DOE leaks information on Kennedy High School closure

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A leak about the future of Kennedy High School has spurred concern among parents and elected officials who had been promised a say in the new school likely replacing it.

A Department of Education internal document was leaked to a media outlet on Thursday, January 13. According to published reports, it showed the DOE’s preliminary plans for 26 schools around the city that have been slated for closure. John F. Kennedy High School, a traditional large high school at 99 Terrace View Avenue, currently shares its campus with smaller, themed-high schools. The preliminary report for Kennedy showed the DOE plans to bring in two charter schools operated by New Visions.

DOE spokeswoman Natalie Ravitiz said that the proposal that was accidently released is only a draft. There is a public meeting scheduled for Friday, January 28 where Kennedy parents, students and staff can express their ideas about the school’s future.

“This is a draft, an internal planning document that reflects preliminary ideas about school and space utilization,” said DOE spokeswoman Natalie Ravitiz. “Our staff puts a tremendous amount of care and thought into this planning before we bring the proposals to the schools and communities for discussion. And it is incredibly disappointing and irresponsible that someone took it upon themselves to share an internal, draft document with the press before we could discuss these matters with school communities and elected officials.”

Calling the decision to close Kennedy High School and others “the most difficult decision that we make,” DOE officials stated in December that it would shut Kennedy because of its four year graduation rate of 46%, well below the city average of 63%, and because it got a D on its 2009-10 progress report, among other reasons.

Elected officials, including Councilman Oliver Koppell, as well as Senator Adriano Espaillat, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Councilman Robert Jackson, all from northern Manhattan districts that send students to Kennedy, wrote to schools chancellor Cathleen Black on Thursday, January 6.

The letter outlined their ideas to help ease the transition for the students already attending Kennedy.

Many of Kennedy’s students come from impoverished backgrounds, are immigrants learning English as a second language and are students with interrupted formal education.

The elected officials called for the DOE to have a specific utilization plan in place for whatever federal funds may come through for the new school.

“Although we appreciate the steps that the department has already taken to alert parents and raise awareness of its intentions,” the letter to Black read, “we expect you to take every possible step in soliciting input and feedback from parents and community members, and to publicize all public meetings as broadly as possible.”

The elected officials called for the students to receive comprehensive academic support during the phase-out process. The letter praised a commitment by the DOE to allocate extra resources to the students at Kennedy.

“Many of the students are already behind and have received a substandard education at JFK,” the letter reads.

“As a result we must guarantee that the in the Department’s efforts to improve, the current students do not get lost in transition.”

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