Parents and concerned officials are gearing up to try to save one borough high school in danger of closing, and another that may be heading for the same fate.
They’ll be showing up at two public hearings later this month, one involving a city Department of Education proposal to phase out Lehman High School in Westhchester Square and replace it with three smaller ones. The other hearing will be about a DOE plan to move two smaller schools into historic but struggling DeWitt Clinton High School in Bedford Park.
The Lehman hearing will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at the school, while the Clinton hearing will be at Thursday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m.
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said he believes the DOE has already made up its mind to phase out Lehmanl over the next three years, and is getting even with the United Federation of Teachers for its tough negotiating stands.
“I have complete and utter rage towards the mayor and the administration for what they are doing at that school,” said Benedetto. “It has nothing to do with education, it has nothing to do with them wanting to make better education at Lehman High School, because that school is on the right track and is moving ahead. It has everything to do with getting even with the UFT.”
In a Jan. 18 letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Senator Jeff Klein stated that Principal Rose LoBianco has been able to make improvements to the school despite the stress of being on the DOE closure list. Lehman was placed on the closure list last year, but got a reprieve after a successful UFT lawsuit against the DOE to block the closures.
Klein cited the improvement of a total D grade on the school progress report, with a B for college readiness, up from an overall F last year, as well as “across the board increases in student test scores.”“I honestly believe that [the Bloomberg administration] want improvements in education, but they don’t know how to do it,” said Benedetto, a former teacher with almost four decades of experience.
DeWitt Clinton was saved from the axe despite an overall grade of an F on its latest school progress report for the 2011-12 academic year.
Two new schools opening on its “campus” will mean reducing Clinton’s enrollment over the next four years to create sufficient space for the new schools, according to the DOE Education Impact Statement.
Councilman Oliver Koppell opposes the co-location plan, arguing the least capable students will be geared towards Clinton.
The same thing happened at Kennedy High School – now in its final year – and Walton High School, will likely befall Clinton, he said. While the names of the campuses survive, the schools themselves have been phased out.
“I think that there is still a place for larger comprehensive high schools,” said Koppell. “I think if they do this – putting these small schools there – Clinton will become a third choice, or people just won’t want to go [because] they won’t see it as a continuing educational institution.”
The DOE’s plan for Clinton hinges on a hope that the school will be able to reorganize and improve by the 2016-17 academic year.
The Panel for Education Policy will vote on all school changes on Mon., Mar. 11.
For hearings on school phase outs and co-locations, visit the DOE website, and scroll down to: schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/leadership/PEP/publicnotice/2012-2013/Mar112013Proposals.htm
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393