that you don’t have rights to your child because they’re on these grounds. It’s wrong. It’s not fair,” Emilia Suddith says. “And I just need to know, when is somebody going to stand up for my son? When is somebody going to help his cause and his rights?”
A request on site to speak with the school principal or any school official in the building was referred to the superintendent, who did not respond to a request for comment in time for this broadcast. Highland resident Pam Krimsky, who taught for years in other districts, turned out to support the protest.
“We have a system that’s funneling our black and brown students into prison and preventing them from getting an equal education which they deserve,” Krimsky says. “They’re not less than white people.”
Protesters say the school, which began housing the program in September, is in no shape to be operational, and they allege segregation, where students of color are separate but not equal. Dominique Suddith also alleges a lack of transparency at PACE.
“This building right here, if I was a student and I had to walk into an elementary school building every day, and I’m a high schooler, that’s going to mess with my psyche,” Dominique Suddith says. “That’s going to make me feel like I’m less than, I’m not worth it. I’m not worth them even putting up proper signage to say what this building is.”
The sign outside the school still reads Christopher Columbus Elementary School. Suddith says resources and materials to ensure student success are lacking, and that alternative programs in the school district are not properly funded.
“What does that say to these kids? We don’t care enough about you?” Suddith says. “That’s not a fair and sound and basic education. No, it is not.”
Suddith says PASS members will attend a December 14 school board meeting and intend to raise their concerns.