Little hope for Jamaica HS closure reversal

James Eterno Photo by Christina Santucci
By Ivan Pereira

Although parents, leaders and others cheered over the announcement that Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott would replace outgoing city Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, supporters of the southeast Queens schools slated for phase-out this fall were still bracing for the worst.

James Eterno, the United Federation of Teachers chapter leader for Jamaica High School, which is slated to stop admitting freshman this fall and be replaced by a new institution, said he and his fellow teachers were planning for the school’s end despite the administration change.

Despite Walcott’s strong educational experience and Queens roots, Eterno said he is still a staunch advocate of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s educational philosophy that includes shutting down failing schools instead of giving the campuses more time and resources for help.

“One thing Walcott said that was very disappointing was that there was no change in policy. I don’t think there will be a change,” he said.

In February, the city Panel for Educational Policy voted to phase out Jamaica and Beach Channel high schools because of the low number of graduating students and poor evaluations known as school report cards. Before the vote, hundreds of supporters of the schools booed Black before storming out in protest in the middle of the hearing.

In March, the panel voted to phase out IS 231 in Springfield Gardens and later this month the panel will decide if PS 30 in Jamaica will share a similar fate.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who has known Walcott for years and worked with him on various educational issues, said he preferred him to Black but also believed the school closure plan was inevitable.

“He has supported those procedures so far and I don’t see him as chancellor changing it,” Comrie said.

Last year, the city panel voted to phase out Jamaica and Beach Channel high schools and the Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship Magnet school at Campus Magnet High School, but that action was overturned by a state judge following a lawsuit by the UFT.

The union had not made any concrete plans for new court action as of press time Tuesday.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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