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Bloomberg's panel shuts down schools

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 4/16/2013, 4:50 p.m.

"The tragedy of all of this is that the most vulnerable among us suffer: the children. Our children and our children's dreams have become the collateral damage of a failed system that is groaning for redemption. The tragedy is that many of the schools, in some of the neediest communities, are now on the endangered species list and, if the mayor and the DOE have their way, they face a bleak future. Closing schools that are deemed as failing or low-performing is not an effective strategy for school reform. Political expediency cannot be the guiding factor when it comes to the future of our children."

For over two hours, Occupy the DOE took over the PEP meeting. Due to the noise, banner waving, rhythmic chanting and the millionth "mic check" of the several hundred protesters, parents, teachers and activists who had something of substance to say on the regular mic were heckled and drowned out.

"How can they hear you when all these other people are screaming?" a parent retorted. "Nothing is greater than democracy for and of the people, but when there's a bunch of discontented individuals showboating without rhyme or reason and an effective agenda, it remains counterproductive."

Regardless, a hundred or so speakers managed to speak their piece. On stage, sitting front and center, was Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who heads the 13-member PEP.

After a "discussion" of sorts, the panel voted to close 18 city schools and remove middle school grades from five more.

Thompson told the AmNews, "I am for mayoral control. It's about who the mayor is. As mayor, I would work with the teachers and include parents. We wouldn't have the situation that we have now."

"In moving forward, we have to look at changing mayoral control because it makes parents have no input and no voice. In the schools, the administration has no input or no voice-obviously the principal has no voice, and the parents in the schools that are chosen to be closed have no voice," said Arlette Williams, PTA president of Satellite III, which, despite a fight by students, staff and supporters, has been slated for phasing out this summer, with the introduction of a new middle school.

Asked if legal action will be taken to stop the closings, Mulgrew told the Amsterdam News, "I'm the person who has sued them numerous times, so I think that can happen."