Hundreds protest school closings vote

January 26, 2010 10:15:44 PM PST
A city board met Tuesday night to decide whether to close up to 19 schools for poor performance, but faced hundreds of angry parents and teachers. Almost 350 speakers were registered to address the Panel for Educational Policy before the vote could be held at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene.

The speakers stretched into Wednesday morning, with the vote not expected until the wee hours. Parents, teachers and others voiced their anger at the proposal to close the schools and questioned the criteria the city used in making the decisions.

Five members appointed by the borough presidents were expected to vote in favor of closing six large high schools, including Jamaica High School and Beach Channel High School in Queens, Paul Robeson High School in Brooklyn and Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx, as well as six small high schools created after earlier closures under Mayor Bloomberg's tenure, and a handful of middle and elementary schools.

"Closing schools is not the answer," Teachers' Union president Michael Mulgrew said before the meeting.

The list includes schools that have low grades on the Department of Education's grading system and low graduation rates.

One of the schools is Maxwell Vocation and Technical High School, where last year, teachers won bonuses for improved student performance.

"We got bonuses because we got results," one teacher said.

A recent meeting in Harlem was held in the spirit of more public participation in the Department of Education's decision making process.

"The system of education as we know it needs to be changed," parent activist Victoria Bousquet said.

The process for closing schools involves no longer accepting freshman students, as those already enrolled continue and graduate if they meet requirements. The city feels that closing schools improves student achievement.

"Graduation rates improve after failing schools are closed," Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott said.

The city has closed 91 schools, many of them large high schools, since 2002 when Bloomberg took control of the system. Those schools have been turned into clusters of small schools and charters.

The State Legislature renewed the mayor's control over city schools last year.