City slated to close 17 schools; unions and activists angered
STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 1/17/2013, 1:59 p.m.
It's been a staple of the Michael Bloomberg administration, so in his last year of service, the mayor kept up the tradition.
Last week, New York City Department of Education officials announced that they would close two schools this summer and phase out 15 more. The other 15 have been targeted for being the "lowest performing" schools by city criteria. The two schools slated for closing are Freedom Academy High School in Brooklyn and Middle School 45/S.T.A.R.S. Academy in Manhattan. The list of "phased out" schools include Choir Academy of Harlem in Manhattan, Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx, High School of Graphic Communication Arts in Manhattan and Junior High School 302 Rafael Cordero in Brooklyn.
After the process is complete, Bloomberg will have closed 157 schools during his three terms in office. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew wasn't pleased with the news and denied the city's claim that schools on the list had received significant support from the city.
"It's sad that this administration takes pride in closing schools rather than helping them succeed," said Mulgrew in a released statement. "The suggestion that the DOE has provided 'comprehensive supports' to the struggling schools on this list is absurd. To make matters worse, large comprehensive schools like Lehman and Sheepshead Bay have been further undermined by DOE policies that led to increased concentrations of high-needs students, but with no increase in the services such students need."
Educational activists were even more straightforward with their comments on Bloomberg, the DOE and the school closings.
"The mayor has closed 140 schools but still hasn't closed the racial achievement gap, and students are still no closer to graduating college-ready. Research shows that many new schools are performing worse than the schools they replaced--that is clear evidence of failure, which is why countless parents, teachers, principals and students oppose school closures," said Zakiyah Ansari, spokeswoman for New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a citywide coalition of parents, students and teachers, in a statement. Mayor Bloomberg needs to own up to his failed policies and give struggling schools the resources and support they need to succeed."
According to the Bloomberg administration, the new schools that have replaced older ones have performed better, but several studies suggest that the new schools are made of students from several "failed" schools; it just produces one big failing school that is eventually closed as well. The loss of schools and their services doesn't sit well with Juan Pagan, parent leader of the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice.
"As the father of a child in a school that is currently being closed, I know how harmful and destructive the closure process is," said Pagan. "Crucial programs disappear, guidance counselors move to other jobs, students lose the services they need, morale plummets. How many more children like my daughter must go through this terrible experience? The schools on this closing list announced today serve some of the neediest children in the school system.
"Yet over the years that they have struggled, these schools have received little to no support, resources or guidance from the DOE to improve," concluded Pagan.