March 9, 2012
Bolstered by the city’s unflinching plan to close John Dewey High School this June, students from the South Brooklyn campus added a walk-out to their growing resumé of protest actions this afternoon.
Dewey students and faculty have rallied and chanted in front of the school and at Department of Education meetings since January, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg first announced his eleventh-hour plan to close Dewey and 32 other schools. They are building off momentum from protests staged two years ago, when the city flirted with a possible phase-out of the school. Instead, the city opted to funnel extra funding and staff to the school through the federal “restart” reform model.
Now, the city says it will use use another federal reform model, called “turnaround,” at the school. But that model requires the city to first close the school and replace half its staff. If the plan is approved at the April Panel for Educational Policy meeting, Dewey’s current ninth-, tenth- and eleventh-grade students would attend a new school replacing Dewey in the fall.
Today’s walk-out was inspired by a city-wide campaign begun by the advocacy group the Grassroots Education Movement called “Fight Back Friday.” Other school communities have participated in Fight Back Friday protests, including Herbert H. Lehman High School and Schomburg Satellite Academy, a transfer school where teachers and students also planned to walk out today.
Dewey teacher Phil Luchun also posted a video this week decrying the closure plan and listing Dewey’s positive traits. Among them: its above-average college-readiness rate (29.7 percent), its film and financial literacy classes and its robotics team.
Students in the video say they are “sad” and “furious” about the closure. The video concludes with a photo of Cathie Black, the former schools chancellor, and a call to action: “Call 311,” the final text panel reads, “And ask, ‘Why is Dewey slated for closure?’”