January 26, 2010
School-closing-season has thus far been loud and rowdy, but certain corners of the city have been louder than others.
Though howls of protest over the Department of Education’s plans to shutter 20 city schools have come from large community schools like Columbus and Jamaica High Schools, there are schools that could close with barely a whimper.
According to transcripts of the public hearings released by the Department of Education, most of the school closure hearings drew between 20 and 40 speakers. At many of the large high schools, the hearings drew hundreds of attendees and over 100 speakers to defend the schools.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is KAPPA II. Although the middle school has the smallest enrollment of any of the schools slated for closure, only three people spoke at the public hearing on the plan to shutter the school (including a representative from the principals union who spoke at hearings throughout the city). No members of KAPPA’s School Leadership Team attended.
KAPPA II is the first school opened under the Bloomberg administration that the DOE has slated for closure. The school was opened in 2004 as part of the city’s shift towards small schools. But the school has struggled since it opened and has gone through five principals in its six years of operation. The school has also seen its test scores decline, and just 14 percent of its parents bothered to participate in the school’s Learning Environment Survey (the citywide average for participation is 45 percent).
According to transcripts of the school’s public hearing, a representative from the district’s parents council and a parent said that because of the high administrator and teacher turnover, the school had not been given enough support or time to turn itself around.
“We all know Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said the parent, Glenn Simmons. “And a school is like a child. You have to raise the child from the bottom up, but it takes adults to do that.”
John Elwell, the president of Replications, the school development organization that launched KAPPA II before it entered the Empowerment Network for school support, also attributed the school’s struggles to its high principal turnover and a lack of support.
The principal of the school, Sean Dunning, did not return phone calls.
Note: an earlier version of this post mentioned Norman Thomas High School as another with a disproportionately low number of speakers at its closing hearing. That information was drawn from hearing transcripts posted on the DOE website that we later realized, though labeled for Norman Thomas, were in fact transcripts of a hearing at a much smaller school.