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Last week the city Panel for Educational Policy voted to close 12 public schools despite the protests of more than 2,000 teachers, parents and students. This happens when a billionaire mayor whose daughter never saw the inside of a public school appoints a businesswoman from Connecticut whose children attended the most exclusive private schools to run your school system.
City Schools Chancellor Cathie Black and the panel ignored the impassioned pleas of people who packed a meeting at a Brooklyn high school in Fort Greene. After most of the audience walked out, the panel voted to close all 12 schools.
That is what they came to do. The rest was just a show.
Two Queens schools are on the PEP hit list: Jamaica and Beach Channel high schools. Unless the plan can be blocked in the courts, the 12 schools will be closed and replaced by smaller “theme schools” that will operate in the same buildings.
The city Department of Education has failed to take responsibility for the problems these schools face. Classrooms are overcrowded and teachers are using textbooks that are more than two decades old. In some schools, students could not take standardized tests on time because copiers were broken or because the schools did not have paper for these copiers. This is infuriating in so many ways.
In a letter that ran in last week’s edition, Jamaica High alumna Kathleen Forrestal defended her school and the teachers who have been maligned in the closing process. “The Educational Impact Statement claims Jamaica HS has trouble retaining good teachers, but the only trouble Jamaica High has retaining teachers is that they are excessed and forced out of the school by budgetary concerns,” she wrote.
Jamaica High was once a great school. If Black is the leader we hoped she would be, she will take the time to listen to people like Forrestal, who understand the problems her school is facing and know the importance of this school to the community.
The chancellor must find the courage to stand up to the mayor who appointed her and tell him he is wrong. Black and Bloomberg need to understand that the protests are more than just a noisy, annual ritual.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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