The Department of Education announced today the second and final round of proposals for school closure. More than 50 schools were placed on a master list by the DOE as schools deemed eligible for closure, based upon poor grades on their latest progress reports. Twelve schools—eleven public schools and one charter—were listed for non-renewal (closure) yesterday, and an additional 14 were announced today, totaling 26 schools due to be shuttered.
One school that will not close is Boys and Girls High School, an education department spokesman confirmed. Boys and Girls was tagged as one of the state's worst schools earlier this year, but showed enough progress to remain open.
"We concluded right from the start that we wouldn't propose a phase-out for [Boys and Girls]," said Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a DOE spokesman. "But we also knew that we were going to want to have a meeting with them."
Tensions were high in the community around the future of Boys and Girls. Since former principal Frank Mickens, a disciplinarian who oversaw the school's transformation from an education wasteland into a safe haven for learning, retired in 2005, Boys and Girls has seen sharp drops in graduation rates, which bottomed out last year in 2009 at 37 per cent.
In 2009, Mickens' replacement, Spencer Holder, was fired and replaced by Bernard Gassaway. A school advisory group was created to provide direct community support for the school.
"We recognized after Frank Mickens left things began to slip significantly, but we weren't really aware of it," said City Councilmember Al Vann, who is a member of the advisory group. "It was a well-kept secret that they weren't keeping the same standards."
In Brooklyn, six schools – P.S. 260 Breucklen, M.S. 571, P.S. 114 Ryder Elementary, P.S. 332 Charles Houston, Metropolitan Corporate Academy High School and Paul Robeson High School– were selected for closure, which means each school will phase out one grade per year starting in the 2011-2012 school year. None of the schools targeted were in Bed-Stuy.
The closures are bound to be controversial for education advocates who have been critical of Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to fix failing schools since he took over the school system in 2002. A hallmark of his administration has been to close low-performing schools and replace them with charter schools or smaller specialized schools. More than 90 such schools have been closed in eight years.
"For schools we're not phasing out, we're going to take a while longer to figure out which model makes the most sense for each school," said Zarin-Rosenfeld.
The options include either a "turnaround" model, which would require replacement of the principal and at least half the teaching staff. A less invasive option is the "transformation" model, which would include changes to the school's day-to-day operations, longer school days and a form of merit-based pay for teachers and school leaders.
Additionally, schools not selected for closure, like Boys and Girls, are eligible for millions of dollars in grant money from the state if they adhere to an "improvement" model, which could include a large-scale replacement of the school's staff and leadership.
"I applaud the DOE for keeping its commitment to Boys & Girls High School and its principal," said Vann. "Just as community leaders, other elected officials and I will be providing resources and support for the school, it is important that the DOE give Principal Gassaway the necessary resources and support he needs to succeed in returning the school to a standard of high academic achievement and comprehensive human development."