Few Attend Downtown DOE Meeting On Local H.S. Closings
Dozens of parents, students, teachers and staff from the communities of South Shore High School joined their counterparts from Tilden and Lafay-ette high schools at a Department of Education (DOE) meeting last Thurs-day evening to discuss the proposed phasing out of these schools due to long term poor student performance as reported in the Courier last month.
A panel of DOE officials and representatives, including the regional and instructional superintendents from re-gions 6 and 7 were present at a specialized high school located on Dean Street in downtown Brooklyn to ans-wer questions about the phasing out of the three Brooklyn secondary schools over the next three years
Jeanine Banard, of the DOE's Office of New Schools served as emcee and announced at the onset that this was the first of many to allow the respective school communities to be heard about the closings and to offer suggestions that might be helpful in the future reorganization of the school buildings.
The next meeting is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. tonight (January 18) at South Shore High School, at 6565 Flatlands Avenue, near Ralph Avenue, for the students, parents and community of South Shore and Tilden high schools. Anyone interested concerned about the future of these two area high schools is urged to attend.
Last week's meeting at the High School for the Arts on Dean Street in downtown Brooklyn, which a DOE spokesperson told the Courier was selected due to its easy access to several public transportation hubs. The energy of the estimated one hundred who attended was obvious following the enthusiastic responses that follow-ed each speaker who questioned the DOE reps on the phase-out plan. Many speakers referred to the sparse attendance and pointed to the fact that they did not have enough notice nor was the scheduled time - 6:00 p.m. - convenient for working parents or those traveling from homes at the op-posite end of the borough.
On the front page December 14 story, the Courier reported that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced recently that South Shore, Tilden and Lafayette high schools would be phased out over the next three years and replaced with smaller mini-schools with new academic programs.
In that article a DOE spokesperson said that the changes were the result of "dismal graduation rates, consistently low test scores, a poor history of educating low performing students and lackluster demand."
Specifically, the current schools will be reconfigured into smaller schools with fewer students in each class so teachers and school administrators can manage the schools more effectively and give students more attention.
Over the next three years these schools will begin their phase out by not admitting new students. In other words there will be no ninth grade classes next September 2007, therefore, no tenth grade classes in September 2008 or 11th grade classes the following year. The last graduation for each school will be held in June 2010.
Banard apologized for the meeting's short notice then added that since the DOE made its decision to phase out the high schools just before the holidays, this meeting was hastily scheduled "to answer questions specifically directed to the support and needs of the students and families of the three large high schools."
Despite her regret, many speakers still complained about the short notice about their schools being selected for closing and the phasing-out-plan.
A representative for Borough Presi-dent Marty Markowitz told the audience that he and City Council Member Lew Fidler, whose district includes families of students who attend South Shore, said they learned about the phas-ing out of the high schools in the media "like everybody else" just before the Christmas school holiday.
Markowitz's office is looking into the problem and to study the policies and procedures that went into making this decision.
Tiffany Tucker, a community acti-vist, noted that it was no secret that South Shore High School was performing below standards for some time. "But, I question whether the phasing out process was the only way to go? Question number two; how many new schools will be in those buildings? Three. Is their mission go-ing to address the old problem? I have seen new schools open and classes are still overcrowded and violence is still a big issue."
The UFT Chapter leader from Til-den got a passionate response when he said the DOE "is setting us up for failure." He then laid out reasons for failure, which he blamed on inadequate administration at the DOE.