Anna Phillips is a staff reporter at GothamSchools.
With Panel Vote, Once-Venerable City Schools Will Close
Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 10:04 AM
10:40 a.m. | Updated The names of two dozen New York City public schools, some of them among the oldest educational institutions in the city, are likely to be erased on Thursday night when a city board votes on proposals to close the schools.
Under the arrangement proposed by the city's Education Department, the schools will reopen next fall with the same students, but with new names and a recast staff of teachers and administrators.
First announced during the mayor's State of the City address in January, the plan was intended to bypass stalled negotiations with the city's teachers' union over a new teacher evaluation system, required as a condition of nearly $60 million in federal grants.
City officials still hope to qualify for the grant by closing and reopening the schools, placing them under the "turnaround" model endorsed by the Obama administration. To do so, the city would draw on an obscure provision in the teachers' contract that would allow officials to replace roughly half of the schools' current teaching staff.
The United Federation of Teachers has opposed the city's plans, which could lead teachers to lose their jobs and become permanent substitutes while they search for new positions. And the schools' staff members and students have fought the proposals as well, particularly at the large high schools, where they have staged protests for months.
Earlier this month, Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott withdrew plans to close seven of the schools after determining that they had "strong enough foundations to improve."
And on Thursday morning, the day of the vote, Mr. Walcott announced that two more schools would not be closed: Grover Cleveland High School and Bushwick Community High School. But he held firm to plans to close 24 others, convinced that bringing in new teachers and principals, while keeping the same students, would improve the schools.
In February, the same board, the Panel for Educational Policy, voted to phase out 18 other schools and remove the middle-school grades of five others. The panel's actions this year would result in the largest number of school closings since the Legislature granted Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg control of the city schools a decade ago.
The list of schools up for a vote on Thursday includes Flushing High School, which was founded in 1875 and lays claim to being the oldest public high school in New York City, as well as six other high schools in Queens. One of them, Richmond Hill High School, is so overcrowded that its students have overflowed into trailers, where they have studied for years. Another, William Cullen Bryant High School, is the alma mater of the former schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein.
The city plans to close 10 schools in the Bronx, 2 in Manhattan and 5 in Brooklyn, including once well-regarded schools like Sheepshead Bay High School and John Dewey High School, which have struggled to graduate students in four years who, increasingly, arrive with greater needs.
If the board approves the plans -- it is controlled by Mr. Bloomberg and has never rejected a proposal -- it would force all of the schools' teachers to reapply for their jobs and be vetted by a committee of city and union officials.
Exactly how many teachers could be removed is unclear, because while the contract provision allows up to 50 percent of them to be replaced, the federal turnaround grant calls for a minimum of 50 percent turnover. City officials say they will have some flexibility in deciding exactly how many would stay.
On Thursday night, the panel will also vote on a long list of proposed co-locations, the common practice of placing multiple schools under the same roof. And it will also vote on a three-year, $10 million contract with McGraw Hill to create an online system for teachers to score Regents exams taken by students at other schools.
For years, teachers have graded their own students' exams, but the Board of Regents has banned the practice, beginning next school year.
26 School Closures:
Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical High School
Herbert H. Lehman High School
Banana Kelly High School
J.H.S. 22 Jordan L. Mott
Bronx High School of Business
J.H.S. 80 Mosholu Parkway
M.S. 391 Angelo Patri Middle School
Fordham Leadership Academy
J.H.S. 142 John Philip Sousa