“We noticed that, and honestly, to us it was less appealing,” Ms. Shneyer said.
She went to public school in District 3, at P.S. 75, the Emily Dickinson School, on West End Avenue between 95th and 96th Streets. Less than a fifth of the students were white, a percentage that hasn’t changed much over time. She went on to the Bronx High School of Science, one of the city’s most selective high schools.
“I think public school shaped me in a lot of ways — that I feel like I can relate and talk to and be with people who are different from me racially, economically, socially,” Ms. Shneyer said. “It was very valuable in that way.”
A look at the history of District 3, which stretches along the West Side of Manhattan from 59th to 122nd Street, shows how administrators’ decisions, combined with the choices of parents and the forces of gentrification, have shaped the current state of its schools, which, in one of the most politically liberal parts of a liberal city, remain sharply divided by race and income, and just as sharply divergent in their levels of academic achievement.
In 1984, two years before Ms. Shneyer started kindergarten, less than 8 percent of the district’s 12,321 elementary and middle school students were white. Not a single school was majority white, and the only school where white students made up the biggest group was P.S. 87 on West 78th Street. At the time, many white parents would not even consider their zoned schools. James Mazza, who served as deputy superintendent, and then superintendent of the district, from 1988 to 1997, recalled in an interview that parents would sometimes come into his office carrying a newspaper with the test…