Lehman High School community opposes phase out

Save Our School! Lehman students were up and ready to do what it took to save their high school at a public meeting on the DOE's planned phase-out of the school on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Photo by Walter Pofeldt
by Walter Pofeldt

Lehman High School students, teachers, parents and elected officials gave a collective NO over seeing their school go.

They turned out at a Tuesday, Feb. 26 hearing there to protest the city Department of Education’s plan for a phase-out closing of the school over the next three years.

In its place, DOE would open several smaller schools on its campus.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who later called the meeting “a farce,” blamed the DOE for the school’s recent performance because of rapid changes in administration and at one point, overcrowding to about 4,200 students after the closure of other nearby comprehensive high schools.

“I do know who is accountable, and it is the people in the Tweed Building [DOE headquarters] who only have to look in the mirror to see who has brought this wonderful place to the state we are in,” Vacca told the hearing.

He noted that until three or four years ago, parents and students had to “knock down the door” to get into Lehman.

If the school is closed, he noted that those students who had selected Lehman in the first round of high school selections this year will not be able to get into the ninth grade at Lehman next year.

While applications would be considered for one of the small schools that replace Lehman’s ninth grade next year, it would not be the zoned school for Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay, and Westchester Square students, he said, with those students given the same treatment as students boroughwide.

The reaction to the DOE’s plan to not accept a new graduating class at Lehman for the 2013-14 school year was also given a sharp rebuke by Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, and Community Board 10.

Benedetto, in written testimony, cited the success of Lehman student Keyko Sanchez, a recent immigrant from Peru who came to America four years ago not able to speak English well. She was able to win the Bronx Sci Fest at Lehman College, and its prize of a four-year-college scholarship, on Friday Feb. 22.

CB 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns renewed the board’s call for a health academy inside of Lehman, designed to prepare students for careers in the health care field in partnership with hospitals.

Sandi Lusk, of the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization, called Lehman the victim of a “reformist agenda.”

Principal Rose LoBianco said that the school “embraces” and “accepts” DOE data, and that current levels of educational attainment are not at an acceptable level, but are showing steady progress.

Lehman is not the only school in the Bronx facing changes or phase-out. DeWitt Clinton High School in Bedford Park could see the co-location of smaller schools in its building, and Jonathan Levin High School might close, if DOE plans are approved by the Panel for Educational Policy on Mar. 11.

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

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