By Anna Gustafson and Ivan Pereira
Four schools in southeast Queens were added to a list of 47 schools citywide officials said last week that they planned to possibly phase out this year. The move angered area politicians and union representatives, but city Department of Education said it was necessary because the institutions consistently performed poorly.
PS 30 and PS 40 in Jamaica, PS 147 in Cambria Heights and IS 231 in Springfield Gardens were for the first time placed on a list of schools that may be shuttered. PS 30 and PS 40 are elementary schools, PS 147 includes students in kindergarten through eighth-grade and IS 231 is a middle school. If the schools were phased out, they would lose an incoming class each year until they no longer existed.
“How did all these schools wind up failing?” City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) asked. “What is the DOE doing that it is not supporting schools?”
DOE officials also said they may close schools they attempted to shutter last year, including Jamaica High School, Beach Channel HS in Rockaway Park and the Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship Magnet HS in Cambria Heights. Richmond Hill High School, John Adams HS in Ozone Park, Newtown HS in Elmhurst and Grover Cleveland HS in Ridgewood could be phased out as well.
DOE officials said the schools consistently have received low test scores and progress reports — a measure by which the DOE tracks educational institutions. But Comrie said the city has failed to put sufficient resources into school districts in southeast Queens. He noted there are not enough support services, links to nonprofits that could help parents and students or technology in the schools.
Comrie also said he hopes the DOE works better with community members during the closure process, which he said did not happen last year when city officials tried to shut Jamaica, Beach Channel, Richmond Hill and the Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship Magnet high schools. The UFT and NAACP sued the city in January over its attempt to close Jamaica, Beach Channel and Computer Applications and a state appellate court ruled in July that the city could not close the three high schools.
“This year we’re going to a lot of effort to get out to these schools early and often to meet with the prinicpal, the School Leadership Teams, the parents and the teachers to find out what they think is working and not working at the school,” said Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the DOE.
City officials are expected to decide this month what they hope to do with the schools, and the city Panel for Educational Policy will vote in January on the fate of the institutions. A DOE spokesman said not all the schools on the list will be phased out. Options other than closure for the schools includes new principals or programs.
“The Department of Education is committed to turning failing schools around and I really applaud them for that,” said state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), who represents the area in which Richmond Hill HS is located. “But the worst thing the city could do is turn a blind eye to underperforming schools and pretend there aren’t problems. The question is whether or not the cure is worse than the disease.”
UFT President Michael Mulgrew slammed city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the potential closures.
“If Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg want their legacy to be closing every school in New York City, they should be ashamed,” Mulgrew said. “They should be focusing on fixing schools, not shuttering them.”
DOE Communications Director Natalie Ravitz criticized Mulgrew’s statement.
“We are not going to leave kids in failing schools, and it is a sad, sad thing that the union thinks it’s more important to protect the jobs of adults than help our kids,” Ravitz said.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.