It’s the final dismissal for three underperforming Queens schools and watch list status for eight more.
The city Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted to close 19 city schools at a contentious public hearing at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene early Wednesday, January 27, after more than eight hours of testimony.
Later that same week, the New York State Department of Education (NYS DOE) identified 34 schools citywide that are facing potential closure.
The NYS DOE stated that these schools have four options: They can be turned around by replacing the principal and half of the staff, transformed by rewarding staff that boost student achievement, become charter schools or simply shut down.
Unfortunately, three Queens schools are out of options. The PEP voted 9-4 in favor of closing Beach Channel High School in Rockaway Park, Jamaica High School and Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School in Cambria Heights.
School supporters complained that eight of the 13 panel members were appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which means they can be removed from the panel at his behest.
According to a statement, Mayor Bloomberg expressed regret that the schools were not performing up to city standards.
“I’ve listened to the arguments carefully and I appreciate the traditions of these schools, but we cannot continue to send our children to schools that have failed them for years,” said Bloomberg. “They deserve better.”
Some on the other side of the argument believe that they deserved better when it came to the public hearings. United Federation of Teachers’ Queens Representative James Vasquez said that school supporters felt they were not shown the proper respect from the voting panel.
“Besides feeling exhausted, we feel deflated,” said Vasquez. “We spent all that time speaking and no matter what we said it did not faze them whatsoever. They never spoke to the substance of what people were saying.”
Alleging that the city did not conduct a proper analysis on how the school closing would affect the more than 13,000 displaced students, the teacher’s union, joined by the
NAACP, filed a lawsuit against the city on Monday, February 1.
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who received a raucous booing throughout the night, said through a statement that the closing of these underperforming schools will allow the city to create better opportunities for city children.
“When we know we can do better for students, we must,” said Klein through a statement. “The vote today will pave the way for us to build on the remarkable progress we’ve made and continue to best prepare students for the next phase of their lives.”
Principal John Ficalora of Newtown High School, one of the 34 city schools that received a warning from the NYS DOE, said that he is hopeful Newtown can avoid closure.
“Students, staff and parents are hopeful the school will not be closed and another option will be found,” said Ficalora.
The other Queens schools on the watch list are Richmond Hill High School, Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens Vocational-Technical High School in Long Island City, Flushing High School, August Martin High School in Jamaica, John Adams High School in Ozone Park and Long Island City High School.