PEP, DOE Close Two Rockaway Schools
A crowd of 2,000 parents, school staff and activists, including at least 50 from Rockaway, packed into the auditorium at Brooklyn Technical High School Thursday night, February 9, to protest the city’s plan to close 23 schools, including Public School 215 in Wavecrest. Another Rockaway school, the Peninsula Preparatory Academy in Rockaway Park, a school chartered by the DOE was closed by the agency without a PEP vote because the city has refused to renew its charter.
Despite the contentious demonstration, which often drowned out the voices of Mayor Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and other speakers, the Panel for Education Policy still voted to close 18 schools and eliminate the middle school grades at five others.
“People are getting fed up,” teachers union president Michael Mulgrew told a reporter for the New York Daily News. “They’re sick and tired of schools being blamed for the failure of the city.”
A large contingent representing the teachers union was joined by Occupy Wall Street protesters who carried signs, jeered and employed the “human microphone.” At times, the crowd broke into chants of “You walked out,” referring to failed negotiations between the city and the union over teacher evaluations.
Chancellor Walcott blamed the teachers union for disrupting the hearing. “There are important proposals up for discussion,” he said. “If all the [teachers union] wants to do is bus in Occupy Wall Street protesters ... then we will just have to work around that.”
In January, Bloomberg and Walcott defended their approach. From
“We have no choice because these schools are so ineffective, you have them at single-digit proficiency levels in some places,” said Bloomberg.
“This process will continue and move forward, and so as the mayor indicated, we’re very serious about this,” said Walcott. “This is not a threat, this is not union negotiations, labor negotiations as far as these 33 schools.”
The teachers who will lose their positions at the schools will still be part of the system, because union rules keep the mayor from firing them. Bloomberg said it is the cost of fixing education, but the teachers union said he is destroying schools, not saving them.
Since 2002, the Bloomberg administration has closed 117 schools and opened 396, DOE officials say.
Three Rockaway schools, Far Rockaway High School, Beach Channel High School and PS 225 in Rockaway Park, have already been either closed or are phasing out.
All of those schools have added new, smaller schools to their organization.
Parents and staff at PS 225 and PPA vow to fight the closing orders.