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Brooklyn Students Propose Ways to Improve Relations at Shared Campuses

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 02:52 PM

Beth Fertig Hear students Devin Bradford, Kadesha Glasgow and Shakirah Wright recommend ways to improve co-locations.

Now that so many of the city's public schools are sharing buildings, some Brooklyn teenagers are suggesting ways to improve relations within the campuses.

The newly formed Brooklyn Youth Advisory Council explored the issue of "co-located" schools for its first report, which was presented at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday night to community members and a Department of Education official who has been working to develop closer relationships at campuses with multiple schools.

The council spent 10 weeks interviewing focus groups at the campuses of three formerly large high schools that are now shared by several small schools: Franklin K. Lane and the old Samuel J. Tilden and Canarsie school buildings. The seven students on the council all attend schools that are co-located in shared buildings, so they had personal experiences to draw upon.

Overall, they found students said they were happy with the smaller class sizes, more personalized atmospheres and Advanced Placement offerings. But they also noticed problems.

Devin Bradford, 18, senior at Gotham Professional Arts Academy, said he was surprised by how the students were inconvenienced by metal detectors. His school also shares a building, but doesn't have any scanners.

"The students were saying that that was making them late," he said. "They would come early but still be late for their class."

Mr. Bradford acknowledged the city is unlikely to remove the metal detectors, so his suggestion was to add more of them at each campus to make it faster for students to enter.

Kadesha Glasgow, 17, a senior at the High School for Public Service: Heroes of Tomorrow at the old Wingate Campus, said she was surprised by how difficult it was for students in a shared building to go from one floor to the next. She said students told her that school safety agents could issue summonses for trespassing if they didn't have the right hall passes. She recommended loosening the restrictions.

Seventeen year-old Shakirah Wright, who attends the School for Democracy and Leadership in the Wingate campus, said these borders sometimes created bad feelings. She called for student councils to meet every week at campuses where several schools are co-located, to help kids feel more united.

"They feel a little tension because if one school has a talent show for example and the other school is not allowed to go there, it seems like your school is better than us or your school has more resources than we do, when in actuality it's not like that," she said.

Dr. MAK Mitchell, executive director of school governance for the city's Department of Education, said she was impressed by the students' work.

"I encouraged them to go further and study the data on attendance, safety incidents and graduation rates," she said in an e-mail message. "I also suggested that studying the existing best practices of select campuses in the city would provide them with great models."

She mentioned that some schools already have staggered entry schedules to reduce time waiting at metal detectors, while others have figured out creative schedules for better student access to libraries, gyms, cafeterias and auditoriums.

The Bloomberg administration has spent the past decade replacing large, failing schools with small new schools. As a result, Ms. Mitchell said there are now 900 schools sharing space at a total of 380 campuses. She has been working on the issue of campus governance.

The Brooklyn Youth Advisory Council grew out of the Coro New York Leadership Center's Exploring Leadership program for Brooklyn teens.

The Brooklyn borough president's office invited the council to study how co-locations affect city students because the office had only heard from parents, according to its education policy analyst, Margaret Kelly. She added that the goal of the report was not to add more heat to the controversy over co-locations but to improve relations at campuses.

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