City Holds Meetings at 23 Schools That Could Close or Turnaround

The city has begun holding meetings with parents at 23 low-performing schools that could be phased out.

The schools include Grover Cleveland High in Queens and Fordham Leadership in the Bronx. They're are all slated to receive federal turnaround grants worth up to $2 million annually.

Michael Drillinger attended a meeting on Monday at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, which has a 4-year graduation rate of less than 60 percent. As treasurer of the school's alumni association, he says the school suffered from budget cuts and because it's recently taken low-performing students from other failing schools that closed.

"On the one hand they set up the situation to fail, and on the other hand then point to it and say 'see you're failing,'" he said. Drillinger has been working with other alums and teachers at Dewey to improve the school's curriculum, and doesn't want the school to be closed.

The city's Department of Education says it still hasn't decided what to do with any of the 23 schools. They could be phased out, turned into charter schools, or have half their teachers replaced. All are allowable options under the federal government's School Improvement Grant program. Eleven other schools with grants are undergoing a milder approach called "transformation," which involves keeping their staff (except for the principal in some cases) and bringing in extra resources such as a longer school day. WNYC and GothamSchools have been profiling some of these schools in a series called The Big Fix.

"We're meeting with struggling schools right now to hear directly from parents, teachers and students what is working at the school, what isn't working, and how we can all come together to do right by these kids," said DOE Spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, about the next crop of schools getting federal grants.

A court found the city violated state law earlier this year by not providing enough community notification when it sought to phase out 19 low-performing schools — some of which are now among the 23 receiving federal grants. The ruling came after a lawsuit by the teachers union, the NAACP and some parents.

The DOE says meetings are tentatively scheduled this week at Grover Cleveland High School, Fordham Leaders, Grace Dodge, KAPPA VII and August Martin. Meetings have already taken place this month at the following schools:

John F. Kennedy High School

Sheepshead Bay High School

Academy of Collaborative Education

Jane Addams High School

John Dewey High School

Richmond Hill High School

High School of Graphics Communications Arts

PS 332, Brooklyn

New Day Academy

Grederick Douglas in the Bronx

Middle School for Academic/Social Excellence

PS 102 in the Bronx