BCHS Closure Meeting Set For 11/15
The Department of Education (DOE) announced two weeks ago that it will close 47 schools over the next few years, including Beach Channel High School, which it attempted to phase out and close late last year, until a state judge put a stop to the entire process.
Last year, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that 19 schools would be closed, including Beach Channel High School.
Two meetings were held at the high school, the first in January of this year, with a district representative who was in charge of the elementary schools and could not answer any of the questions that were asked by parents, staff and students who attended the meeting.
The second was run by a member of the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, who would take no questions from the floor.
The panel then voted to phase out and close all of the schools.
In July, however, state appellate court upheld a state Supreme Court ruling that the Department of Education must begin the public process anew if it wished to close Beach Channel High School and the 18 other schools.
The ruling, by the Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan, upheld the lower court ruling that said that the DOE did not comply with the 2009 state law on mayoral control of the schools because it failed to adequately notify the public about the ramifications of the closings and because it did not allow for comment by all the stakeholders that would be impacted by the closing.
“In particular, each [Educational Impact Statement] fails to indicate, as required by law, the ramifications of such school closings or significant change in school utilization to any affected students,” the appellate court ruling said. “Rather, each EIS merely indicates the number of school seats that will be eliminated as a result of the proposed phase-out and states that the seats will be recovered through the phase-in of other new schools or through available seats in existing schools in the district and city. While the statute does not specify the information that an EIS should include to portray the impact of a proposed phase-out on the community or the students, respondents did not discharge their obligation by providing nothing more than boilerplate information about seat availability. Clearly, the Legislature contemplated that the school community would receive more information than this from the EIS,” the ruling said.
The court also ruled that “in the case of each subject school, respondents failed to hold a joint public hearing with the impacted community council and the [school-based management team] as required by [the education law].”
“Based on the foregoing, the [lower court] properly nullified the PEP votes,” the upper court added.
In response to the ruling, Chancellor Klein issued a statement that said, in part, “We are disappointed by the court’s decision, which will force us to keep open schools that are failing our children. As we move forward, the mayor and I remain committed to providing New York City’s students and families with better schools and more options. To that end, we are proceeding with plans to open new schools in the fall.”
In September, the DOE placed a new school in the building, the Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability.
This time, a spokesperson for the DOE says, the process will be different, and will obey the law as set down by the state legislature.
To reduce the anger that the announcements of the closings created last year, the city has a new process planned.
That new process calls for at least four meetings at each of the buildings slated for closure, to allow students, staff and parents to be heard on the closings before the final decision is made.
“Right now, we are looking at those schools that have been constantly struggling to determine whether they can improve with help or need to be replaced with other schools,” said Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a DOE spokesperson.
Zarin-Rosenfeld told The Wave two weeks ago that the four meetings would include one with the school administration, another with parents, a third with the School Leadership Team and UFT and the fourth with the public.
It is that public meeting that is now slated for November 15.
During last year’s process, parents, students and staff told DOE representatives that the school had received a C on its school report card and that a DOE study had declared it “proficient.”
This year, however, the school received an F on its school report card, giving the DOE one more piece of evidence that it should be closed.
BCHS student Chris Petrillo, who led the fight to keep the school open told The Wave, “This has become a vicious circle. This time, [the mayor] will probably win, but we have to keep fighting.”
Dave Pecoraro, the school’s UFT chairperson, thinks that the DOE has set up the school for failure and has cooked the books to insure that it got an F on its recent school report card.
“They changed our school cohort this year, the schools that we are measured against,” he said. “They grouped us with charter schools and with new small high schools. We are neither of those, and you have to believe that they formed the cohort just to close us down.”
Pecoraro said that he called the New York One call in show on Tuesday night to challenge Cathie Black, the woman who Bloomberg has said would be the new chancellor, a woman with no educational experience.
“I called for a moratorium on closing any schools until she has visited those schools to see for herself whether or not they should be closed,” the UFT chair said. “She doesn’t know us from Adam and if she is interested in making a good faith effort, she should visit us before making the final decision to close us down.”