We protest the proposal of New York City's Department of Education (DOE) to close 33 schools and reopen them under the Turnaround method, and condemn the abrupt closures of these historic institutions.
In Queens alone, that list includes John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Richmond Hill High School, Long Island City High School, Flushing High School, Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Newtown High School in Elmhurst, August Martin High School in Jamaica and Bryant High School in Long Island City. There are about 21,000 students in total at the eight schools.
Mayor Bloomberg announced the plan in his State of the City address recently in an effort to secure about $58 million in education aid that the state has withheld because the city and the teachers’ union had yet to reach a deal on new evaluations for educators.
This ill-conceived plan was made without any real planning, strategy or parental input. Comprehensive high schools are necessary to mould our children to become good citizens and prepare them for college and careers.
DOE should be working to improve and enhance these schools in our increasingly competitive global economy. It is wrong to use state and federal programs to close these schools without even a phase out.
Unnecessary chaos will ensue. Current high school juniors do not even know the name of the school they will be attending in September. Questions remain, such as what sport teams will be cut, who will their teachers be, what educational opportunity programs will be eliminated, what will the mission and theme of these schools be, what will happen to the current parents’ associations, what art and music programs will these schools offer, what remedial programs, if any, will be retained.
Existing programs like media and communication, business, environmental issues, health and sports careers, and law and international relations may be scrapped. With half of the teachers gone, who will write their college recommendations and serve as trusted mentors? These, and other concerns, must be answered before changes are considered.
We urge the DOE and Chancellor Dennis Walcott, himself a graduate of these comprehensive high schools, to immediately halt this destructive and counter-productive process that will affect our communities and neighborhoods.
Instead, we should allocate resources to improving existing schools and stop creating chaos for September. To ignore our kids welfare will send the wrong message to them that we don’t care about their future, or their success in life.
The plan to close the schools will be voted on April 26 by the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, notoriously regarded as a rubber stamp for all of the mayor’s school plans because it has never rejected any changes he has proposed in the past. Our children will be the ones who suffer most.
Albert Baldeo is community advocate who lives in South Queens.