Name game! City rechristens Sheepshead, Dewey high schools

They're going to need a bigger sign: John Dewey High School was given a new, longer name last week, the first step towards a major education overhaul.

The city is overhauling two failing Southern Brooklyn high schools — starting with their names!

The Department of Education rechristened Sheepshead Bay High School as the Academy of Career Exploration of Sheepshead Bay, and changed John Dewey High School’s name to the Shorefront High School of Arts and Sciences at John Dewey Campus last week — taking the first steps towards revamping the struggling institutions since the city enrolled them into a controversial federal turnaround program last month.

Department of Education officials have yet to fire up to half of the teachers and staff at each of the two struggling high schools by July 1, which is required to get $1.5 million in federal funds city officials say will help get the schools back on track.

Critics of the program dismissed the new names. The schools will be gutted no matter what they’re called, they said.

“It’s not about the names,” said Bruce Sherman, a Sheepshead Bay high guidance counselor. “What the city did is despicable.”

But others were glad the new names would still resonate with both students and alumni.

“At least they left John Dewey in the name,” said Stuart Handman, a member of Community Education Council 21 and vocal opponent of the turnaround program. “Alumni at these big high schools associate with the names.”

Dewey was put on the state’s list of chronically low-achieving schools after receiving Cs on its last three city-issued report cards. Sheepshead Bay High, which also made the list, dropped from a C grade in 2010 to a D last year.

Supporters claimed that the schools showed other signs of improvement — Sheepshead Bay High’s graduation rate has risen by 17 percent since 2003, backers say — but the city has long argued that new teachers and staff will help put them on the road to recovery.

In April, the city Panel for Education Policy voted to remake the schools, despite opposition from parents who said the schools should be given another chance.

The Department of Education is overhauling 22 other schools across the city, but agreed to spare some that were facing closure, including William E. Grady Career and Technical High School in Brighton Beach.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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