2012-03-28 / Features

Students, Board 30 Members Protest H.S. Closing Threat

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO


Public hearings with the DOE on the closing of Bryant H.S. and Long Island City H.S. will be held April 3 at Bryant H.S. and April 17 at LIC H.S.. The hearings begin at 6 p.m. Public hearings with the DOE on the closing of Bryant H.S. and Long Island City H.S. will be held April 3 at Bryant H.S. and April 17 at LIC H.S.. The hearings begin at 6 p.m. Devika Seeraj will graduate from Long Island City H.S. this June. She is senior class president, president of the LIC H.S. Arista chapter and serves as the student representative on Community District Education Council 30.

Speaking for her fellow students about the proposed closing of Long Island City H.S. at the March 15 CDEC 30 meeting at I.S. 227 in East Elmhurst, Seeraj said, “We have told the Department of Education how we feel about this issue. We are opposed.”

Referring to the diversity of the student body and noting the many different cultures at Long Island City H.S., she pointed out, “We accept ESL [English as a Second Language] and ELL [English Language Learners] students who take five or six years to graduate.” The graduation rate at LIC H.S. has been improving, Seeraj contended.

The two high schools are among 33 “Persistently Low-Achieving” schools, eight in Queens, that now face undergoing “turnaround” as proposed by the city Department of Education. After the schools close at the end of the school year, half the teachers on the staff of each school would be reassigned, and schools would open with new names in September. Previously, the 33 schools were operating under “transformation” and “restart” models that did not close schools but did require new teacher evaluation procedures.

“Renaming a school doesn’t help us define who we are. I don’t see how the reshuffling of teachers is going to help the school,” Seeraj told the members of CDEC 30.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the switch to the “turnaround” model in January after negotiations on new teacher evaluations between the DOE and the United Federation of Teachers broke down in December.

James Vasquez, UFT representative for high schools in Queens, praised Seeraj as “a product of Long Island City High School’s success”. Vasquez said Bloomberg, during 10 years of mayoral control, has managed the schools like a business. “The mayor’s only legacy is closing schools,” he said.

Vasquez said 300 teachers at LIC H.S. would be forced to reapply for their jobs, although there are no layoffs. “[LIC] could end up with a less capable, less experienced staff,” he said. “Closing schools ends up destroying a valuable history of that community,” CDEC 30 Member Marius Titus said. “The principal of Bryant H.S. is a former graduate and [former Schools] Chancellor Joel Klein graduated from Bryant with honors.”

Public hearings with the DOE on the closing of Bryant H.S. and Long Island City H.S. will be held April 3 at Bryant H.S. and April 17 at LIC H.S.. The hearings begin at 6 p.m.

On March 19, the New York state Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) said a request for mediation by the UFT was granted, indicating talks between the DOE and UFT on teacher evaluations could resume. The state recently passed legislation for the new teacher evaluation system.

In other business, a resolution in support of requiring new residential construction to include space for a school, and another concerning high stakes, standardized testing of New York state public school students, were passed.

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