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March 26, 2010
Court overturns closures of 19 city schools, city will appeal
A school board vote to close 19 city schools is "null and void," according to a decision handed down by a state Supreme Court justice today. The bombshell decision leaves the fate of all 19 schools and their staffs up in the air and could force the Department of Education to rewrite arguments for why they deserve to be shut down. The ruling is the first time a court has interpreted the new mayoral control law Albany put in place last summer. A lawyer for the city, Michael Cardozo, said the Department of Education would appeal the decision. "We are disappointed by today's ruling, which, unless it is reversed, requires the Department of Education to keep open schools that are failing our children," Cardozo said.
March 9, 2010
Graduation rates show closing schools not always the worst
When choosing which schools to close, city officials say they pick the worst of the worst. But new graduation data released today shows that the city doesn't always follow its own criteria. Earlier this year, Department of Education officials announced their intention to close 19 schools based on the schools' abysmal graduation rates and low test scores. Many of the schools on the list were high schools where less than half of all students graduated and progress reports were dotted with Cs and Ds. But absent from that list was Washington Irving High School, which has the city's lowest graduation rate among traditional high schools and the highest drop-out rate. In January, the Panel for Education Policy voted to begin closing a school 16 blocks north of Irving: Norman Thomas High School. Washington Irving was spared. But a look at the school's graduation numbers and progress reports shows that in some respects, Irving is performing more poorly than Thomas is.
February 4, 2010
Ignoring violations, parents want to keep a charter school open
Parents of East New York Prep students said the city should help the school correct its governance problems rather than close it. Parents and students at an East New York charter school are pleading with the Department of Education to keep their school open after an investigation found that the school had violated its charter and its principal was expelling high-needs students. Charter schools are rarely closed in New York City, but when they are it can inspire as much anger and confusion as the shuttering of a traditional public school. At a hearing at East New York Preparatory on Wednesday night, about 100 parents filled the auditorium to ask questions of DOE officials and speak out against the school's proposed closure. Its embattled principal Sheila Joseph might have broken a few rules, they said, but in a high-crime, high-poverty neighborhood, a seat in her school was the only way out. "In this community there aren't many options for these kids," said Leon Smillie, the father of a second grader. "This is a good option."
January 26, 2010
While most schools protested plans to close, one that stayed quiet
(Number of speakers at each school's public hearing taken from DOE hearing transcripts.) 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.
January 22, 2010
New schools on the block: a look who's coming and (likely) going
Four days before the vote that will determine whether the city can close 20 schools this year, the Department of Education released a list of their replacements. The DOE is making a pretty safe bet — the citywide panel that will decide these schools' fate next week has never voted down any of the chancellor's proposals. It's difficult to understand what next year will look like because information about the closures has come out in drips and in Educational Impact Statements no civilian should have to read. Hoping to make the picture a little less foggy, I've compiled a list of all the schools that are slated for closure and their planned replacements. When possible, I've included enrollment sizes and descriptions of the new schools. Some new schools' impact statements are so vague and full of edu-speak, it remains well-nigh impossible to know how they'll be pedagogically different from the schools they replace.
January 21, 2010
Protesters rally against closures on mayor's street, if not his stoop
Parents, students and teachers protest against school closures and the expansion of charter schools across the street from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Upper East Side townhouse (center house). The pavement outside of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Upper East Side townhouse became a battleground in two fights this afternoon — one against school closures and another for the right to protest against them on a public sidewalk. A group of parents, students and teachers sued in federal court last week for the right to demonstrate on both sides of the street outside of Bloomberg's home. They said their protests at Tweed Courthouse — home to the Department of Education — had fallen on deaf ears. On Friday, the protesters won their case. But the city appealed, and this morning a panel of circuit court judges overturned the first decision, ruling that the demonstrators had to stay on the south side of East 79th Street, across the street from the mayor's door. And so protesters, who had vowed to demonstrate regardless of the lawsuit's outcome of their lawsuit, took their chants of "Phase out Bloomberg" to just the south side.
January 21, 2010
New York State places dozens of NYC schools on replacement list
The New York State Department of Education has singled out 34 New York City public schools, most of them large high schools, that it believes should be replaced. Many of the schools are already on the city's to-be-closed list and others have had poor reputations and low grades on the city's annual report cards for years. Now that SED has designated which schools are the bottom five percent across the state, school districts will have to submit plans to Commissioner David Steiner detailing which of four federally mandated plans they intend to implement. The plans are a menu of sorts: four options the U.S. Department of Education believe can transform "persistently low achieving" schools into success stories. Before the list came out today, state officials said they planned to replace many of the schools with charter schools, a proposal that could be severely delayed by the state legislature's recent decision not to lift the state's charter cap. Long before the list came out, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch said the state's choices would not be controversial.
January 20, 2010
DOE grants reprieve to Alfred E. Smith's automotive program
A technical education high school the Department of Education slated for closure is getting a reprieve — sort of. Instead of shuttering the Bronx's Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School entirely, the DOE is now proposing to keep the school's automotive technology program open. The school's other programs, which include home construction, carpentry, electrical and plumbing, will still be closed. About 500 of the school's 1,100 students are enrolled in the automotive program this year, said DOE spokesman Danny Kanner. Kanner said the DOE's proposal was revised after receiving strong community feedback against eliminating the Bronx's only automotive technical education program. Kanner also cited "the strength of the school's corporate partnerships," which include IBM, BMW and a number of city dealerships for other car companies including Toyota, Lexus, Buick and Nissan, according to the school's website.
January 8, 2010
Jamaica and Columbus High School supporters pack hearings
Parents, teachers and alumni cheer on the testimony of a Jamaica High School supporter at a public hearing on the plan to close the school last night. From Queens to Brooklyn, hundreds of teachers, students, and alumni poured into auditoriums last night to defend their high schools from closure. In Queens, supporters of Jamaica High School turned out in droves for the public hearing, a meeting also attended by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and some of the Department of Education's top brass. The arguments against phasing out Jamaica and replacing it with several small schools in the same building were similar to those voiced at a question-and-answer session with DOE officials held at the school last month, which also drew an angry crowd. When one speaker pointed out Walcott's presence in the back of the auditorium, audience members rose from their seats, turned around to face him, and chanted, "Save Jamaica High School." The Queens representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, Dmytro Fedkowski, asked the DOE to postpone the board's vote on the proposals until the department releases more information about how the closure decisions were made.
January 7, 2010
Beach Channel supporters lay out their case against closure
Beach Channel UFT chapter leader David Pecoraro spoke against the Department of Education's plan to close the high school, as parents, alumni and other teachers waited behind him to speak. Parents, students, teachers and alumni of Beach Channel High School asked Department of Education officials last night not to close their school, arguing the phase-out would be arbitrary, unnecessary and devastating for the Rockaway Park community. The crowd that turned out to Beach Channel's auditorium for the public hearing on the DOE's plan to shutter the school wasn't huge, but it was energized. Audience members jeered at DOE officials, including Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, and speakers frequently ignored officials' requests to limit their speeches to two minutes. When senior Chris Petrillo approached the front of the auditorium, asking to give a presentation originally intended for Chancellor Joel Klein, Grimm initially asked him to wait until after a group of elected officials commented on the proposal. A chant grew in the audience: "Let the student speak." Grimm ceded the floor. Petrillo, who spent the evening of his 18th birthday at the meeting, proceeded to present a slide-show of reasons not to close the school, questions about the closure and photos depicting programs cut from the school during his time there. "Why can't the money being used to open up a new school be used to fix us?" Petrillo asked.
December 21, 2009
Queens City Council members petition Klein to save schools
City Councilman David Weprin (right) signs a petition urging the DOE not to close 20 city schools. Councilman Eric Ulrich (left) plans to deliver the petition to Chancellor Joel Klein's office this afternoon. Members of the Queens City Council delegation called on Chancellor Joel Klein to abandon plans to close 20 city schools today. Standing on the steps of Tweed Courthouse and joined by colleagues representing other boroughs, Queens Council members accused the Department of Education of threatening to close schools without first trying to improve them or seeking community input. City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who represents Rockaway Beach, said the DOE did not notify his office before announcing its proposal to close Beach Channel High School. Ulrich is circulating a petition signed by nearly all of the Queens Council members calling on the DOE to abandon its plans to close the borough's schools. Ulrich said he intended to deliver the petition to Chancellor Joel Klein's office this afternoon. (He jokingly said he might nail it to the doors of Tweed.) Many of the 11 Council members and members-elect who attended the news meeting called for discussions with parents, community leaders, and the teachers union about how to improve struggling schools before resorting to closure.
December 21, 2009
Spike in anti-school closure protests begins to heat up the winter
Students and teachers protest the proposed closure of Jamaica High School on Wednesday. Photo courtesy William McDonald. Tis the season to light candles, exchange gifts, visit family — and protest school closures? Last week marked the beginning of what promises to be an unusually heated season of rallies organized by opponents of the city's plan to close 20 schools. Some activists point to a heightened sensitivity around this year's school closings. But the spike in public demonstrations may also be due to changes in school governance law that has required DOE officials to explain and defend their closure proposals in public, where those decisions were once made behind closed doors. "I think the amount of activity this year is definitely unusual," said parent activist Leonie Haimson. "Among people who pay attention to these things, I think there's an overwhelming sense of enough is enough and an attitude that we're going to fight back."
December 18, 2009
A trace of independence appears at Panel for Educational Policy
Members of a citywide school board displayed flashes of independence last night, a rare event for a group critics frequently deride as a rubber-stamp body. For the first time in the Panel for Educational Policy's history, protests from school leaders and panel members pressured education officials into withdrawing a proposal from consideration. Officials pulled back plans to eliminate the sixth grade of P.S. 126 in the Bronx, turning it into K-5 school — an idea that angered those who want to expand the school and others who worried about the lack of middle school choices in the area. Department of Education officials said the scale-back was meant to alleviate overcrowding in the school, but it could wait. "There's enough space for it to be K-6 for one more year," said Debra Kurshan, head of the DOE’s Office of Portfolio Planning. The panel also voted to postpone another resolution, ignoring pleas from DOE officials to approve it immediately. Several panel members — including some appointed by the mayor — said they needed more information.
December 9, 2009
DOE announces 3 more school closures, bringing total to 20
In the last round of school closure announcements for the year, the Department of Education said today that it intends to close three more high schools starting next year. The three schools are Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education School, a vocational school in the South Bronx; Monroe Academy for Business/Law, one of five small schools on the Monroe campus in the Bronx; and the School of Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship, located on a Queens campus where two of the other three schools began phasing out this year. The announcement brings to 20 the number of schools the department plans to close next school year, with high schools making up 15. A DOE spokesman, William Havemann, said the department does not plan to propose any more school closures this year.
December 7, 2009
DOE announces 9 more school closures in biggest round yet
In the most sweeping round of school shuttering this year, the Department of Education announced today that it intends to phase out nine more schools, eight of them high schools and three of them opened under Chancellor Joel Klein. The schools slated for closure today include large high schools in every borough except Staten Island. Paul Robeson High School in Brooklyn, Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan, Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx, and Beach Channel High School in Queens all will not accept new students for next year, provided that the city school board approves the closures next month. Together, the four schools have nearly 6,000 students. Beach Channel received attention in 2007 after students and teachers complained about a destabilizing influx of students who had not chosen to attend the school but were placed there. Those students included many who would have been zoned for Far Rockaway High School, a large school nearby that has since begun to phase out. Today's proposed closures also include three schools that were opened by the current administration:
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