Monday, October 24, 2011
Lynne Winderbaum on the destruction of large Bronx High Schools
Five major high schools in the Bronx received "Fs" today from the DOE; including the last remaining large schools in the borough. Here is Glenn Tepper's story of the decline of Jane Addams Vocational High School, which was once the second highest performing school in the borough, but which was brought down by the Bloomberg administration's preferential treatment of the new small schools. Below is the account of the foreordained demise of DeWitt Clinton High School, another once excellent school, in the words of Lynne Winderbaum, former UFT Bronx district leader:
I know you need no reminder of how the relentless march of high school closings in the Bronx have created higher concentrations of need in the remaining schools, setting them up for certain failure under the DOE's ice-cold matrix.
As the sadness of the phasing out of perfect examples of this systemic destruction such as Jamaica and Columbus begins to fade, now we see DeWitt Clinton on the list. Clinton is the last remaining intact comprehensive high school in the Bronx. It has been the last school to serve large populations of categories underserved in the new small high schools such as special education and ELL students.
The demoralization that comes with this letter grade should be seen by a hard working, dedicated, and competent staff through the lens of a system that is determined to close all large high schools by giving them a disproportionately high-needs proportion of students, comparing them to arbitrary and unfair peer groups, declaring them failures, and creating a formula to justify their decision.
They should hold their heads high (at least until they are thrown into the ATR pool) for the outcome was foreordained. Clinton has been severely overcrowded by the city's policies and suffered the largest budget cuts in the Bronx. They struggled valiantly to deal with all the city could throw at them while still doing their best to offer quality education and programs.
Clinton has worked diligently to provide services for their students and opportunities that small schools cannot. The principal, Geraldine Ambrosio, is one of the best in the borough. She is experienced, caring, knowledgeable, and guided by a drive to do what is best for her students and her school. She has fought all the adversity that comes with being the last undivided comprehensive high school but the effort seems to be lost in what has become an inevitability--that all large high schools are in jeopardy. Ambrosio strove to keep a veteran faculty and hired excellent ATR's as the surrounding schools shed teachers. That made her a dinosaur. She will go, Clinton will close, and the story of "What will happen to the children this school served that will not receive the same services in the small schools?" will be written yet again. When they closed Monroe, Morris, Taft, Roosevelt, Evander, Stevenson, Walton, Columbus, and Kennedy, the displaced high needs students could find a home at Clinton. No more.
I know the time will come when the city will regret this--maybe after all of our students are in schools run by corporate board rooms. But right now the march to close all large high schools and ignore the voice of the communities they serve (just watch the faces of the PEP members as they vote on this issue) seems inexorable.