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LIC High says no to closure

Students and elected officials gather outside Long Island City High School in protest of a plan to close the school and replace half or more of its staff. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

More than a hundred students, teachers and supporters stood out on the steps of Long Island City High School Monday afternoon to protest the proposed closure of the institution.

“This is not something that we want and we’re not going to let it happen without a fight,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), an alumnus of the school.

Long Island City HS, at 14-30 Broadway in Astoria, is one of eight high schools in the borough recommended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the closure or “turnaround” model, which means the school will be closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year and reopened with a new name and at least 50 percent of the staff replaced.

Other high schools marked for turnaround are William Cullen Bryant in Astoria, Newtown in Elmhurst, Grover Cleveland in Ridgewood, Flushing, August Martin in Jamaica, Richmond Hill and John Adams in Ozone Park.

“This is an attack against education,” said Sam Lazarus, a teacher at Bryant High School, who attended the Long Island City rally. “This is an attack against immigrant populations.”

Schools marked for closure are considered persistently low achievers, meaning their graduation rates have been below 60 percent for the last three consecutive school years, but Long Island City is one of the schools where advocates have argued that improvement is occurring.

“Our graduation rate is going up steadily,” said Ken Achiron, a United Federation of Teachers chapter leader. “They’re [the DOE] a day late and a dollar short.”

Many Long Island City students at the rally held up signs reading “Save L.I.C.,” “Down with Bloomberg” and “Go Bulldogs,” referring to the school’s mascot. The students said they did not want to lose their school’s name or faculty.

“We’re trying to get an education and Long Island City does that for us,” said Amira Sharif, senior vice president of the high school’s student organization.

Devika Seeraj, senior president of the student group, said she was going to the Ivy League’s Brown University in Providence, R.I., because of the education she had received at Long Island City HS. She said some of her friends were also going to New York University in Manhattan.

“The students here are sending a loud-and-clear message,” said state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), an alumna of William Cullen Bryant.

The city Panel for Education Policy will hold a vote April 26 at the Prospect Heights Campus, at 883 Classon Ave. in Brooklyn, on whether or not to close the schools.

Queens state Sens. Gianaris, Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) wrote a letter to city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott Monday, urging him to stay with the less invasive models originally recommended for the schools.

Long Island City and Bryant had both been under the Transformation model, which implements more instructional and support service systems in the school, and Newtown had been under the Restart model, which partners the school with a Educational Partnership organization.

The schools were marked for closure after the DOE and UFT failed to reach an agreement on teacher evaluations.

Reach Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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