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Ridgewood rallies for its school

Students filled the auditorium at Grover Cleveland High School to speak out against the city Department of Education's plan to close the school. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

The city Department of Education got an earful from Grover Cleveland High School advocates at a closure hearing Monday.

The emotionally charged hearing drew teachers, parents and students into the school’s auditorium where more than 70 speakers stepped up to the microphone and told DOE representatives why they think the turnaround plan is wrong for the Ridgewood high school.

“We don’t want to lose 50 percent of our teachers,” said Geline Canayon, president of the school’s student government. “The school shouldn’t be broken up, it should be given a proper chance and it shouldn’t be used as pieces in the mayor’s Monopoly game.”

The DOE’s turnaround model results in the closure of each school at the end of the academic year and its reopening under a different name in the fall, along with the replacement of 50 percent of the faculty.

The DOE defended its decision and reiterated that every child attending a closing school is to be guaranteed a spot in the replacement school.

“A number of schools will be replaced by new schools next fall, keeping their very best teachers and bringing in strong new educators,” DOE spokesman Matt Mittenthal said in a statement.

Education officials said the city lost significant federal funding after the city and the teachers union did not come to an agreement on teacher evaluations quickly enough. The turnaround model enables the city to apply for up to $60 million in federal funding and it does not require teacher evaluations.

The city Panel for Educational Policy will vote April 26 on closing 26 schools citywide and opening new ones under different names in the same buildings. Initially, the DOE had 33 schools set for closure, but that number was unexpectedly cut after the department decided that some schools would improve without radical changes.

Other Queens schools up for closure are: Flushing High School, August Martin High School in Jamaica, John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Newtown High School in Elmhurst, and William Cullen Bryant and Long Island City high schools in Long Island City.

Brian Gavin, the teachers union representative at Grover Cleveland HS, at 21-27 Himrod St. in Ridgewood, said the DOE’s replacement school will use many of the recommendations that were designed to improve Grover as it is currently constituted.

He believes the DOE should let these improvements take shape at this incarnation of Grover Cleveland.

“It’s disgusting what the DOE is doing to the students and the teachers at Grover Cleveland,” he said of the city’s turnaround plan. “It’s tearing the community apart and disrupting the education of the students.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) both spoke at the hearing and demanded that the DOE look at the progress the school has made and take it off the list of schools slated for turnaround.

“There are programs here that are working and the DOE has to let them work,” said Addabbo. “These people have questions and they deserves answers. I will work with them to try to get these answers and keep this school open.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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