Lehman High School turnaround planned

Lehman High School, already part of the federally-funded “restart” program, may soon turnaround.

The city Department of Education plans on making an application to the state Department of Education to make federal “turnaround” funds available to Lehman High School, said DOE spokesman Frank Thomas.

Turnaround is a federal program that is designed to help persistently low-achieving schools.

Once the application process is made, public hearings will be held before any determination is made on whether Lehman High School will qualify, Thomas stated.

“It is technically a closure and it will reopen immediately with a new name and a new staff,” Thomas said. “It is not a phase-out, and all of the students currently enrolled in the school can remain in the school.”

The move will allow the DOE to replace up to 50% of the school’s staff, Thomas said. It also allows the principal to be replaced, according to sources. The replacement of teachers and other personnel make the “turnaround” different from a “restart.”

It is one of 33 schools throughout the city that Mayor Bloomberg has said will be considered for “turnaround” funds, sources said. Lehman would remain a large comprehensive high school, and would have a new name and a new DOE identification number, Thomas said.

The DOE is less concerned about who is on the faculty or the size of the student body, which a source said has been reduced within the past year from about 4,100 to 3,575 in an effort to ease overcrowding, as it is with the culture of the school.

“We can institute a whole new school program and culture,” Thomas said. “It is a big change for the school that we think will help the students succeed.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, a stanch supporter of Lehman High School, said that he believes that the school is already well on its way to being turned around without the assistance of the federal program.

“We have a new principal, Principal LoBianco, who has injected much needed energy, and she has already begun the turnaround,” Vacca said. “There is a noticeable, significant improvement in the tone this year.”

The move for a turnaround of the 33 NYC schools is the result of the Bloomberg Administration taking revenge on the United Federation of Teachers because they have been unable to obtain what the city wants regarding teacher evaluations, said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto. He spoke recently at a meeting of parents, students and school officials about the proposed turnaround.

“I spoke and testified about my extreme disappointment with the current administration of the DOE and the City of New York with regards to the schools,” Benedetto said. “What they are doing to Lehman is just terrible. Lehman was a good functioning school about five or six years ago.”

Over that period, the teaching staff of Lehman High School did not change much. Most of the changes at the school were made by the DOE, who should be held accountable, instead of the teachers, Benedetto said.

“This will have a negative effect on parents and students in 33 schools throughout the system,” Benedetto stated. Benedetto is a former NYC teacher who was hopeful when mayoral control of the schools began in 2002, he said. Benedetto said that his hope has turned to despair, adding that he believes the turnaround plan is the worst strategy Mayor Bloomberg has followed since he won control of the school system.

Senator Klein is also monitoring the situation.

“We’re monitoring the situation at Lehman High School very closely,” Klein said. “I’ve been in touch with the chancellor’s office and we’ve communicated that we would like to see the current administration be given the opportunity to lead the school for a whole academic year, and to await this year’s student test scores before such drastic measures are considered.”

According to a source knowledgeable with education matters, school zoning would not be affected.

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