DOE votes to close 25 schools despite protests

Education is a right. Fight, fight, fight!

This was one of many rallying cries shouted by the nearly 2,000parents, students, educators, union leaders and elected officialsgathered outside and inside Brooklyn Technical High School onThursday, February 9, in protest of the city Department ofEducation’s (DOE) scheduled vote to close or phase-out 23 publicschools – 15 of them in Brooklyn.

However, despite the pre-vote protest and rally, and the packedhouse in one of the largest auditoriums in the city, the DOE’sPanel for Educational Policy (PEP) – which includes ChancellorDennis Walcott – voted to approve all the closings.

The decision affects schools such as P.S. 19 Roberto Clemente inFort Greene, J.H.S. 296 in Williamsburg and P.S. 22 inBedford-Stuyvesant, as well as others in Flatbush, Harlem, theBronx, Queens and Staten Island.

None of the schools are in southern Brooklyn this time around, butthey will be – whether that means closings, restart, turnaround,transformation, co-locations, layoffs or anything else – and thatis the reason that more and more New Yorkers are angry.

We’re being told our test scores are low, but then put money intoour libraries, technology, math coaching, literacy coaching,science classes and music classes [instead of all this change],said P.S. 19 teacher Lorraine DeAngelis. Our kids are not soccerballs to be kicked around from restart to turnaround toclosing.

Enough is enough, declared Mona Davids, president of the NYCParents Union and parent to a ninth grader. Your legislators arehere. Say to them that [they] need to do something about this.Stand up and join us on March 21 in Albany to demand a stop toclosings and co-locations. Make them change the law.

Elected officials present cheered on the idea of changing the lawto prohibit Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the DOE from closing,merging or making other changes to schools en masse based onconflicting claims of failure via low test scores.

Closing schools is representative of failed policies, a failedsystem [and] a fundamental failure, said Councilmember LeticiaJames to the crowd outside Brooklyn Tech. Governor [Andrew] Cuomo,it’s time for you to step in. We need leadership.

These schools are improving, insisted Brooklyn Borough PresidentMarty Markowitz. The way you reward success is withsupport.

The travesty happened a few years ago when we gave the mayor athird term. It was a wasted term, said Councilmember JumaaneWilliams, who went on to list the high percentages of students ofall ethnicities who are graduating high school without beingcollege-ready. What about that is successful? He’s been shuttingdown schools for 10 years. You’ve got a lot of money, but we’ve gota lot of people.

The Bloomberg administration has closed 117 public schools deemedfailing since 2002, while opening 396 schools and charterschools.

On April 29, 33 more public schools – including I.S. 136 in SunsetPark, John Dewey High School in Gravesend and Sheepshead Bay HighSchool – will be on the firing line, with PEP determining whetherthey should be closed and then reopened with the principal and halfof the teachers replaced.

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