“Attack” on Brooklyn high schools

“Attack” on Brooklyn high schools

Four of southern Brooklyn’s “persistently lowest achieving” high schools may be closing.

The state Education Department gave that designation to Sheepshead Bay High School at 3000 Avenue X, Franklin D. Roosevelt High School at 5800 20th Avenue, John Dewey High School at 50 Avenue X, and William E. Grady Vocational High School at 25 Brighton Fourth Road.

“At FDR, 43 percent of our students do not speak English and that is a very, very high rate. It takes them more time to graduate,” explained Jorge Mitey, a special education teacher at FDR and the school’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader. “We are very, very upset when bureaucrats at the state or city level look at our statistics and they do not understand the intricacies and the unique position of our school. Taking away this unique population would make us a very successful school.”

A source at Sheepshead Bay said the school is in hot water because of disappointing graduation rates for special education and low-income students.

“It isn’t like we’re a failing school. We failed in this one group,” the source noted. “[Overall], we have over a 57 percent graduation rate, which is meeting the state’s requirements.”

The city Department of Education (DOE) may accept $500,000 in federal funding for each school upon implementing any of these restructuring options — replacing the principal, replacing 50 percent of the staff, turning the school over to a charter or school-management organization, or closing the school. The DOE is waiting for further guidance from the state Education Department before making decisions about the schools’ futures.

City Councilmember Domenic Recchia believes change is necessary at Dewey, which is located in his district.

“The school definitely needs some reorganization,” he said. “We have to do something but we also have to look at who is going into the school. How many English Language Learners are going into these schools? Are these schools getting the brunt of these students?”

Councilmember Lew Fidler, a member of the Council’s Education Committee, believes DOE officials are targeting large high schools with the goal of replacing them with small or charter schools.

“The day they closed Canarsie [High School], I predicted they’d be coming for Sheepshead next,” Fidler said. “It really has nothing to do with Sheepshead so much as this agenda that DOE has to close the large high schools. They go where they think the political will is weakest. There’s no way they’d be able to get away with closing Midwood, Murrow or Madison so Sheepshead was the next logical choice.”

“The city’s policy is they want small high schools. They’re looking to close every large high school we have,” said Assemblymember Alan Maisel, a former assistant principal at J.H.S. 14 in Sheepshead Bay.

Danny Kanner, a DOE spokesperson, defended the practice of closing schools considered underperforming.

“The Department of Education is committed to creating high quality educational options for all students, and have been remarkably successful in doing so,” Kanner said. “Since 2003, the city has phased out 91 schools and created 335 new schools. High schools citywide, on average, graduate 60 percent of their students, while our new, small high schools graduate 75 percent of their students. When we know we can do better for our students, we must, especially when these high schools are graduating less than one in two of their students. That simply does not meet any standard of success.”

Fidler challenged, “There is no evidence that students are better served by closing the large high schools and breaking them down into small schools.”

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