The oldest high school in Brooklyn has received a financial lifeline worth millions of dollars, but the money comes with many caveats.
Boys & Girls High School, on the brink of closure last year, will receive millions of dollars in federal aid as part of a multi-year improvement plan to keep its doors open, the city’s Department of Education announced on Friday.
Under the plan, called the “Restart Model,” Boys & Girls is one of 22 city schools to receive the grant, which amounts to $6 million each over three years, education officials said.
However, with the grant money are clear instructions on how it must be used, including a required partnership with an outside contractor, and some community leaders believe its not the best model for Boys & Girls.
Few specifics of the plan are known, but the Department of Education said no lay-offs were expected “at this time.” Enrollment of the 2,200-student school at 1700 Fulton St. was also expected to remain in tact.
But an official summary of the “Restart Model” suggests a far more invasive intervention. The school would either be converted or closed, and reopened under an independent educational organization , such as a “charter school operator, a charter management organization or an education management organization,” according to the summary.
The Restart Model is one of four improvement plans outlined by the Obama administration in its education initiative designed to improve struggling schools, better known as Race To The Top.
Boys & Girls High School ranked as one of New York State’s lowest performing schools last year, and less than half of its students graduated in 2010. In December, the city narrowly spared Boys & Girls from complete closure.
School officials and community leaders remained mum after they learned of the news on Friday, but if recent statements are an indication, the plan could face some resistance.
Second-year principal Bernard Gassaway previously endorsed the “Transformation Model,” a plan that would grant him authority to replace teachers he deemed ineffective. It is teaching above all else, Gassaway believes, that needs to change at his school.
Gassaway has expressed publicly his concern about receiving federal monies but with strings attached-- specifically strings that create a pipeline to pay third-party contracters, as opposed to spending it in those areas he has found it would be most effective.
“You know there are certain students who will be shortchanged when they get certain teachers,” Gassaway told Brooklyn Movement Center last month. “That makes the difference. Period.”
Gassaway declined to comment on Friday’s announcement, saying, “I am not prepared to speak about this situation at this time.”
City councilman Al Vann also declined to comment, but in an interview last year, he agreed that the Transformation Model was best suited for Boys & Girls.
“The only fair and just and right thing to do is to support Mr. Gassaway, and allow him to implement the turnaround model,” Vann said.
But the Department of Education said that the Transformation Model was not available because it hadn’t yet reached an agreement with the United Federation of Teachers, the city teacher’s union.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers’ union, said he was pleased that the schools would be improved and not closed, and said he understood that the partner organization “runs the school.”
“We are looking forward to working with some of these partners,” he said. “They have to come up with an educational plan and actually support it, and this is something that the Department of Education has not been able to do.”
CORRECTION 6/1/11: This article previously mischaracterized the Race To The Top model that Bernard Gassaway and Albert Vann endorsed. The model that Gassaway and Vann said they supported was the "Turnaround Model" which included the option to replace school leadership, as well as up to half of the staff. The initial model the article said they supported was the "transformation" model, which is considered a less invasive model than Turnaround.