2012-03-14 / Features

Hearings Scheduled For Queens High Schools Facing Closing

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

After a relatively quiet March 1 meeting, the Panel for Educational Policy has taken steps toward closing 33 schools at the end of the school year, including William Cullen Bryant and Long Island City High Schools. A final vote is scheduled at the April 26 PEP meeting.

Public hearings for the eight high schools in Queens proposed to be closed will be held as follows: Bryant H.S., 48- 10 31st Ave., on Tuesday, April 3, Long Island City H.S., 14-30 Broadway, on Tuesday, April 17, Newtown H.S., 48-01 90th St., on Tuesday, April 17, Grover Cleveland H.S., 21-27 Himrod St., on Monday, April 2, Flushing H.S., 35-01 Union St., on Wednesday, April 18, John Adams H.S., 101-01 Rockaway Blvd., on Thursday, April 19, Richmond Hill H.S., 89-30 114th St., on Thursday, April 5 and August Martin H.S., 156-10 Baisley Blvd., on Monday, April 16. Speakers can sign up beginning 30 minutes before the hearings start and the list will close 15 minutes after the hearings begin. All hearings will start at 6 p.m.

Public notices and detailed environmental impact statements (EIS) have been posted by the Department of Education at www.schools.gov for all of the proposed closings, in accordance with state law mandating that notice be given for major changes in schools six months before the start of the next school year, in this instance the academic year of 2012- 13 .

The turnaround model, under which the schools will be closed, would effectively end the existence of the eight Queens high schools at the end of the current school year. They would be immediately replaced with a newly named school in the same building when the new school year for 2012-13 starts in September.

Schools will be required to replace at least half of their teachers, revise their curriculums, and in some instances, get new principals, although there are exceptions for principals who have been in place less than two years or who arrived at their schools three years ago as part of a previous improvement plan.

All current students who do not graduate in June are guaranteed a seat and are automatically enrolled at the new school. Currently, both Bryant and LIC admit students through the Citywide High School Admission process using both screened and zoned methods.

Bryant was first identified last year as a “Persistently Low-Achieving” school based on a low four-year graduation rate. With a 57 percent graduation rate, Bryant failed to meet the 60 percent graduation standard set by the DOE. “DOE believes that the most recent data supports taking more aggressive action at this time by closing W.C. Bryant and opening [a] new school,” states the DOE’s EIS.

LIC was designated a “Persistently Low-Achieving” school during the 2009- 2010 and 2010-2011 school years. The DOE’s EIS states, “DOE believes that the students at LIC would be better served by implementation of a more intensive intervention.”

Bryant and LIC were among 19 schools that were originally placed in “transformation”, a plan that did not require staff rehiring or school closings. Transformation also qualified schools for federal money through School Improvement Grants (SIG). A total of $58 million for all 33 schools with amounts to $1.8 million for Bryant and $1.55 million for LIC was at stake. However, the DOE failed to reach an agreement with the United Federation of Teachers, [the] city teachers’ union, on new teacher evaluations by Jan. 1, 2012 and the city replaced the transformation model with the turnaround model to retain eligibility for the SIG funding. The state teachers’ union (NYSUT) and the state announced an agreement on teacher evaluations in February.

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