USA

DOE official in charge of NYC admissions debate sent his child to top screened school

The Department of Education official overseeing the city’s school admissions debate is sending his child to a highly selective and disproportionately white Manhattan middle school, sources told The Post.

Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack resides in Brooklyn’s District 15 in Park Slope, which scrapped screened admissions in 2018 to spur diversity in its racially segregated schools.

Among other roles, Wallack heads the Office of Student Enrollment, “which manages . . . efforts to advance school diversity and equity,” according to the DOE website.

But rather than enroll his child in one of these unscreened schools next year, Wallack instead successfully vied for a middle school spot at the competitive Institute for Collaborative Education in Manhattan’s District 2.

Serving grades 6 through 12, the school is 48 percent white, 22 percent black, 19 percent Hispanic, and 7 percent Asian.

“The man has every right to send his kid to the school of his choice,” said a District 2 parent. “But for the DOE to moralize to others who do so or to try to get rid of those opportunities for other parents is a blaring double standard. It’s like we have two sets of rules.”

According to DOE records, there are no English Language Learners at the school, a category commonly correlated with recent immigrants to America.

In announcing a plan to diversify District 1 schools in 2017 through modified admissions, Wallack espoused goals that some said contradicted his eventual schooling choice.

DOE headquarters
The Tweed Courthouse on Chamber Street, which is home to the DOE.Rashid Umar Abbasi

“The aspiration we’ve set is that each school would reflect the socioeconomic and linguistic diversity of the district as a whole,” he told The New York Times that year.

Jean Hahn, a Queens activist, said parents were growing tired of an apparent chasm between the DOE’s public rhetoric and the personal choices of its top officers.

“The hypocrisy is just unbelievable,” she said. “Truly unbelievable.”

Wallack told The Post Thursday that he toured his local District 15 schools and was drawn to many of them.

“While my wife and I were impressed with so many of the D15 options, my son, an outspoken and determined young man, fell in love with ICE,” he said. “It is a diverse school in many ways, uses multiple measures for admissions and a progressive teaching approach. It was a uniquely good fit for our family.  We would have been thrilled at any number of schools in D15, but this was my son’s first choice.”

Wallack’s selection comes at a delicate moment in the ongoing war over the future of the city’s screened schools.

Opponents argue that they favor families with resources who are able to better prepare their kids for admission and should be completely eliminated.

Despite their predominance in the school system, many talented black and Hispanic kids are elbowed out of contention unfairly, critics charge.

“This appears to continue a pattern of privileged enrollment for upper echelon DOE staff,” said CUNY education professor David Bloomfield, who opposes screened public schools. “It also undermines confidence in the deputy chancellor’s commitment to diversity.”

Bloomfield argued that Wallack and his colleagues have been largely ineffective in combating entrenched school segregation.

“This is consistent with the foot dragging attitude of the de Blasio administration towards diverse enrollment,” he said.

A member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group, which opposes screened schools, also questioned the choice.

“There are a lot of parents committed to undoing this unjust system,” she said. “At some point we are going to need leaders to join us.”

Backers of screened schools contend that academically advanced kids should have the chance to learn in accelerated environments and that an expansion of competitive seats would boost diversity.

Eliminating them altogether, they argue, is misguided.

Veronica Flores, of The Bronx, who normally travels 90 minutes to a Gifted and Talented school in Manhattan each day because there are no local advanced programs for her daughter, questioned Wallack’s choice.

“If he believed in his own rhetoric he would have sent his child to a District 15 school,” she said. “But he is taking advantage of what the DOE speaks against. Hypocrisy is the word here on every level.”

The Institute for Collaborative Education enrolls roughly 500 kids.

It makes a point of not counting state exams towards entry and instead admits kids based on grades and individual interviews conducted by parents.

“Basically they curate as they please and somehow, just somehow, despite the demand, the school is half white,” said a District 15 parent. “It’s the same thing at Beacon and a lot of other places.”

Wallack is one of many top DOE officials who have demonstrated a preference for exclusionary schools.

Chancellor Richard Carranza sent his child to San Francisco’s top screened high school while leading that city’s school system but has since critiqued the practice during his time in New York.

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