Lehman High School’s future unknown after F grade

After receiving an F on its annual progress report, the future of Herbert H. Lehman High School is uncertain.

Earlier this month, the city Department of Education released the 2009-2010 ratings, and Lehman High School was one of nine high schools to receive a failing grade. Overall it scored a 36.9 and ranked within the bottom two percent of city schools.

According to DOE officials, schools that score either an F or a D, or receive Cs three years in a row, are automatically red flagged as schools that the DOE will consider phasing out.

“Compared to other schools with similar populations, Lehman did quite poorly across the board,” said Matthew Mittenthal, a spokesman with the DOE. “We haven’t made any decisions on which schools we will propose to phase out.”

He said the DOE expects the proposals will be made in the next month or two.

Schools were graded on school environment, student performance and student progress, which is based on students meeting graduation requirements. The school received a D for student performance and failed the other two categories.

The failure was an unpleasant shock for Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who’s district includes the school.

“There are a variety of issues at Lehman,” he said. “But all of those are created by the Department of Education. If the DOE wants to know why schools are failing, all they have to do is look in the mirror.”

Vacca said that the school, which has 4,200 students, is vastly overcrowded, and has received a disproportionately high number of at-risk, and non-English speaking students.

“We have to reduce the numbers and bring the school down to a more reasonable size,” he said. “The DOE has to assess the impact of the damage they’ve done. Their policies often set up schools for failure.”

Vacca said he did not think that school principal, Dr. Janet Saraceno, who is being investigated by the DOE for allegedly giving passing grades to students who failed, to raise the school’s graduation rate, is not responsible for the failing grade.

Lewis Escano, a senior lacrosse player, said he blames the metal detectors that were installed at the beginning of the school year with changing the atmosphere and making the school less appealing for students.

The detectors ensure that students not only don’t bring in weapons, but that they don’t bring cell phones, iPods and other electronic devices to the school as well.

“Kids aren’t that happy,” he said. “Back then you could at least have your iPod on in the library when you’re working. Now there’s a big difference.”

He said he was shocked when he heard the news.

“Some students don’t pay attention in class, but you get that everywhere,” he said. “Some are actually trying. It’s sort of unfair, but the whole school’s the whole school.”

“It’s not a surprise to me,” freshman Ashley Thomas said after school on Thursday, November 4. “I failed all my classes.”

School officials declined to comment.

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