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December 3, 2009
Jamaica HS union leader says teachers saw closure coming
James Eterno, Jamaica High School's UFT chapter leader. (<em>GothamSchools Flickr</em>) The head of the union chapter at Jamaica High School said teachers there have been expecting the school's closure for years and criticized the city for planning to open new small schools without offering help to the struggling large one. James Eterno, a history teacher at Jamaica for 24 years, said teachers anticipated bad news after the school received a D on its progress report this year. But signs that the 1,500-student high school was in trouble had been apparent for years, he said. In 2007, Jamaica was placed on a citywide list of schools labeled "persistently dangerous," and letters were sent home to students and parents informing them of the designation. Enrollment dropped, Eterno said, and when Jamaica became the last choice of eighth-grade students applying to high schools, a new population of students who were less enthusiastic about school entered the school. (Eterno laid out this story in a community section post about Queens high schools back in September.) Of the school's roughly 500 ninth grade students, slightly less than half did not apply to the school but were placed there after they moved to Queens, sometimes from other countries and knowing little English, Eterno said. "What [the city] should have done and what they could have done was to give us the funding, let us lower class size, let us have reasonable guidance caseloads and let us see if it works," Eterno said. "Then if it doesn't work, then you can make the case to close us down."
December 3, 2009
DOE to close four more schools, including Jamaica HS
Jamaica High School, a long-beleaguered school in central Queens, is among four more schools the Department of Education today said it would phase out beginning at the end of the school year. The other schools are the School for Community Research and Learning, a Bronx high school; the Academy for Collaborative Education, a middle school in the Bronx; and PS 332, a neighborhood K-8 school in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood. All four schools have poor state test scores and problems maintaining enrollment and discipline, according to the department. They join four other schools whose proposed closures were announced yesterday. According to the school governance law passed in August, the proposed closures must be given public hearings and approved by the city school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy. The panel has never rejected a DOE policy proposal. At more than 1,500 students, Jamaica is the largest school the department has so far this year indicated it would close. It has jumped on and off of the state's list of "persistently dangerous" schools, and its graduation rate has hovered below 50 percent. This year, it has more than 500 ninth-graders but fewer than 200 twelfth-graders, according to DOE enrollment data.
December 2, 2009
City announces plans to shut four "failing" public schools
The city's Department of Education announced plans today to close four public schools that the department believes are "failing" to educate students. Citing the schools' low graduation rates and poor scores on state standardized tests, the DOE said it would phase out two high schools and two middle schools next year. The schools are William Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School in Brooklyn's East New York, the Academy of Environmental Science Secondary High School in East Harlem, the middle school grades at Frederick Douglass Academy III in the South Bronx, and KAPPA II middle school in East Harlem. Officially, the four closures must be approved by the citywide school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy, and be discussed in public hearings, in accordance with the city's new school governance law. In the past, the department has told schools they would be closed without advanced warning, and teachers union president Michael Mulgrew said little had changed this year.
May 20, 2009
DOE launches learning guides for stuck-at-home students
An exercise activity schedule from the DOE's learning guide. The Department of Education doesn't want healthy children who attend the as-of-now 19 schools closed because of swine flu fears to sit idly while they stay home. To keep them occupied, the DOE has made available optional "learn at home" activity guides, and Chancellor Joel Klein is urging everyone to participate. The guides were compiled in short order by the DOE's teaching and learning department and can be picked up in four locations or downloaded from the department's Web site. Updated guides and a packet of work for high school students will be posted as soon as tonight, according to a DOE spokeswoman. Chancellor Klein told reporters yesterday that he would like students who are able to complete the voluntary schoolwork. “I hope this is not viewed as a holiday,” he said. The guides include daily schedules that break down four hours of learning into small blocks: 45 minutes each for English and math and half an hour each for vocabulary and science. Another hour and a half is divided evenly among fitness and health, arts and sampling educational television shows (one suggestion is Animal Planet's "Meerkat Manor") and Web sites.
April 2, 2009
Harlem parents say they want their local schools shut down
A group of parents is sharply criticizing the Department of Education for backing away from its decision to shut down struggling neighborhood elementary schools, saying Mayor Bloomberg should "take a hard line" and turn over the buildings to be used as charter schools. The parents, who are zoned to have their children attend two of the schools that would have been closed and replaced with charter schools, said that they want the mayor to shut the schools down because the schools are dirty, dangerous, and filled with teachers who are "just there for a paycheck." "I live across the street from 194," one mother, Melissia Daley, wrote of P.S. 194, a Harlem elementary school that would have been closed under the city's original plan. "Although it's a zoned school and very convenient for me and my child, I wouldn't even try to put my child in there because the children are well behind in grade." "If they are closing 241 to put a better school in its place, then they should do that," one parent, Martinique Owens, said, of another Harlem school, P.S. 241, in a similar situation. Their statements came in a press release issued this afternoon by a spokeswoman for the Harlem Success Academy network of charter schools, Jenny Sedlis. Two Harlem Success schools were planning to become the sole occupants of the P.S. 194 and P.S. 241 buildings after those schools closed. Those schools will have to continue sharing space with district elementary schools next year.
February 3, 2009
Shrugs, sadness as Brandeis High School learns it will be closed
Brandeis High School will phase out beginning this year. Few were surprised today when Department of Education officials descended on the Upper West Side's Louis Brandeis High School to inform staff that the long-struggling school has been slated to close. For years, the school has been among the lowest-performing in the city, with a four-year graduation rate of just 33 percent. This year Brandeis received a D on its DOE progress report, used to evaluate how much students are improving. By the time teachers and staff gathered today in the school's basement auditorium for a 3 p.m. meeting, most appeared to know why they were there. One teacher told me that rumors had spread through the building all afternoon. "There's been talking ever since we had gotten our progress report," said another teacher, Tara Bernard, a speech pathologist who has worked at the school for four years. "We've been waiting for the other shoe to drop for years," said another teacher as he left the building. But some students said they thought the school was improving. A ninth-grader told me he heard the school had problems, but he hadn't experienced them. And an older student said the school had fewer fights than in the past. Bernard, the speech pathologist, said the school had been relatively stable in her four years working there.
February 2, 2009
At closing schools, ups, downs, and unanswered questions
The decision to close schools is rarely as clear cut as the Department of Education makes it out to be, Javier Hernandez reports in…
January 28, 2009
What it feels like to have your high school collapse around you
Remember that Red Hook high school that is not only getting shut down this year, but is closing immediately, without a phaseout — making it…
December 12, 2008
Could closing a struggling high school encourage drop-outs?
Philissa just put up a feature looking in-depth at one of the latest school closures, a Red Hook, Brooklyn, high school that will be…
December 11, 2008
DOE announces that it will close two more schools
Two more schools have joined the list of schools being closed because of poor performance, the Department of Education announced today. IS 116 in the…
December 10, 2008
Three more elementary schools are set to close, DOE says
The tally of schools slated to close in June reached 11 today. Parents at PS 198 in the Bronx, PS 194 in Manhattan, and PS/IS 72 in Brooklyn are learning today that the Department of Education is closing their schools at the end of the school year because of poor performance. Staff members learned about the closures yesterday, according to the DOE. All three schools have low test scores and haven't posted significant progress according to the DOE's way of measuring improvement. Two of the them received D's on their most recent progress reports; the third, PS 198, got an F.
December 9, 2008
Another school closure trickles out from the DOE
The school closure count is now up to eight after the Department of Education broke the bad news at another school today. Families at PS…
December 9, 2008
Elected parent leaders learned of school closure by e-mail
It's déjà vu all over again for parents as the Department of Education reveals its latest round of school closures. Last year, City Council members complained that the DOE announced school closures without first discussing them with community members. Like other parent advocates, council members argued that the DOE's actions were in violation of the state's education law, which requires the chancellor to "consult with the affected community district education council" before closing or substantially changing schools. But despite the outcry, the district-wide community education councils aren't any more in the loop this year. "The CECs were notified the same day the staff was told" at each school, DOE spokeswoman Melody Meyer told me today. For District 15's CEC, at least, that notification came in the form of an e-mail yesterday afternoon, after the principal of PS 27 had already been told her school would be closing in June, according to the council's president, Jennifer Stringfellow.
December 8, 2008
More schools are learning they will close
At least four more school closures will be announced to parents and staff in the next two days. The names I’m hearing are all elementary…
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