2011-02-11 / Top Stories

Raucous BCHS Vote At PEP

By Norm Scott, Education Editor Special To The Wave

A raucous crowd of 2000 students, teachers and parents, organized by the UFT, the Coalition for Educational Justice and the Urban Youth Collaborative, shouted, blew whistles, and booed throughout Chancellor Cathie Black’s speech at the February 3 Panel for Educational Policy meeting, the second meeting that week.

After an hour of disruption, most of the body left in a pre-planned walkout, leaving a sparse crowd to observe the Mayor Bloomberg-dominated Panel complete its major order of business, which was to vote for the phasing out of an additional 12 schools and to allow co-locations in eight more public schools, including Queens high schools Beach Channel and Jamaica, with a new small high school to be opened in each.

Two days earlier, the PEP had voted to close ten schools and co-locate five more. Both meetings generated an outpouring of politicians, mostly from Brooklyn and Manhattan, who are opposed to the drastic DOE policies, but no politician connected to the Rockaways showed up to defend Beach Channel.

While most people supported the UFT-led walkout, some organizers opposed to the closing and co-location policy of the Department of Education were critical of the decision. Julie Cavanagh, a teacher in Red Hook, Brooklyn and a member of the Grassroots Education Movement, a group of NYC teachers organizing and fighting the school closure and co-locations said, “I didn’t feel right about the walk out and didn’t participate in it. To me, it would have been much more powerful if everyone there either a) stood in solidarity with the parents, students, and teachers who came out to speak for their school, b) we all participated in a vigil of some kind or c) if instead of walking out, we walked forward and really took the needed steps towards a revolution (which, in a dictatorship is not that radical). The messaging of a walk out is ‘nothing matters’ – that is fatalistic and serves no purpose. I doubt any political capital was gained from the action.”

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