November 22, 2011
Parents from schools the city has deemed failing issued their own grade to the Department of Education today: an F.
About three dozen parents from schools the department might close gathered on the steps of Tweed Courthouse to decry the department’s policy of shuttering schools instead of offering them additional aid. They said the department has failed at everything from providing resources to struggling schools to engaging parents — even to showing compassion to schools and families working under difficult conditions to help children.
As protesters chanted “Come get your F,” two members of the Chancellor’s Strategic Response Group emerged from Tweed’s front doors to accept the large red F mounted on posterboard and offer a receipt bearing Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s signature.
The protesters came from several schools where organizers with the Coalition for Educational Justice have been assisting parents in pushing back against potential closure. Rallies have taken place at about a dozen schools, often in conjunction with “early engagement” meetings that the department holds to discuss why the schools are struggling and how they might be helped.
Over the last two months, DOE officials have met with community members at 47 schools that met the city’s criteria for closure. Within weeks, the department will whittle down the list and announce which schools it will try to close.
Last year, the department held “early engagement” meetings at 55 schools and ultimately moved to close 25 of them.
The DOE official in charge of school closures, Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, said in a statement that the department would take the parents’ points into account when deciding which schools to close. But he said closure might well be the course the department selects for at least some of the schools.
“For the last two months, we’ve held discussions with members of 47 school communities to understand why these schools continue to struggle year after year,” he said in the statement. “We’ve listened to community feedback on every campus, and will consider it in our final proposals next month. Ultimately, a new school environment may be the best option for some communities.”