Queens officials protest possible school closures

From left, Council Member Dromm, Council Member Comrie, Council Member Vann Brammer and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

Members of the New York City Council Queens Delegation held a press conference on Thursday, March 15 to speak out against the Department of Education’s proposal to close eight schools in Queens.

The schools that will be voted on to close this month are: Newton High School, Grover Cleveland High School, Flushing High School, August Martin High School, Richmond Hill High School, John Adams High School, Long Island City High School and William Cullen Bryant.

These schools had been in the Restart or Transformation model programs, but since the mayor and the Department of Education have decided to force these schools to close, parents, students and educators have been left in limbo searching for answers.

The administration has refused to change their policy even after a report by Urban Youth Collaborative showed that from 2000-2009, when 21 high schools were closed, affecting 33,000 students, 5,162 of those students dropped out. At the same time, 8,089 of them remained enrolled, 9,668 were discharged, and only 9,592 of them graduated. The same report showed there was a large increase in the dropout rate the year that the high schools were set to close.

The delegation will be sending a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott insisting that these eight schools be put back into either of the Restart or Transformation models and kept open, so that they can continue to provide quality education to their students.

Council Member Leroy Comrie said, “This is the time of year when teachers and students are focusing on final exams, and the last thing they need is to worry about the future of their schools. The sudden announcement of eight schools closing in Queens has created a great deal of confusion between parents and administrators alike.

“This is certainly understandable considering that even under the Department of Education’s standards, the schools that are slated to be closed have shown improvement since being put into the Restart/Transformation models. Closing these schools would hinder our children’s access to the quality of education that they deserve. The mayor should step in and allow these schools to continue to educate our children.”

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall added: “Closing schools is not the key that opens the door to students’ success. This controversial closure plan involves schools that have already improved and now need stability and a stable future. I am happy to join my colleagues in the City Council in a combined effort to keep these eight schools open.”

“Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to close these eight schools in Queens will only have negative effects on the children and teachers who’ve call these institutions home for years,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, an alumnus of Bryant High School, which is one of the eight schools on the chopping block. “I will continue to stand with my colleagues in the City Council to fight this proposal and keep our schools open.”

Council Member Karen Koslowitz said: “I stand firmly against the closing of these eight schools in Queens. This policy is dead wrong and only hurts students. Closing schools is the easy way out and only furthers inequity between students in our schools.”

Dermont Smyth, the Queens Representative from the United Federation of Teachers, said, “We are asking for the mayor to stand with us in support of our schools or get out of the way and stop hurting our children.”

“Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott need to understand that education is not a business,” said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm who was a NYC public school teacher for 25 years before being elected to the NYC Council.

“Their corporate approach to our education system is threatening to close schools that must be kept to continue preparing our students for the challenges they will face throughout their lives. School closures are not the answer to turning our education system around. It is not fair to our teachers, parents and students,” he added

“The common dominator to the eight schools slated to be closed is that they all service high rates of English Language learners and special needs children,” said Council Member Diana Reyna. “By turning his back to students with the highest need, Mayor Bloomberg is abandoning the principle of equal opportunity for all children regardless of race or disability. This mayor claims to be known as the “Education Mayor,” but I think a more accurate title is the “Highest School Dropout Mayor.”

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