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‘turnaround’ Isn’t Fair Play

School Mobilizes To Stop Major Changes

With the Department of Education (DOE) planning to turnaround” Grover Cleveland High School through a massive overhaul of its faculty and administration after the current school year ends, the students and parents of the Ridgewood school aren’t sitting back quietly.

Students and parents that are a part of the Grover Cleveland school community are planning a number of public protests regarding the DOE’s proposal to enact a federal model that will result in the ouster of its principal and much of its staff.

Kathy Carlson, co-president of Grover Cleveland’s parent-teacher association, told the Times Newsweekly that many students will be participating in tonight’s (Thurs- day) Panel for Educational Policy meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene. They will also take their case to Queens Borough Hall for a Feb. 13 public hearing held by Borough President Helen Marshall regarding education throughout Queens.

The school community is also planning to walk in a chain around the school next Thursday morning, Feb. 16, to urge anyone listening to oppose the DOE’s plan for the school.

“We’re just trying to get a lot of publicity and let every know what’s going on before they (the DOE) make a decision,” Carlson said.

As previously reported, Grover Cleveland was among a number of city high schools identified by the state Education Department last year as “persistently lowest achieving” for not meeting performance and progress standards. Last year, the city DOE had planned to “phase out” the Ridgewood school, replacing it gradually with several smaller, specialized high schools.

After students and parents at Grover Cleveland voiced their displeasure with the plan, the DOE opted instead to enact a “restart” plan in which the school partnered with an educational partner organization (EPO) to create a plan to improve the school curriculum and provide academic support to both teachers and students.

The restart method is supported by funding from the federal government, but the money was lost on Jan. 1 after the DOE and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) failed to reach an agreement on a required teacher evaluation system. Thereafter, the DOE announced that it would abandon the restart model and instead enact the turnaround method for Grover Cleveland and 32 other high schools across the city.

The UFT and the DOE are reportedly in negotiations, trying to work out a teacher evaluation deal.

Under the turnaround model, Grover Cleveland’s principal and at least half of its faculty would be dismissed and replaced. The new principal would be given greater budgetary and “operational flexibility” to enact “a comprehensive approach to substantially improve student outcomes,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“We have so many good teachers,” Carlson said in a phone interview on Monday, Feb. 6. “If we lost so many of our good core teachers, it would devastate the school.”

While Grover Cleveland has struggled for many years, improvements have been made in recent years to enhance the quality of education students receives, Carlson noted. She pointed to a number of programs launched at the school to give teenagers a real-world learning experience, including the opening of a greenhouse to teach students about farming and revamped computer, math and science programs.

“There’s so many dedicated people I’ve seen there. It’s just amazing that they would do this to them,” Carlson added, noting that her own is a senior at Grover Cleveland. She also remarked that many of the teachers arrive early and/or stay later to provide tutoring to students who need assistance.

“There so many opportunities there for the kids,” she said. “They do so many things for the community.”

Students and parents from Grover Cleveland High School were also scheduled to appear at last night’s (Wednesday) Community Board 5 meeting at Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village. A report on the meeting will be featured in next week’s issue.

Long Island City High School in Astoria and Bryant High School in Long Island City were also marked for a “turnaround” under the DOE’s plan, according to State Sen. Michael Gianaris. In a press release, he condemned the model as being “detrimental to students’ ability to receive the education they need.”

“I grew up in the public school system and attended Long Island City High School. The public education I received gave me the tools I needed to succeed-a testament to the fact that these schools work,” Gianaris said. “As negotiations continue, we must ensure that the students remain our priority and do not needlessly suffer because of political posturing. I urge all praties to resume their negotiations and keep the interests of our children at the forefront of their minds.”

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