Advocates battle to save NYC schools on hit list

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 6/20/2013, 12:06 p.m.

The "decade of disaster," is what the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) has called Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 10-year control of the New York City public school system. "Stop playing politics with our schools," it says in a new ad.

"We had three different principals in a 10-month period for Satellite III. Just imagine a country run by three presidents in one year," said Zahar Idriss, a math teacher at Satellite III, speaking at a joint hearing for M.S. 103 Satellite III's proposed closure last week, where audience members listened to a range of speakers, including parents, students, education advocates and representatives from the Department of Education (DOE).

"We were determined to prove to the DOE that now that we have one permanent leader in Principal [Beatrice] Thompson, things will be much different, and we will be doing whatever it takes to show everyone that this is not what Satellite II middle school is, not a D school!"

As the date approaches for Bloomberg's Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), scheduled for Feb. 9, at Brooklyn Technical High School, there have been and will continue to be protest rallies from advocates and students trying to save the 33 schools on the chopping block. In a scene replicated citywide as an alliance of parents, students and teachers came out to fight for their school at Satellite III, DOE Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm explained to an anxious audience why the Bloomberg administration has added their school to his latest list for closure, phase out or co-location.

Idriss continued in his passionate delivery. "This year, we have one principal, not three! This year, the teachers are collaborating at a high level and putting tremendous effort to take the students at Satellite III to the next level. We are determined to prove that we are not what our progress report grade says we are," Idriss told the packed audience. "We were determined to prove that this was a bump in a long, successful road, and that we are going to bounce back from it."

Parents in the meeting told DOE members on the panel that it was their department that was to blame for schools not doing as well as they suggested they should. "Somebody dropped the ball and thought, 'Let's fix the problem by bringing another middle school with no theme or vision to the same floor.' How is this going to help our current students? Why don't you say instead, let's give this leadership a chance and support them to help this school, which is an integral part of the Clinton Hill community?" asked Idriss.

The dedicated teacher said that the school has seen a marked improvement and a steady return to its usual status. He told the audience, "According to the DOE, we are closing because of our numbers. According to them, it doesn't matter that we had multiple leaders in a small period of time or that our school is now improving and our attendance has gone up. We're not even getting the chance to receive new test scores this spring.