Posts tagged "school closing season"
March 1, 2013
The massive auditorium at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers was nearly empty Thursday night when District 2 Superintendent Marisol Bradbury read aloud the Department of Education’s proposal to open a new high school in the lower Manhattan building.
The new school would work with the National Parks Service to offer career training in carpentry, masonry, landscaping, and restoration, Bradbury explained to the handful of adults in the audience. It would open in September with a ninth grade and expand to as many as 500 students over three years, according to the department’s proposal.
At the same time as the new school grows, Murry Bergtraum would lose students. By 2018, the school would have around 450 fewer students than the 1,806 who currently attend.
The proposal would mean a jarring new change for a once-venerable high school whose reputation and performance have plummeted in recent years. But where educators and students at other schools being asked to share space have made concerted efforts to hold on to their classrooms, few at Murry Bergtraum attended the city’s public hearing to comment on the plans.
The sparse attendance at the hearing did not surprise social studies teacher and teachers union chapter leader John Elfrank-Dana, who was not at the hearing himself. “We don’t have any community here,” he said. “When you send high-needs kids across town to school, you don’t have a community.” (more…)
February 27, 2013
Whether it was their first public hearing or their fifth, supporters of several schools that the city has proposed closing brought high energy to closure hearings held Tuesday evening.
Both Herbert H. Lehman High School and the High School of Graphic Communication Arts were briefly slated to close last year before a labor ruling halted the Department of Education’s plans. Now they are on the chopping block again. On Tuesday, Lehman’s vocal supporters reprised their support, while at Graphics, the debate shifted to what would move into the space instead. Supporters of a third school whose closure hearing was held on Tuesday, J.H.S. 302 in Brooklyn, brought fresh energy to the hearing, a first for the school.
The hearings are a required part of the city’s process to close or open schools, which culminates with a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy. The panel, which has never rejected a city proposal, is set to vote March 11 on closure plans for 24 schools.
Herbert H. Lehman High School (more…)
February 26, 2013
School closure hearings tend to be fairly raucous and protracted events, but three that the Department of Education held on Monday night for small schools were quick and relatively quiet.
Some of the strongest support for Freedom Academy High School, which would close outright at the end of the year, came not from students or teachers but from nonprofit partners who have tried to help the school’s low-performing students. The principal of Manhattan’s J.H.S. 13 was its most vocal supporter. And at P.S. 73 in Brooklyn, only a handful of people spoke out to defend the school — though parents left with questions unanswered.
The hearings are a required part of the city’s process to close or open schools, which culminates with a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy. The panel, which has never rejected a city proposal, is set to vote on the plans March 11.
The basement auditorium of P.S. 73 was nearly empty on Tuesday evening when Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson explained the rationale behind the city’s plan to phase out the Brownsville school.
P.S. 73 “lacks capacity to improve quickly,” Gibson said, explaining that the department thinks students in the area will be served better by two new elementary schools that would open in the building.
The explanation met little official resistance. Just three parents and one teacher spoke at the hearing, and parents who had been told that the meeting could go on for hours were surprised when it was adjourned after only 40 minutes. Principal Kenya Stowe sat on the panel but did not speak on the school’s behalf. (more…)
February 22, 2013
Reprising a march they held last fall, parents and community leaders stood outside P.S. 64 Pura Belpre with signs and mock sirens and declared a “state of emergency” in District 9 Thursday evening just before a public hearing about whether the South Bronx school should be phased out.
Local residents agreed on two things: P.S. 64 remains a failing school, and they are also frustrated with the Department of Education. But they had different views on what to do next.
Everybody, including department officials, recognizes that P.S. 64 is in need of a fresh start. At the hearing, parents complained that their children almost never come home with homework, that administrators are nearly impossible to reach on the phone, and that teachers are incompetent. But while some accept that the school is beyond salvation and want the department to provide a better setting for current students, others in the community think a total closure is a bad idea. (more…)
February 21, 2013
A citywide sprint through dozens of public hearings about the Department of Education’s plans to close, open, and move schools this year continued on Wednesday with spirited meetings at multiple schools.
At M.S. 45 in East Harlem, which the city wants to close at the end of the year, supporters said the school was on the verge of turning around after years of poor leadership. Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn, on the chopping block for the second time in a year, got praise for serving its many immigrant students. And at the Tilden Campus, also in Brooklyn, students and teachers argued that three schools’ success could be undone if a new charter school moves into the building.
The hearings are a required part of the city’s process to close or open schools. The Panel for Educational Policy, which has never rejected a city proposal, is set to vote on the plans March 11.
Frustrations ran high at M.S. 45 S.T.A.R.S. Prep Academy as community members pleaded with city officials to allow the school’s current principal more time to continue making improvements. (more…)
February 20, 2013
At a public hearing where accusations flew about who is responsible for a South Bronx school’s challenges, only one person stood up to take blame.
“I apologize publicly for not doing what was expected by the community of me,” said William Hewlett, the founding principal of M.S. 203, at a hearing last week about the school’s proposed closure.
The Department of Education announced in January that it would seek to shutter M.S. 203, open since 2001, because of low performance. The middle school’s test scores put it among the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state, and it earned a C grade or lower on its last three city progress reports, which focus on student growth.
As M.S. 203 phases out, the department announced, a charter elementary school, Bronx Success Academy 1, that had shared its building for a year would be able to expand to serve middle school grades. Two other schools in the building — the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters and P168, which serves students with severe disabilities — would stay on, but with new neighbors. (more…)
January 20, 2012
At the same time that supporters of Satellite III were laying blame for their school’s decline Thursday night, backers of Crown Heights’ P.S. 161 said they were confident their new principal could reverse that school’s slide.
Three years ago, P.S. 161 was an in-demand primary school, with more than three quarters of its students performing at or above grade-level. This year, the school is under-enrolled, D-rated, and set to lose its middle school grades, according to a Department of Education proposal.
Citing the school’s low test scores, which show less than half of students passing state tests, and a steep drop in enrollment between fifth and sixth grades, city officials said truncating the middle school grades will benefit the school in the long-run. Without a middle school, they said, the school could focus efforts to boost achievement in the elementary grades.
“Let me be clear that the school is not closing,” Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg told the crowd of 70-some parents, students, and education activists peppered through the school auditorium. “We see the truncation of the middle school as an opportunity to focus on the existing strengths of the school and reinvest in what is working here.”
Parents and community leaders said the middle school remains a high point in a district with dwindling middle school options.
“The CEC is very concerned about what is going on in general in District 17 this January,” said Claudette Agard, a member of the elected Community Education Council for the district. “We have four schools on this [closure] list. We are not defending failure, but the failure that you are citing and you are speaking of is not under this leadership.”
PTA President Demetrius Lawrence, the father of two current students and one graduate, said the school’s new principal, Michael Johnson, has the skills to turn the middle school around but needs more time. (more…)
January 20, 2012
The fall of Satellite III began the day Kenyatta Reid resigned as principal.
That was the story told and retold Thursday night at a public hearing about the Department of Education’s plan to close the Clinton Hill middle school.
After six years as the school’s beloved principal, Reid was selected in 2010 to start a new middle school and, according to his supporters, the city replaced him with an incompetent placeholder. For the next 10 months, they said, professional development stalled, school culture crumbled, and any semblance of progress achieved under Reid began to vanish.
That critical 10-month period — and the poor marks that followed — would provide the evidence on which the city based its plan to close the school. Last year, just 19 percent of students were considered proficient in reading and 34 percent were proficient in math. The school got a D on its most recent city progress report. But before that, the school had never earned a failing grade and was safe under Reid’s leadership.
The interim principal during that period, Ronald Wells, came under fire from parents and teachers who said he was an absentee leader. Wells was removed as principal of Martin Luther King High School, which has since closed, in 2002 and has been an interim principal at several schools since then.
“I don’t want to give one man that much credit, but he was definitely a catalyst” for Satellite III’s slide, said Monique Smalls, a PTA member.
Even a trio of elected officials have come together to place the blame squarely on Wells for the school’s poor performance. (more…)
January 13, 2012
As Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted the success of the small schools opened during his tenure in his State of the City address, families and staff from one of them were preparing to fight the city’s closure plan.
The Department of Education opened Middle School for the Arts, or M.S. 587, in 2004 to replace M.S. 391, a much larger school that was persistently low-performing.
But the Crown Heights school never fulfilled its promise. Last year, only 13 percent of the 334 students met state proficiency standards in reading, and only 11 percent were proficient in math. In December, the city proposed to close the school.
That proposal drew about 40 students, parents and staff members to speak out at a public hearing in the school’s auditorium Thursday evening. They said the school’s low test scores do not accurately capture what happens there and argued that replacing the school again would not solve its problems.
The hearing kicked off a three-week sprint of hearings the city has scheduled at each of the 25 schools it proposes to close or shrink this year, 11 of them middle schools. More hearings could be added to the docket if a plan Bloomberg announced in his speech — to close 33 struggling schools, at least in name, in order to retain federal funds — moves forward. (more…)
March 18, 2011
Threatened with closure when their school’s test scores sank, parents and teachers at a Brooklyn elementary school quickly mobilized their local elected officials in their defense. The plan worked. At the last minute, the city pulled its proposal to close the school.
But not a month later, PS 114 parents and teachers are wondering exactly how much their school was saved. That’s because they’ve learned that the Department of Education plans to slash the school’s enrollment by roughly 200 students in the next three years to accomodate a new charter school. The charter school, Explore Excel, was originally supposed to help replace P.S. 114 as the school was slowly closed.
Currently, P.S. 114 enrolls 754 students in kindergarten through the fifth grade, but its enrollment has been on the decline. Last year, it had 844 students and the year before that, 887.
With a new charter school slated to open in the building next year, Department of Education officials have decided to trim the student enrollment further to make room for the new school to grow. (more…)