March 28, 2012
In preparation to protest the closure of Sheepshead Bay High School tonight at a public hearing, students interrogated a cardboard cutout of Mayor Michael Bloomberg on video.
In the video, a student posing as an attorney stages a mock “cross-examination,” of the mayor and his plans, which involve closing and re-opening 33 schools this year under a federal reform model known as “turnaround.”
The city is holding hearings at 33 schools that are slated for turnaround, and two more begin tonight at Harlem Renaissance High School and Automotive High School. Each school will hold a hearing—a requirement of the closure process—with city officials, their respective Community Education Councils, and school community members between now and April 19. The citywide school board is set to vote on the closures a week later. The board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy, has never rejected a city proposal.
“Did you know that Sheepshead Bay High School has increased its high school grad rates from 52% to 64%. Would you agree that this represents a steady improvement?” A student asks in the video.
“Uh, well, over a few years… Yes,” ” a voice behind the cardboard cut out says.
The student continues: “Did you know the Sheepshead Bay High School ranks among the top schools in the nation in track and field? …Did you know that a student from Sheepshead Bay High School won the international moot court competition? Do you know about the many students who went and placed as finalists in writing competitions throughout the city and the state? …And yet you still call Sheepshead Bay a failing school?”
Students and teachers at Sheepshead Bay have not been active opponents of the plans until just a month ago, when they began organizing with the Alliance for Quality Education and spoke at a heated Brooklyn forum about the details of turnaround.
Officials “definitely should change their minds, if they saw what was going on in these schools,” Bruce Sherman, a guidance counselor who attended the forum told me. “Teachers are busting their butts, staying late for tutoring, doing all kinds of things to help the school. But they’ve had the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.”
This afternoon they are planning to rally in front of the South Brooklyn campus in the hour before the hearing begins, and the moot court team is set to perform.