2006-12-14 / Front Page


By Neil S. Friedman

Thirty-six year old South Shore High School, with its unmistakable rotunda, to be phased out by DOEin four years.                       Neil S. FriedmanThirty-six year old South Shore High School, with its unmistakable rotunda, to be phased out by DOEin four years. Neil S. Friedman South Shore and two other Brooklyn high schools — Tilden and Lafayette — and two secondary schools in Manhattan, have been earmarked for phasing out by 2010, according to the Department of Education, which made the announcement on Monday.

When the Courier contacted South Shore principal Judy Henry Tuesday morning for a comment, the reporter was told she was relaying the DOE’s decision to students. The principals and teachers at the five schools were advised before the media.

Melody Meyer, a DOE spokesperson said the closings are attributed to “dismal graduation rates, consistently low test scores, a poor history of educating low performing students and lackluster demand.”

The closed schools will be phased out over the next three years, Meyer explained, and would no longer admit new students, while current pupils, who are eligible, will be able to graduate by 2010. The closed schools will likely be restructured and become a collection of smaller schools with student enrollments that are not expected to exceed 500, which has been a strategic approach of the Bloomberg administration since it revamped the Board of Education and Edward Klein was named schools chancellor in the mayor’s inaugural term.

The spokesperson said additional details about the future of the shuttered schools would be announced by late January, but explained that each property will continue to be utilized for education. Meyer noted that teachers at South Shore and the other schools would be able to apply for staff positions when the new schools are established. These latest closings are in addition to more than 15 other public schools that have already closed or will be closed in the near future.

South Shore, according to Meyer, was the least popular in demand during the most recent high school admissions process, which allows prospective students to select up to 12 schools in order of preference. The 36-year-old school at 6565 Flatlands Avenue, which currently has a 1,700-student enrollment, was reported to have averaged less than two applicants for every available opening.

South Shore’s class of 2006 graduation rate was only 42 percent, which is well below the citywide average of 58 percent, and according to the DOE, was, like the other four schools, “unsalvageable.”

South Shore was on the DOE’s original list of 12 Impact Schools in 2004, but was removed a year later. However the list of the city’s “most dangerous” schools only concerns safety and has nothing whatsoever to do with academic performance or standing. Henry, who graduated from the highly-touted New York City Leadership Academy, was appointed principal at South Shore in April, 2004 and immediately began to implement changes to change the “unsafe” atmosphere at South Shore, which led to it removal from the Impact list less than nine months later. However, the school’s academic performance apparently proved to be a greater challenge and too great to overcome.

A day after the four-story, $12 million high school opened its doors to students on September 14, 1970, principal Max Brower told the Courier “The first day went quite smoothly,” despite an enrollment that exceeded the expectation of 1,500 students by ten percent, a need for more teachers and a myriad of problems he had criticized during construction delays.

Though the Board of Education called South Shore “the most sophisticated school ever built in the city,” on opening day there were several inconveniences, including incomplete construction of the 850-seat auditorium, gymnasium and two cafeterias, inoperative vital phone lines, uncertain internal communication and elevators were not working so equipment could not be installed in the school’s upper floors

Called Brooklyn’s “first comprehensive high school,” it only accommodated ninth and tenth graders, who all studied the same curriculum. Before moving on to the junior year, each student had to select the type of specialized program in which they wanted to continue — academic, commercial or vocational — and their classes would be planned accordingly.

In spite of the construction headaches, Brower insured that the school was academically prepared. The summer before South Shore admitted its first students, the principal held a summer institute to get his teaching staff ready for the upcoming educational challenges.

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