City Pushes Ahead on Plan to Close, Then Reopen 33 Schools
The New York City Education Department has set in motion its plan to restore federal grants to 33 struggling schools. On Tuesday, it released proposals to close eight of those schools, replace half of their staff, then reopen them under new names, all in a bid to bypass a required teacher evaluation system, which should have been in place by Dec. 31.
The schools are Banana Kelly High School, Jordan C. Mott Junior High School and Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology in the Bronx; Automotive High School and Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn; High School of Graphic Communication Arts and Harlem Renaissance High School in Manhattan; and William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens.
The proposals have the same boilerplate language to justify the closings, saying they’re part of the department’s efforts to “ensure that all students in New York City have access to a high-quality school at every state of their education.”
The strategy beneath it all, though, is to push out teachers whose performances are deemed unsatisfactory — a decision that does not depend on approval from the teachers’ union.
The plan has been a bone of contention between Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the teachers’ union president, Michael Mulgrew, pretty much since it was announced last month. (Ernest A. Logan, president of the principals' union, also registered his protest.)
Mr. Mulgrew, however, hoped that Mr. Bloomberg would abandon it once state education officials and the umbrella organization representing teachers’ unions statewide agreed on the framework of a teacher evaluation system, paving the way for similar deals in New York City and elsewhere. But the mayor hasn’t budged.
As with other proposed school closings, those would be the subject of public hearings — one in each school, held on March 28, April 3 and April 4. Then the Panel for Education Policy, which will meet on the matter on April 26, must vote its approval. The panel, created under Mr. Bloomberg since he took control of the city’s school system in 2003, has never voted against closing a school.
If approved, the schools will close, then immediately be reopened, according to the city’s plans.
The new schools would not only change their teaching staff, but also put in place other measures to improve their results, without displacing their students. This way, the city believes they would once again quality for federal improvement grants ranging from $800,000 to $2 million.
The state’s education commissioner, John B. King Jr., suspended the grants to struggling schools in New York City and nine other schools districts in the state because of their lack of an evaluation system.
Last week, Dr. King restored the grants to five districts — Poughkeepsie, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany and Schenectady — after they each reached agreements over the framework of the system with their local teachers’ unions.
New York City had been receiving $58 million in grants. Once the schools’ closings are voted on, it will be up to Dr. King to restart the payments.
A spokesman for the Education Department said proposals for the remaining 25 schools would be submitted over the next week.