Kennedy High School will close

The Department of Education has decided that Kennedy High School will officially be shut, and now comes a fight over what will replace the school.

The Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy voted to close Kennedy at the city-wide meeting held in Brooklyn on Thursday, February 3.

The DOE also proposed to replace John F. Kennedy High School, a 1500-seat school that is only a part of the larger Kennedy Educational Campus that houses four other high schools off Tibbet Avenue, with two charter schools.

Crucial to the decision to close the school was the DOE’s assertion that the school was under performing, earning an overall D on its 2009-10 progress report, with a F grade for student performance. According to the DOE, four-year graduation rate at Kennedy High School was 46%, as opposed to a 63% average for the city.

“As a result of the bold decisions we made last night, thousands of public school students will have better schools and brighter futures,” said DOE deputy chancellor Marc Sternberg. “We know our strategy of replacing schools that fail year-after-year with new choices works.”

Replacing the high school, which serves a largely immigrant Dominican community, with two new charter schools is a move that may not serve the existing students and their succors well, said Councilman Oliver Koppell.

“Most of the students at Kennedy High School are from the Dominican Republic and are English Language Learners with a limited language capacity,” Koppell said. “We are only going to drive to other schools which will become overwhelmed with students who have special needs.”

Koppell is opposing the placement of two charter schools to replace Kennedy High School when the school closes for good in 2014. He said that the real need lies in serving the existing population more effectively, though he conceded that closing Kennedy may have been necessary.

Like Koppell, Senator Gustavo Rivera called on the process deciding of what will come next be inclusive of community members and parents, something he also said during his testimony at a hearing on the school’s future held at Kennedy on Friday, January 28.

“I am disappointed at how quickly the decision was made to close John F. Kennedy High School,” Rivera said. “Community members should not learn about the school’s closing through newspaper clippings or through word of mouth. Sadly, that is what has happened. Moving forward, I hope there is a more inclusive transition process that provides community members with both information and a seat at the table before any other important decisions are made.”

Sistas and Brothas United, a youth empowerment group that fought Kennedy’s closure, has also vowed to continue to have a voice in what comes next.

“They may have voted to phase out my school, but the battle is not over!,” said SBU leader and Kennedy senior Ahamani Croom. “We are not going to give up that easy! We are going to continue to fight for the resources and support we need.”

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