P.S. 41 students’ banner day


By Cynthia Romero

Earlier this spring, amid concern over statewide budget cuts affecting schools like Greenwich Village’s P.S. 41 in School District 2, students had a banner day, literally, in their fight to make their voices heard.

Indeed, on June 4 they made banners, which were displayed on the windows of the front entrance of the W. 11th St. school, with the words, “We Love Our Teachers,” written across them and including hundreds of tiny signatures.

“For the parents and for the children as well, the banners signify that we don’t live in a bubble,” Michael Markowitz, a member of the district’s Community Education Council, said then. “What’s been going on in Albany is really affecting all of us here.”

Parents like Markowitz say that the schoolchildren respond to the conditions surrounding them.

“When you’ve had all these changes happening, like constant overcrowding and the possible cutting of after-school programs and tutoring, you don’t have the same school you used to have,” Markowitz noted.

He added that the banners were a way for the children to push back against the very same government that has made them into victims.

“Our kids want to save our schools and our teachers the only way they know how,” he said.

Some, like Ann Kjellberg, president of NYC Kids Parent Advocacy Committee, thought the banners hardly alluded to the politics surrounding the budget cuts and were more an innocent sign of support.

“An idea that we as parents had was to gather all our schools together for a citywide protest, and with the help of our teachers, we did so,” Kjellberg said. “We also wanted to do something visible to show our distress — thus came the idea for the banners.”

On the morning of June 4, before school began, the children gathered, some with photographs and others with a message in mind, and jotted down their names and small notes of appreciation. Kjellberg said the banners gave the children an opportunity to reflect on how much they really cared for their teachers.

“At one point, we just wanted to show how distressed we were and dramatize how severe the budget cuts were, because many of us feared for our teachers’ futures,” she said. “We thought they were going to lose their jobs.”

The banners were on display until the end of the school year, and may be used, as necessary, in other upcoming protests or school functions. P.S. 41 parents and students also signed a petition against the budget cuts.

“The mayor is trying to say that the cuts are a lesson in budgeting, but that’s insane,” Markowitz said at the time. “The cuts have a disproportionate effect on tutoring and after-school programs.”

In the end, layoffs of 4,400 city public school teachers were avoided after the mayor, a week after the citywide protest, proposed wage freezes.