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DeWitt Clinton looks for ways to improve

Bronx Times

If enthusiasm were a grade, DeWitt Clinton High School would get an A+.

Unfortunately, the school currently rates an F on the academic front and is in potential danger of either reorganization or worst case, closing.

A boisterous collection of students, alumni, and supporters gave their supportive comments at a meeting with city Department of Education officials last week after the 4,300-student school received its second F in a row on its DOE Progress Report.

The Bedford Park school earned an overall score of 37.2 out of a 100 on the progress report, putting it at greater than or equal to just two percent of city high schools.

Department of Education representative Elaine Gorman pointed out that only about 50% of its students graduated in four years, with the numbers steadily declining over the past few years.

Even as graduation standards have gone up, the school still trails in graduation because the citywide average is about 65.5%, said Gorman.

One positive area on the report was in College and Career Readiness, she said.

“Because College and Career Readiness, part of the progress report, is a B, we know that those students who graduate in four or six years actually are ready to go onto college, careers, or the military, using the education that they receive,” said Gorman. “We want to make sure that more students are ready.”

She said that the DOE was looking for input on how the school could be improved.

Despite the overall negative news about the school, its supporters enthusiasm was not dampened at the Dec. 6 meeting at the school on Mosholu Parkway, and many people offered suggestions.

Jonah Johnson, a 2003 graduate, spoke of the need to bring new teachers into the school, as many of the current ones are near retirement.

“Based on the sources that I have talked to, a lot of the teachers are probably at the point of retirement age, so maybe their motivation or their lack thereof is [a concern,]” said Johnson. “When I do talk to some of the teachers I remained in contact with, it is one of the concerns.”

Johnson, who works with the Air National Guard, drove down from Newburgh, to attend the meeting because he said that the DeWitt Clinton ROTC played an important role in his life.

In an interview, English teacher and United Federation of Teachers representative Alan Ettman, said he believes that the DOE is concentrating high needs students in Clinton, which in turn affects the overall outcome of education at the school.

“The biggest challenges that we face are a lot of high needs students,” he said. “About 35% of the population of the school are either English language learners or special ed students. Those students obviously require more attention to their needs, and if they don’t graduate in four years, we get penalized for it.”

The school has a very distinguish group of alumni who graduated from the “Castle on the Parkway,” as the school is sometimes referred to.

They include writer James Baldwin, illustrator Stan Lee, designer Ralph Lauren and Congressman Charles Rangel.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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