Backlash against closure of Tilden H.S.

By Helen Klein

Area elected officials are sounding off over the Department of Education’s decision to close down Samuel J. Tilden High School. At the December meeting of Community Board 17, which was held at the Vandeveer Park United Methodist Church, 3114 Glenwood Road, city and state legislators slammed the DOE for what they say was a decision made without consultation with either those elected to represent the community or members of the community themselves. Tilden, at 5800 Tilden Avenue, is one of a group of high schools around the city, including South Shore and Lafayette, also in Brooklyn, that DOE has decided to close and replace with clusters of small high schools. The agency’s announcement, made earlier this month, triggered responses that ranged from anger to applause “Our concern as elected officials is that we weren’t included in discussions as to what the future of Tilden was going to be,” remarked Assemblymember Helene Weinstein. “I insisted that the next meeting not be when they tell us what the plan is, but that it come soon and involve parents and the whole community. “Children eligible for high school in this community,” Weinstein added, “deserve the ability to go to their neighborhood school if they want to and have a quality education there. People who want a quality education shouldn’t think Tilden is not an option for them.” City Councilmember Kendall Stewart concurred. Besides criticizing DOE for having acted behind the backs of elected officials and the community, Stewart also raised questions about the efficacy of the proposal to replace the large high school with a group of smaller ones. “The jury is still out as far as large schools are concerned,” he told the crowd. “Most of the successful schools are large schools, such as Midwood and Stuyvesant. I want to see the resources placed at Bronx High School of Science and Midwood and compare them to what has gone into Tilden High School. “If you’re spending $7,000 a kid in one school and $2,000 or $3,000 a kid in Tilden, and you expect them to perform the same,” he went on. “If they really want to make a difference, they need to look at the hard facts.” Assemblymember Nick Perry suggested that perhaps, in making the announcement that it would be closing Tilden and four other high schools, DOE had jumped the gun, anticipating that the state legislature would approve a bill providing for the creation of additional charter schools, including the conversion of current public schools into charter schools, and hoping to dovetail into that. However, Perry said, the legislature had not bowed to the pressure of lame duck Governor George Pataki in that area. “The announcement came rather too quickly. Now, let’s see what they (DOE) are going to do,” he remarked. The chairperson of CB 17’s Education Committee was also disturbed by the approach DOE had taken. ‘I’m really upset that the politicians didn’t know, that the community board didn’t know,” Orlinda McInnis told the crowd. “I think it’s disrespectful.”

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