2010-01-29 / Top Stories

PEP ‘Mayoral Puppets’ Vote To Close BCHS, 18 Others

By Howard Schwach

Beach Channel High School will be phased-out over the next three years and then closed, according to a vote by the Department of Education’s PEP on Tuesday night. Beach Channel High School will be phased-out over the next three years and then closed, according to a vote by the Department of Education’s PEP on Tuesday night. With all of the mayor’s appointees voting in lockstep, the Panel for Educational Policy voted 9-4 to close 19 schools, including Beach Channel High School, at a raucous meeting that began early on Tuesday evening and ended at 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

The New York Times called the meeting “one of the most contentious in [the PEP’s] eight-year history” and many of those who attended and spoke out against the closings called it a “scam” and a “waste of time.”

“It was a real show,” said school activist and Wave columnist Norm Scott, who stayed at the meeting to the bitter end. “The PEP was hammered for seven hours straight by more than 350 speakers, the great majority of who were minority parents, students and alumni from the schools that are going to be closed.”

Scott said that a number of speakers called the board members “mayoral puppets” and two school activists actually put on a puppet show at the microphone when it was their turn to speak.

“This farce really opened the eyes of a lot of people to what the board and the mayor are all about,” Scott added. “They turned off the mike after two minutes and would not even allow the people from the NAACP to finish their statement.”

Hundreds of protestors crowded the Brooklyn Technical High School auditorium, cheering, shouting and booing the board members, often drowning out the proceedings.

More than five hours into the meeting, one of the board members, Gbubemi Okotieuro, appointed by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, presented a motion to table the vote for more study.

The panel’s chair, David Chang, one of the mayoral appointees, ruled him out of order, stating that the panel would make no votes until everybody had spoken.

Eight of the 13 panel members are appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and can be removed by him for any reason. The other five are appointed by the borough presidents, with each getting one appointee.

Those eight mayoral appointees were joined by the Staten Island member in making the 9-4 majority vote.

And, while virtually all of the 350 speakers asked that an individual school be given a reprieve, both Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein praised the vote.

“I’ve listened to the arguments carefully, and I appreciate the traditions of these schools, but we cannot continue to send our children to schools that have failed them for years,” Bloomberg said.

“The vote to phase out and replace schools that were not meeting the standard of success we demand for our students will allow us to create far better opportunities for children in these communities,” Klein said. Since 2003, we have phased out 91 schools and created 335 new schools.”

The United Federation of Teachers is widely expected to file a lawsuit in federal court asking for the school-closing plan to be put on hold.

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