Recchia reversal: Councilman now singing Dewey’s praises

Councilman Dominic Recchia (D–Coney Island) is backing a city plan to restructure his alma mater, John Dewey High School.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Councilman Domenic Recchia, a proud graduate of John Dewey High School, came out swinging for his alma mater during a Department of Education hearing on the Gravesend school’s possible closure — three months after he demanded the city gut the failing institution’s administration.

In January, Recchia (D–Coney Island) demanded that the Department of Education boot longtime Principal Barry Fried, the man the lawmaker said was responsible for killing Dewey’s alumni association.

Many felt the councilman’s claims were a tacit endorsement of the city’s plans to enroll Dewey into the Department of Education’s Turnaround Program — where a failing school could receive an influx of federal tax dollars as long as its given a new name and the principal and half the staff are fired — but Recchia said the exact opposite on Tuesday when he begged Deputy Schools Chancellor March Sternberg to keep Dewey open.

“Let’s bring back the school, let’s bring back the arts. Let’s bring back the auto shop,” Recchia said as he and 30 Dewey supporters sang the school’s praises. “Come down here and see what a wonderful school this is, how wonderful the students are, and how wonderful the staff is.”

Recchia told BrooklynDaily that he never supported the Turnaround plan — he just wanted the Department of Education to get rid of Fried, who resigned last month.

A Department of Education spokesman said that Dewey’s new leader, Principal Kathleen Elvin, will remain in place if the city’s Panel for Education Policy decides to close the school and rechristen the building 21K415 in exchange for $1.6 million in federal grants.

Sternberg said Dewey has persistently underperformed in both academics and school safety and would benefit from the Turnaround model. Dewey is on the state’s list of chronically low-achieving schools and has received Cs on its last three city-issued report cards.

Yet Recchia and other Dewey supporters said the school has seen some substantial academic gains since 2009 and blamed Fried for the school’s safety problems.

“Damage was done to the school,” Recchia said. “Children will be scarred for the rest of their lives. We should keep the staff and give them the chance to work with the new leadership.”

The Department of Education Policy will decide the school’s fate next week.

Department of Education Policy meeting at Brooklyn Tech High School [29 Fort Greene Place between DeKalb Avenue and Fulton Street in Fort Greene; (212) 374–5038] on April 26 at 6:30 pm. For more info visit www.schools.nyc.gov.

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