Parents, teachers and community members say a local school has made incredible strides in the past decade that should not result in permanent school closure.
During the 1980s and 1990s, M.S. 391, also known as Angel Patri Middle School, had a reputation for drugs, violence, and gang activity.
Many believe the school has made a turnaround over the last several years, and parents and teachers say the man responsible for the switch was former principal Pedro Santana, who took over the school in 2006.
In fact in 2009, the school won a Blackboard Award, a New York City-based school recognition program that acknowledges schools for impressive turnarounds.
Only two years later, M.S. 391 has landed on the state’s 2010-11 Persistently Low Achieving list due to continued low standardized test scores and graduation rates, which means it could be subject to staff reorganization, closure or could be replaced by a charter school.
Supporters of M.S. 391 say its student demographics put the school at a disadvantage when measured against others schools in the state.
For the 2010-11 academic year, 25 percent of the school’s students are in special education classes, class sizes are above the city average, and as of 2009, eight percent of the student body was homeless or living in temporary housing.
The school budget has also been cut from $376,927 and $260,851 each of the past two springs and even though Santana has left the school, people around the M.S. 391 feel that his protégé, Graciela Adebia, has picked up right where he left off.
“The school has come such a long way,” said Sandra Thomas, who has two grandchildren at the school and a 16-year-old son who is an alum. “I was raised in the community and when they first put that school there, it was gang-related and filled with drugs. No parent would even dream of sending their children there. Kids were wearing pajamas to school instead of normal clothes during the 1980s.”
Thomas believes the turnaround began when Santana took over as principal and does not believe the school should be considered a failure.
Eric Kollin, the school’s computer coordinator, has been at the school five years and he says the possible results of being on the PLA list is making the entire school community nervous.
“It’s more than losing funding,” Kollin said. “You might lose your building. There are a number of options you go through when you get on this PLA list, you could have up to half the staff replaced, or the principal goes and the staff stays.”
Like Thomas, Kollin thinks the school is on the right track and in early March, it gave out new computers to students as part of a program run by the non-profit Comp2Kids.
MS 391 will learn more about its future status by the end of this academic year.