“Bloomberg has gone berserk in the school closing arena,” declared education advocate Jitu Weusi. “Next month, you’ll have to send your children to the cave around the corner.”
This comment comes as the Department of Education announced this week that it would close 12 schools in total due to low enrollment, low graduation rates and poor performance.
Many of the schools, including Manhattan’s Kappa Two and Academy of Environmental Science, received grades of C and D.
Schools slated for closure are schools that Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened under his administration of mayoral control. Bloomberg has reportedly announced that he plans to close all city schools that aren’t making the grade.
Over the summer, procedures were changed for mayoral control when the State Senate renewed the concept. The public now has 45 days to comment before the final vote is made by the Panel for Education Policy in January.
One of the closures comes as a surprise to many. Just two weeks ago, William H. Maxwell High School in Brooklyn received more than $180,000 in performance bonuses for faculty and administrators, according to reports. The bonus was given for student improvement at the school.
Schools also on Bloomberg’s guillotine include: Paul Robeson High School for Business and Technology, Jamaica High School and Brandeis High School, and the following elementary and intermediate schools: Public School 202 in East New York, Public School 150 in Brownsville, Intermediate School 332, Public School 262, Public School 25 and P.S./I.S. 308 in Bedford-Stuyvesant; Public School 284 in Ocean Hill; and Intermediate School 383 in Bushwick. Also on the chopping block are Harlem’s Frederick Douglas Academy III and the Academy for Collaborative Education.
Large high schools like Maxwell could be broken up into smaller high schools if they close.
The Brooklyn Chapter of the Coalition for Public Education (formerly New York Coalition for Neighborhood School Control) has scheduled a hearing on Saturday December 12 at 11 a.m. with representatives from schools that are scheduled for closure.
The hearing will take place at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (1368 Fulton Street between New York and Brooklyn avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn).
Weusi said that parents, educators, students and the community are urged to plan and strategize to fight back to keep their schools from closing and to build educational progress.
“People need to wake up and get involved,” Weusi told the AmNews. “The layoffs at holiday time of 530 school aides represent the DOE’s assault against public education in communities of color all over New York City. Where are all these people who are going to be out of jobs going to find employment once their schools are closed down? They just paid Maxwell $180,000 in bonuses, now they are closing the school? The inconsistencies are rampant.”
East New York activist Kevin McCall is equally angry about the issue. “We are not going to allow this to happen. Many of our youth in East New York depend on their school. Maxwell used to be an F school and it came all the way up to a B, so we’re not going to have them just decide to close the school.”
One the schools that was reported to be one of the worst performing that is scheduled for closure is Jamaica High School in Queens, which has a 46 percent graduation rate.
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein released the third annual public school progress report for more than 300 New York City public high schools last month. The results reflected performances at schools during the 2008-2009 school year.
The data reveals that 67 percent of schools that received a D or F grade last year improved with a C grade. Ratings are given to schools based on surveys given to parents, teachers and students about the school’s learning environment.
“We continue to see more high school students making progress toward graduation and more students meeting the milestone of graduation, which is exactly what we want to see and exactly what the high school progress reports are intended to reward,” Klein said. “High school progress reports continue to serve as a useful tool for parents and other stakeholders–especially for families of eighth graders who are deciding where to apply to high school.”
McCall told the AmNews, “Bloomberg creates schools like he’s running a business–like New York city is his corporation. We’re not having it. Even though the closure is not scheduled to happen until 2013, we will hold public forums and we will rally. How do you have schools being praised and awarded one minute, and threatened with closure the next? This is why we continue to say that Joel Klein should no longer be, and should never have been, the schools chancellor. All the elected officials should be supporting the parents in their outrage.”