2009-12-25 / Editorial/Opinion

DOE’s Own Facts Don’t Support BCHS Closing

Towards the end of the 2008-2009 school year the Department of Education issued on its website a “Quality Review” for Beach Channel High School. That report was the final assessment by a team of “experts” who spent a few days in the school. That review rated the school as “Proficient,” clearly not the top rating possible, but not the bottom either. The Quality Review report commented on how the school had gone from “academic poverty” to proficiency, mostly by instituting four “learning communities,” each focused on a single theme and each taught by a discrete staff of caring educators. Shortly after the report was released, the DOE cut 32 staff members from the school’s budget – most of them young teachers in the learning community program. The cuts forced class size in those critical classes to 35 from 20 and took away many of the support personnel assigned to the program. There are many students and staff members who believe that the school was set up to fail by a city agency that has other ideas for the building – a charter school owned by State Senator Malcolm Smith and backed by former Representative Floyd Flake, two of the most powerful politicians in the state. They may well be right. In the past few years, two new schools began drawing the more educationally motivated students – the brightest — from Beach Channel. The Channel View School for Research began a high school organization and the Scholars’ Academy, a gifted magnet middle school, began a high school as well. That left only those who could not go elsewhere at Beach Channel. Of its 1,330 students, nearly one-third are special needs students – a very high number for any comprehensive high school. In specifying why the school needed to be closed down, District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay said that the school no longer served its students and that the parents were unhappy with the school as well. Yet the last school survey showed that 85 percent of those parents responding said that they were happy with the education their student was getting at the school. There is something not quite right about the closing of the only comprehensive high school on our isolated peninsula. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done before the Educational Priorities Panel, beholden to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, makes its final decision on January 26. It is probably already a done deal, but once the vote is taken, it is written in stone. We can’t allow that to happen.

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