They wore silver plastic sheriff's stars. They printed "Wanted" posters of suspects. They wrote a press release. Then they went on a hunt. Their targets: members of the city's Panel for Educational Policy.
Seven students, all from high schools the city has put up for closing or turnaround, ventured across the Upper East Side and Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, dropping in on the offices of three panel members. They were accompanied by a parent and and two community activists. By the end of the afternoon, even though none of the three had received them, the students still thought their message had been heard, that schools should not be closed down.
“They think we’re not paying attention,” said Diana Rodriguez, 17, a senior at Grover Cleveland High School, and chant leader for the day. “I’m small, but I have a loud voice and they might not hear me today, but they’re going to hear me.”
The panel is scheduled to meet April 26 to consider turnaround proposals for several schools. Grover Cleveland is on that list, which would mean that half of its teaching staff would be replaced and the school would operate under a new name. Some of the other students were from William E. Grady Vocational High School, which has also been recommended for turnaround, and Legacy School for Integrated Studies, which the panel has already voted to close.
The students complained that the panel members had never gone against the city's recommendations to close schools, so they accused them of serving as a "rubber stamp'' to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
The band of students went first to the office of Eduardo Martí, vice chancellor for community colleges at the City University of New York. The students were told by security guards that Dr. Martí was on vacation.
Outside, they chanted, “Martí, Martí, you’re wanted for crimes — for closing schools for Bloomberg’s dimes.” They plastered a bus stop with a huge “Wanted” poster featuring Dr. Martí’s face. They taped the entire edge, “so it would be hard to take down.”
They chose their three stops because they were close to one another in Manhattan. The students had brought gear provided by activist supporters: a small black bullhorn, “Wanted” posters featuring “crimes committed” and plastic buckets with yellow fabric straps, which they drummed with wooden spoons and spatulas. They tried to meet with panel members in person, but were stopped at the sidewalk in front of three offices.
So they made some noise.
A receptionist opened the building door at the Inwood House, a pregnancy prevention center where Linda Lausell Bryant is executive director. When the receptionist said Ms. Bryant was not in, a student slipped her a “Wanted” poster of Ms. Bryant. The receptionist said, “Oh, that’s cute.”
The drums commenced and chants blared. Parents across the street at Public School 290 collected their curious children and whisked them away.
At the building of Judy Bergtraum, deputy to the vice chancellor for facilities, planning, construction and management at CUNY, the security guard suggested they wait outside for Ms. Bergtraum to leave. After some chants, they dispersed. Diana said, “I need to get home and do my homework.”
The small turnout did not discourage the group. “This was supposed to be a small thing,” said Justin Watson, president of the Save Legacy group that had been active in other protests. “We were trying not to draw too much attention.”