Community Fights To Save Bryant H.S.
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas held a rally at William Cullen Bryant H.S. on April 3, in opposition to the city Department of Education’s proposal to dramatically overhaul the structure of the Western Queens institution.
Simotas, a Bryant alumna, was joined by elected officials, community leaders as well as Bryant students, teachers and parents in calling on the city to reconsider Bryant’s designation for the Turnaround model.
“Our students come first, and we should always work to make improvements that ensure they get the best education possible,” Simotas said. “But these drastic changes will only increase uncertainty and stunt any progress that students, teachers and administrators have been able to make.”
Bryant is on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving”(PLA) schools. While the schools had originally been approved for targeted, less intrusive intervention models, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced in his State of the City address that he would now attempt to implement the Turnaround model. This approach, which needs state approval, would give the city authority to close PLA schools, reopen them under new names and replace up to half of the teachers and staff.
“Putting Bryant H.S. through such an extreme turnaround would do more harm than good and would undoubtedly jeopardize students’ ability to learn,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “The disruption such a move would cause will hinder the education of those who should be first and foremost in our minds. Our children deserve a good education provided by caring teachers, which can be achieved without invading and turning around the entire school, its faculty and its functionality.”
The public hearing was held in Bryant’s auditorium so that the community could voice its opinion about the planned changes to the school community. During her remarks, Simotas presented hundreds of signatures from community members opposing the drastic overhaul of her alma mater.
“No one knows better than the community what our students need, and the community knows our students do not need turnaround,” Simotas said. “Students need a consistent investment in their education.”
Simotas noted that comprehensive high schools like Bryant are what come to mind when one thinks of high school.
“Students of different interests and abilities mingling and learning from one another is the hallmark of a public education,” the Assemblymember continued. “A comprehensive high school provides a general education to children who have not yet chosen their career path. This is a necessity in a community as diverse as Western Queens.”
Bryant student body President Sotiria Zouroudi told her fellow students, teachers and community leaders that “everyone keeps saying that with this Turnaround method students don’t get affected; while in reality they are. We will end up losing teachers that have helped us, pushed us to learn and people that we don’t feel embarrassed to go to in order to get the extra help in a subject we will need. It will be like the first day of high school all over again. This plan doesn’t affect only the teachers, but the school as a whole.”
Simotas applauded the students and alumni who attended the rally and hearing for showing the city that Bryant has the support of its community. She pledged to work with her fellow lawmakers and community leaders to find a solution that would allow the school to make progress but keep it intact.