Here come the feds, there go half of Lehman High School’s teachers – and its name.
For better or worse, Lehman High School will now be part of a federal program designed to help persistently failing schools with federal aid, commonly referred to as “turnaround” or “transformation.”
It will allow the city Department of Education to replace about half the teachers there.
Locals can also say goodbye to the school name, honoring former U.S. Senator and NY state Gov. Herbert H. Lehman. A new name is still up for grabs.
The decision to close Lehman came after hours of contentious testimony at a Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Brooklyn on Thursday, April 26.
The PEP vote to close Lehman, along with nine other Bronx schools, came after two years of failing grades on Lehman’s DOE school report card.
The vote was considered a formality, sources said, as Mayor Bloomberg controls most of the appointments to the PEP, even though two Brooklyn schools slated for turnaround survived.
Elected officials, including Senator Jeff Klein and Councilman Jimmy Vacca, urged the DOE to give principal Rose LoBianco, appointed at the start of the 2011-12 school year, and her current staff time to turnaround the school on its own, without further intervention.
“After all this disruption and all this ruckus, the DOE had better damn well turn this school around, because now they are going to be held accountable and then some,” Vacca said. “We have had a two year precipitous fall after the DOE insisted that Mr. (Robert) Leder, the principal at Lehman High School for almost 30 years, retire. Now, when many of us feel Lehman High School is making a comeback with the new principal, the DOE has run out of patience.”
The closing of other large comprehensive high schools in the borough in recent years, including Evander Childs, Monroe, and Stevenson, said Vacca, swelled the Lehman student body to an unmanageable 4,200 students.
“All of a sudden, the DOE is now saying that Lehman is too big a school, and the size of its student body needs to be reduced,” Vacca said. “I have been saying this for four years. Now we being told that in September, Lehman’s enrollment will be about 2,900. I think 2,900 is more manageable, but driving it to 4,200 is one of the reasons Lehman faulted.”
In a recent op-ed in the NY Daily News, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote that while many local communities may have attachment to the names and history of a particular school, efforts by the United Federation of Teachers and others to halt progress will not stop the DOE from designing new schools that improve educational options and graduation rates.
“In many cases, we create a new school by replacing one that has constantly failed our students,” Walcott wrote. “These are difficult decisions for us and for school communities, which many feel an attachment to the school’s name and history. But when a new school works well in the same building – providing a brand-new option, without displacing students – the response of the parents and students is overwhelmingly positive.”
All students currently enrolled at Lehman will remain at the new school, said Vacca, adding that he believes LoBianco will remain principal.
A name for the new school will have to be approved by Walcott, a DOE spokeswoman said.