A pro bono team, in partnership with Appleseed, has played a key role in helping government and education leaders achieve a major milestone in their fight to promote diversity in the New York City public school system.
For the past year, the team has been working with the school community at PS 133, a highly regarded elementary school in Brooklyn, which is slated to move into a new, larger building in September 2013. The new school—which will triple in size—is unusual because students from two different districts (Districts 13 and 15, two of the most crowded school zones in the city) will be eligible for enrollment.
Amid concerns that other high-performing schools in the area have become increasingly homogenous with little access for low-income students and English Language Learners from surrounding neighborhoods, a community task force—which included New York City Council members Stephen Levin and Brad Lander, Community Education Council Presidents David Goldsmith and Jim Devor, Appleseed's New York Director David Tipson and Orrick pro bono counsel Rene Kathawala—worked on creating an enrollment policy for PS 133 that would give some degree of preferences to these categories of students in the admissions process.
As a result of the team's work, PS 133 has set admissions quotas for poor and immigrant students, setting aside 35 percent of its sought-after kindergarten seats for needy children who are living in poverty or struggling to learn English. After the first 35 percent of seats are offered to students from these priority groups, the remaining 65 percent of seats will be filled by random selection, offering additional opportunities for students in these categories to be admitted.
In providing admissions preferences based on socioeconomic indicators, the plan is unprecedented under the current mayoral administration. The first-of-its-kind plan is being viewed as a major step toward ensuring that New York City public schools are more diverse and that all students have equal access to quality schools.
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"I am tremendously proud of the firm's role in assisting stakeholders in developing a plan," said Rene. "This is an enormous victory—not only for the children who will attend PS 133, but for students across the city."
The team will now work to advise District 13 on a district-wide diversity plan, along with working alongside other advocates to promote the diversity policy's implementation in other NYC schools.
The Orrick team includes San Francisco public finance partner Brooke Abola, New York employment law partner Jill Rosenberg, Los Angeles structured finance senior associate Duane Beasley, San Francisco securities litigation associate Christine Louie, New York intellectual property managing associate Joseph Sherinsky, New York litigation law clerk Adya Baker, New York litigation law clerk Jackie Hehir, New York public finance managing ssociate Allison Young, Orange County commercial litigation partner Khai LeQuang and New York pro bono counsel Rene Kathawala.