The middle school that taught Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner will likely close after 90 years, and parents can thank the New York City Department of Education.
A hearing on the proposal to close the failing Junior High School 80 took place inside the school’s auditorium on Monday, April 16. It was the only hearing where the public had the chance to voice concerns to members of the Panel on Edcuational Policy, which determines whether a school will remain open.
PEP members explained that poor grades, lackluster teacher evaluations, and low graduation rates forced the DOE’s hand to place the school on the federal turnaround list.
This will allow the Bloomberg administration to apply for a School Improvement Grant of up to $1.8 million to implement major academic changes. The federal requirements would involve closing the school, implementing a more rigorous academic program, and re-opening it under the new name of New School 10X575 by the next school year. The DOE would also have the authority to replace up to half the current teaching staff with a better staff, accrding to the DOE. The removed teachers have the right to re-apply for positions at new school.
Dr. Dorita Gibson, Deputy Chancellor and PEP member, promised that none of the current 650 students would not be turned away if the proposal is approved.
“All current J.H.S. 80 students would have a guaranteed seat in the new school,” said Dr. Gibson, reading from a prepared statement.
The audience, outraged over the DOE’s plan, took to the microphone during the public speaking portion of the hearing. Parents, children and education activists vented their frustrations.
Adaline Walker, parent and 1st vice chairperson of Community Board 7, was displeased by the removal of well-liked principal Lovey Mazique-Rivera, who was replaced March 19 by the DOE, who saw her as an inadequate educator.
“This is a woman who worked 70 hours a week with love and passion, and the parents and children loved her,” countered Walker.
She was also upset the DOE is changing the iconic school’s name that’s part of the area’s history.
“We don’t want to lose the name of the school,” urged Walker.
Diana Nunez, a math teacher at the junior high school, spoke four minutes about the strength of her teaching staff.
“We work hard and the children are being served to the best of their ability,” said Nunez, the only teacher that went before PEP.
Tim Feimer, representative for the United Federation of Teachers and a teacher himself, agreed.
“Who does this hurt the most–the union,” said Feimer.
Many of those who spoke said their concern is not so much the closure of the school, but the closure of a piece of Bronx history.
“Everytime we pass [J.H.S. 80] we sing the school song,” said Grace Seimer, who graduated in 1944.
The audience’s persistence that the school name remain unchanged did sway PEP to take that request under consideration.
“I hear the passion and will relay that to [Chancellor Walcott],” said Dr. Dorita Gibson.
The next phase of the proposal would be a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy set to take place on Thursday, April 26 in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights Campus at 6 p.m.
To reach reporter David Cruz call (718) 742-3383 or email [email protected].