Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tweed still making unilateral -- and illegal -- decisions about closing schools

The DOE announced three schools that would be closed or phased out starting next year: MS 44 in Manhattan’s District 3, PS 225 in D27 in Queens, and PS 90 in District 9 in the Bronx.

MS 44 was the site of a big press event more than a year ago, when the Mayor, the Chancellor, Speaker Quinn, and Randi Weingarten of the UFT announced a new middle school initiative, supposed to help schools like this one succeed.

They said that a list of low-performing middle schools would receive $5 million in additional funds and professional development services free of charge (imagine that!), and that there would be a new position created for Superintendent of middle schools. See the press release here. I wonder what happened to those middle schools, and how many of them have actually improved.

Jennifer Freeman writes on the InsideSchools blog that the District 3 Community Education Council was not consulted before the DOE decided to close MS 44. This issue is also explored in the Gotham Schools blog here: UWS parents gear up for renewed diversity fight over school closure.

According to the state law that created Community Education Councils, these bodies are supposed to be consulted before any decision is made to close a school in their district:

"The chancellor shall consult with the affected community district education council before: (a) substantially expanding or reducing such an existing school or program within a community district.”

See this story from NY1 last year – which cites the law and adds this comment: "The CECs, as in the past, were not consulted before the announcement. They're being consulted now,” said James Liebman of the DOE.

If the CECs are still not being consulted about school closures, this is a violation of state law and they should contact their state legislators and consider taking legal action.


Anonymous said...

Thank You for the information I work at one of the schools that was visited by a SWAT closure team on Thursday Horrible treatment of teachers and parents

Pogue said...

Combine the deceit, lies, and corruption of Bloomberg and Klein's DOE with the silence of Weingarten and her UFT leadership and what you currently have is a truly Dark Ages for NYC education.

Anonymous said...

It's not just the arbitrary closing of schools that is egregious. I also resent the "application process" to get into schools. Since when are parents required to fill out an application to get their child into kindergarden in a public school? The school near us, Midtown West requires a school tour and an application. On the application you have to write about how you feel you can contribute to the school community. Is this for real? Just by requiring an application and the tour you are screening out parents who work and cannot take time off as well as parents who don't speak English and feel intimidated by the "application process." Where is the outrage?

NYC Educator said...

A lot of the outrage can be found right here, actually. If more people like you open your eyes and speak up more frequently, Tweed's well-oiled PR machine, even with its press cronies, will sputter and die.

Anonymous said...

NY Educator is correct. The public needs to hear from parents and concerned employees within the DOE. Not just UFT folks but CSA rank and file who have been decimated and left truly educationally impotent by this corrupt administration. If enough people in the know with hard evidence/facts to back up their expose come forward, even the Bloomberg $ and pr machine will fall.

Bronx Teacher Jack said...

Dear YOAV, (New York Post Education Reporter)

If you are looking for an interesting story, how about further investigating the fowling factual situations:

Duplicate Services: When the DOE closes a "failing" school they open 3 or as many as 6 “small schools” in its place. Each school now has to pay for a principal among other many other duplicate services. In addition there is now no one in charge of the building. You have as many as 6 principals struggling for class space, gym time, and use of the cafeteria. Walton Campus in the Bronx is a prime example of this situation.

The Forgotten Victims: Students in the “phase out” school become innocent victims, traumatized by being part of a “failed” school. I was at Walton High School when it was phased out and my students were teased and worse by the incoming “small school students.” As the three year “phase out” progressed the students were forced into the basement of the building. They saw their favorite teachers forced to leave and their after school opportunities disappear. I stayed almost to the end to try and help the remaining students, my reward? I became an ATR for a short time. I could have bailed and found another job, but I stayed for good of the students. The phase out was stressful and effected me physically and mentally. It is hard to understand how teachers and students and their parents can be treated this way.

Social Promotion Revisited: One of the key components of the DOE “grading” policy is “credit accumulation”. Schools are largely “graded” upon how many students pass and graduate on time. This puts pressure on teachers to pass students who might not truly earn the grade. Why? Because if you don’t have a high enough passing rate they can “phase out your school.” Personally, I am in favor of giving students a second chance to pass, but within reason, and not because I am being forced to by circumstance and unfair pressure. So, thanks to the DOE, social promotion is alive and well. Face it, if your school doesn’t pass the kids, other schools who are being compared to yours in the DOE grading process will. The result of which will be a failing or lower grade for you school. Lower school grades can lead to the so-called costly “Quality Review,” which entails more DOE personal tracing the hallways of your school looking at bulletin boards and making un-announced visits’ to class-rooms in a game of “got you.” Wouldn’t the money be better spent on tutoring and clubs for the kids?? It is sad and shortsighted.

In summary, if money is short, why is it being wasted? If in fact the best interests of the students are the shared concern of the DOE and the UFT then why are some being sacrificed? If quality education is also the shared goal, then why are we being forced to lower our standards??? I could go on and on, but I have to work on my lesson plans…seriously.

Have a great weekend.

Jack -

Anonymous said...

Actually, 12:36, I don't think asking parents to tour their child's prospective school is outrageous at all. If anything, I think it may be one of the few things the DOE does right. How can you ask that a school be all that you want it to be if you won't even visit it? One of the problems at my child's (wonderful, unzoned) school is that some parents expect it to have a stricter atmosphere. Had they toured, they would have known what they were getting into.

I do think that asking folks to explain how they will contribute to the community is beyond the line, however.

As for the original subject of this post, the DOE's lack of respect for communities is so disheartening. Isn't this a democracy? Don't we pay them with our taxes?