More than 50 years after they graduated from Jamaica HS, The Cleftones, one of the great doo-wop groups, returned to their alma mater to plead with the city not to close the school that means so much to them.
Herb Cox, of the class of 1955, and the rest of his group came from their Atlanta homes to attend a rally in the school’s gym.
“To this day,” he said, “I think how fortunate we were to go to Jamaica HS. It was a great school to go to, and its academic reputation was wonderful.”
There were a number of prominent speakers that day, including elected officials, but none spoke more eloquently about what a mistake it is to close this school. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is wrong. Jamaica HS is more than the students currently enrolled and its value goes beyond statistics and the percentage of students who graduate each year. This school has been part of the Jamaica community for more than 85 years.
We sense that the concept of community is something Bloomberg cannot relate to. The mayor lives in a multimillion-dollar home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. No doubt it is a nice place to live, but there is not a close-knit community there.
For this reason the mayor cannot understand what Jamaica HS means to the community it serves and to the thousands who graduated from the school. The feelings that people like The Cleftones have for this school cannot be plotted on a spreadsheet, but they are every bit as real.
We had hoped that city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott would tell his boss that closing the school is wrong. So far, that has not happened. The committee that decides which schools get put to sleep is stacked with mayoral appointees, so borough representatives can never vote down the mayor’s plan.
Nevertheless, there may be a ray of hope. There is a bill currently in the state Senate and another in the state Assembly that would stop closing any schools in the city for a year. This would force the Bloomberg administration to review its policy on closing schools.
Polls show the mayor may have outlived his welcome in the city. The time has come for Queensites to show him that their thoughts and feelings on this matter cannot be ignored.