DOE Seeks to Phase Out 17 Schools in First Wave of Proposed Closures

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The Department of Education released Monday its first list of schools it would like to close or phase out for poor performance, with a second set of schools to be announced Tuesday. This kicks off the next phase of the school closure process which has come to be a controversial hallmark of the Bloomberg administration's effort to replace struggling schools with better performing ones.

Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg said these "difficult decisions" were the result of a thorough evaluation of each school's record.

“We expect success," he said in a statement. "After a rigorous review of academic performance, we’re proposing to phase out a select number of low-performing schools. We’ve listened to the community and provided comprehensive support services to these schools based on their needs. Ultimately, we know we can better serve our students and families with new options and a new start.”

The D.O.E. proposed two schools be closed at the end of this school year: M.S. 45/S.T.A.R.S. Prep Academy in Manhattan and Freedom Academy High School in Brooklyn. Below is the list of schools proposed for a gradual phasing out which means no new students could enroll at the school:

High School of Graphic Communication Arts

Choir Academy of Harlem

Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School

M.S. 203

Herbert H. Lehman High School

P.S. 064 Pura Belpre

Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications

M.S. 142 John Philip Sousa

P.S. 167 The Parkway

J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin

J.H.S. 302 Rafael Cordero

Sheepshead Bay High School

General D. Chappie James Middle School of Science

P.S. 140 Edward K Ellington

Law, Government and Community Service High School

Robin Kovat, a social studies and law teacher at Sheepshead Bay High School, said the announcement Monday did not surprise her.

"The D.O.E. has been trying to close us for nine years. They are finally succeeding. Even though we knew it was coming, it is still so sad," Kovat said.

Sheepshead Bay was one of the high schools the city wanted to "turn around" this year. Despite a new principal and additional support systems, Kovat said one year was not enough time to demonstrate results.

"A lot of us put our hearts and souls into the school and into the kids and really know that we made a difference in their lives. You know, maybe the numbers aren't reflecting that," she said. "At the same time as our statistics are going down, we have rising stars. Seriously."

This is a point echoed by several critics of the D.O.E.'s annual closing process, including Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

"The suggestion that the D.O.E. has provided 'comprehensive supports' to the struggling schools on this list is absurd," he said in a statement sent to reporters.

"To make matters worse, large comprehensive schools like Lehman and Sheepshead Bay have been further undermined by D.O.E. policies that led to increased concentrations of high-needs students, but with no increase in the services such students need."

A parent leader at the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, Juan Pagan, questioned the closure process, saying the schools deemed "failing" were not getting the support they needed to succeed. He said his child attends Legacy School for Integrated Studies.

"As the father of a child in a school that is currently being closed, I know how harmful and destructive the closure process is," Pagan said. "Crucial programs disappear, guidance counselors move to other jobs, students lose the services they need, morale plummets. There is no question that many more children like my daughter will go through this terrible experience."

One parent who asked not to be named said he was glad to see Choir Academy on the list.

"Instruction is so low there," he said. "The kids ultimately did not have the grades to pass even half of their classes. But they were given passing grades, I think, just to get us off their backs."

SchoolBook will be following this story throughout the week, and the rest of the school year. Share your comments about the school closure process below.