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How should the UFT react to school closings?

December 7, 2009 am31 12:29 am

Last week the DoE announced plans to close 8 schools. I expect anywhere from 10 – 30 more announcements this week.

Last week’s closures were:  Maxwell (Bk), Jamaica (Q), School for Community Research and Learning (Bx, Stevenson Campus), Academy for Collaborative Education (M, middle school, D5), PS332 (Bk K-8, in Bushwick), Academy of Environmental Studies Secondary School (M, Harlem), Frederick Douglas Academy III (Bx, MS grades only), KAPPA II (M, middle school, Harlem).  The potential list includes 38 more high schools. I don’t know how many middle schools or elementary schools might be targeted.  The list of potential high schools (as best I can calculate) is at the bottom of this post.

The primary targets are the remaining large schools in the poorest neighborhoods, and vocational schools (CTE), and a handful of newer small schools. The Bronx, where so much damage has already been done, could see all but one large or medium-sized school broken. Now, not all the schools on the list will be closed. I don’t expect Truman to be the last big school standing in the Bronx. But we don’t know how far they are planning to go.

There is the possibility of two types of campaign to defeat the closings. (And, yes, we should help schools, fix schools, make schools better. No, we should not break them up, destroy them, scatter kids and teachers. Construct, Build, Improve. Not Disrupt, Tear down, Marginalize)

1.  A school-by-school campaign would involve a strategy whereby each targeted school would create its independent case for not being closed.  I understand the desire to do this. If I was in one of the schools, I would try. But I see the danger that school could be pitted against school. And I notice that this approach does not bring the strength of the entire union to bear. And what if I’m in the school whose chapter is not so much on the ball?

2.  I think we should offer a different approach, a centrally-coordinated approach:

(1) discredit the Progress Reports
(2) forge alliances with community, neighborhood, parent and alumni groups, and elected officials.
(3) Mobilize:
+ Demonstrations
+ More creative interventions
(4) Engage the membership in the rest of the UFT to rally in support of the closing schools. Start small, with things that are easy to do. But start now. People have to be woken up BEFORE we need a large demonstration of support.
(5) Get organizers into all the schools,  building concrete solidarity
(6) Prepare a committee to coordinate this work (media, alliances, logical progression of demonstrations, mobilizing unaffected schools).

Mulgrew’s already questioned the Progress Reports out loud. They are gameable, they reward principals who cheat and encourage them to cheat, they change the cut scores arbitrarily, they used last year’s peer indices, they penalize schools multiple times for the same problem, they do not distinguish between mainstreamed special ed kids and self-contained special ed kids, etc, etc.

Teachers are already angry about Bloomberg in general, about the grading, about tenure, and about the closures. Let’s tap that energy, and use it for something productive.

The DoE is acting so quickly, which creates some urgency here. They are planning to run the public hearings next month, fulfilling the letter of the requirements of the new governance law (while thumbing their thumb at the spirit of the law). This will be likely be the largest round of closings we have seen. They are running it like a lightning round:

One day, probably this week, a DoE team shows up at the door and starts by meeting with the Principal, the cabinet, Chapter Leader… Then a Faculty Conference. The next day they make arrangements to send a letter home to parents. And then the third day, or soon after, a parent meeting. Then they wait a few weeks (cowards are using Christmas break to reduce the number of work days), hold an open meeting with the SLT, accept comments. And that’s it. Except for the formality of a PEP vote.

The following high schools have had 3 successive grades of C or lower, or in some other way met the DoE’s selection criteria. They are potential targets for closure.

Some schools on this list will be phased out.

They threatened that some may be closed immediately (but I don’t believe them. They often lie.)

Some may have administrators changed.

And some will be left alone.

But all will go through the worry of wondering who is going to show up, and what fate they will serve up.

The DoE is looking at schools on this list. We do not know which ones they intend to close.

Some schools on this list will be ok.

Science Skills Center HS for Science Technology and Creative Arts; International Arts Business School; School for Legal Studies; Boys and Girls; Maxwell; FDA IV; Metropolitan Corporate Academy HS; Secondary School for Law; Robeson; FDNY HS; HS for Civil Rights

Peace and Diversity; Columbus; Monroe Academy for Business Law; Grace Dodge; New Day; Gompers; Clinton; Smith; JFK; Jane Addams; Global Enterprise; Community Research and Learning

Norman Thomas; Murray Bertraum; Choir Academy of Harlem; Academy of Environmental Science; University Neighborhood HS; Legacy School for Integrated Studies; Washington Irving; Chelsea Career and Tech; Coalition School for Social Change; Graphics; Leadership and Public Service

Beach Channel; Business Computer Applications and Entrepeneurship; Jamaica; John Adams; Grover Cleveland; Math Science Research Magnet; Richmond Hill

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack Israel permalink
    December 7, 2009 pm31 6:49 pm 6:49 pm

    If anyone from the inner circle of Unity is reading this, I have a message from the schools on the list. PLEASE HELP US NOW! Many of us Bronx HS teachers have already been through painful phase-outs; it is purely draconian on the part of the DOE to put us through it again. The reasons for not closing these schools are many. The report cards are totally flawed. But we have time to address this later, PLEASE HELP US NOW! We need an immediate stoppage on school closings. What is the number one reason? It demoralizes the students who should never be punished like this. They feel like they are failures, that there is something wrong with them with their school is closed. UFT, help!!! I am ready to help in any way possible.

    Peace Jack


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