Avella rallies over planned closing of Jamaica High

Jamaica High School students rally outside the school to persuade the city Department of Education not to close the institution. Photo by Howard Koplowitz
By Howard Koplowitz

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) joined dozens of Jamaica High School students Friday to rally against the city’s decision to close the landmark school.

“We’re here to say to the city of New York: We’re not going to let you close Jamaica High School,” Avella said as the students cheered on the steps of the school. “This is our school and we’re not going to let Mike Bloomberg tell you what you can do in your own school. We’re going to fight to the bitter end.”

Since the city Department of Education and the city Panel for Education Policy — a body stacked with mayoral appointees that is effectively a rubber stamp for Mayor Michael Bloomberg — decided to close the school, students at Jamaica said graduation rates have increased despite the city not putting resources into the school.

“What is being done to this wonderful institution is just wrong,” Comrie said, saying the DOE and Bloomberg have the situation “backwards.

“They should be supporting the school, not trying to close it,” he said. “They should be making sure Jamaica High School has every resource. There is no reason why they should close this high school. This high school was doing better.”

Dermot Smith of the United Federation of Teachers said the union supports keeping the school open.

“This school is one example of Michael Bloomberg’s failure,” he said. “What’s being done to this building is a disgrace.”

Gerard Henry, a 17-year-old senior who travels more than an hour to get to the school from his Far Rockaway home, called the decision to close the school “extremely unjust.

“The school is actually rapidly improving and now is when they decide to shut the school down,” he said. “This is my school. I chose to go here and I chose to stay here and I’ve done well and I’ll continue to do well in college. This school is one of the better schools that the city has — hands down.”

Senior Mills Duodu, 17, derided the city for deciding to eliminate some Advanced Placement classes at Jamaica.

“If they’re cutting off AP classes, how can we be successful?” he asked. “I don’t think our school should shut down.”

Levindra Nohar, a 17-year-old senior from Ozone Park, said the problem is that the school is underfunded by the city.

“I feel it’s an outrage what’s going on here,” he said. “The only thing the mayor’s trying to do is call us a bad school and shut us down.”

Nohar said Bloomberg is “neglecting the kids that need help,” referring to English as a Second Language students, many of them from the school’s large Bengali community.

“Education is not a privilege — it’s a right,” he said. “Education is for the students, by the students and answerable to the students..”

Despite the rally and having elected officials supporting the school, Nohar said he was not optimistic that the school will be saved.

“I’m doubtful that the mayor will change his mind, but let this be a message for the other schools: You will be next,” he said. “The mayor, he’s not for students, he’s for himself.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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