This morning WNYC radio and Gotham Schools broadcast a report about the phase-out of struggling schools and the reverberations in co-located schools like P.S. 9. It included a recording from the hearing last Monday. Here are excerpts. [apologies for the crazy caps]
Panel to Vote on Phasing-Out Struggling Schools
Monday, January 31, 2011
This week, members of New York City’s Panel for Educational Policy will determine the fate of 25 low performing schools. Joining us now to talk about the debate is WNYC's Beth Fertig and reporter Maura Walz of the independent website GothamSchools.org
Give us an overview if you can, Beth. Aren't many of these schools the same schools the city tried to close last year - before it was blocked by a lawsuit?
Yes - more than half of them were among the 19 schools the city wanted to close last year. The Panel for Educational Policy, which you may recall is controlled by the mayor, voted to close them after an all-night hearing because hundreds of people came out to protest and speak against it. They voted at 4 in the morning. But then the teachers union, some parents and the NAACP filed a lawsuit and won because two courts found the city didn't provide enough community input under state law. So here we are all over again.
And are the closings as controversial this year?
Yes in some places. The new chancellor, Cathiei Black, was booed two weeks ago at another meeting by the Panel for Educational Policy where the plans were mentioned to phase-out the schools. But here's what she told me when I caught up with her at a hearing on the proposal to close a Harlem middle school last week.
BLACK "We're in New York. People have strong opinions. Sometimes they tend to sort of ignore the facts and just have an emotional commitment. So certainly there's been a lot of response. Everyone's got a different point of view."
Maura, you've gone to many of the hearings the city's been holding at the schools that it wants to close. Some of these schools have really low graduation rates and test scores. Why do people want to keep them?
Right, so GothamSchools has been going to hearings, we've been to hearings at Jamaica, Beach Channel and Columbus. And these are all large high schools that the city tried to close last year, too. At these schools, though, they say that the city's been treating them unfairly. They've said the city's setting them up to fail, instead of closing them they should be giving them more resources to help the disproportionately high number of struggling students that the city's been sending them.
MAURA - Another school that the city is trying to phase-out is MS 571 in Brooklyn. And they want to replace it with a charter school there. And that's actually upset parents at an entirely different school, PS 9 which is the elementary school that shares that building. They think that adding the charter school to that building is going to squeeze their program, which has been really successful and has been growing. And they also are upset that the charter school admits students by lottery, it's not neccesarily going to be open to everyone in the neighborhood. So tensions have been running really high. I was at the hearing at PS 9 and I came across these two parents, a father from PS 9 and a mother from the charter school who were literally fighting in the hallway over this. The dad said that the city should be working with the community at PS 9 to improve the middle school option there and as you'll hear the mother disagreed with that solution.
MAN: "So you go inside and you go fix it. You work with the people. You work with the students. WOMAN: "No, you create - no no - you create an environment that will foster different results."
So as you can hear tensions are running really, really high at some of these schools.
We mentioned that the city wanted to close 19 schools last year, but it was stopped because it didn't provide enough community notification. Is the city doing things differently this year, Maura?
Yes, this year they're making an effort to reach out to a lot of the schools. Before they even announced which schools were going to be closed they started holding meetings with teachers and parents at the schools. The tone of the hearings has been different. Last year city officials would sit sort of passively as people talked. This year they're making an attempt to respond to some of the criticisms they've been getting.