Threatened Public School Closings in Queens: What You Should Know

Eight schools in Queens are among the 26 now slated for turnaround. The eight schools are August Martin High School in Jamaica, Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Flushing High School, Long Island City High School, William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City, John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Newtown High School in Elmhurst, and Richmond Hill High School. If your teen goes to one of these schools, read on to find out what this means for them.

It’s important to know that these schools are slated for turnaround. This is not closure. This plan would help the schools secure federal funding. Under the plan, the schools would close and then reopen over the summer. They’d have new names and part of the staff, including the principal, would be replaced, though not all principals will be replaced. There is a chance that principals that have been in place less than two years or who were placed at a school as part of an overhaul effort will not be replaced. Half of the Queens schools fall into this category, but several of those schools have already received announcements that their principals will also be replaced. The schools would also be required to re-design the school structure and curriculum. Families should know that current students would be guaranteed spots at the “new” schools.

The eight schools are on the city’s persistently lowest achieving schools list and had originally been slated to improve using a plan called transformation which was to last three years. These plans have been cut short by the mayor in order to get around the failure to reach an agreement with the teachers union about teacher evaluations. This disagreement caused the city to lose significant federal dollars that this new plan would help to gain back. The switch has left New Yorkers feeling a bit confused and disappointed. Some schools claim that they have lost programs since the announcement has been made and that they simply need more time to make improvements.

The decision is up to the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP). The PEP is slated to decide onwhether the schools will be forced to “turnaround” on April 26. The Queens representativeto the PEP, Dmytro Fedkoskyj, has taken a strong stance against the mayor’s plans and has submitted a proposal against all 26 school “closings.” In fact, borough reps have been holding strong against most of the mayor’s education proposals. Unfortunately, most Panel members are appointed by the mayor and the PEP has never rejected a city proposal.

Critics point out that the chosen schools are all large comprehensive schools that serve disadvantaged students. These schools serve a disproportionate number of English Language Learners, Special Education students, and low-income students. The schools struggle with graduation rates and test scores. Critics also point out that English Language Learners, for example, may take a little longer to graduate and that schools with large numbers should not be penalized for serving their student population. Additionally, the timeline is problematic. If these large schools must re-staff (the original proposal calls for at least 50% of staff to be replaced)and re-design their curriculum over the summer, will there be enough time to fully develop the academic plan and the extracurricular activities by the first day of school? What about student morale?

If your teen is at one of these schools, you don’t have to do anything. As we said earlier, current students will be guaranteed a spot at these “new” schools. It’s important to note,though, that the decisions aren’t final yet. The PEP is voting on April 26 on whether to pass Bloomberg’s proposal. You can still make your voice heard. On April 11 from 10:30 AM to12:00 PM, the Education Committee of the New York State Assembly is having a hearing on the implementation of turnaround in the city. If you have something to say, sign up to testify.For more information, see the official notice here.

If your child’s school is chosen for turnaround, you can take a few steps to make sure your child stays connected to his or her education and doesn’t miss out.

• Seek out organizations that offer supplementary services such as tutoring and college counseling. Check out Queens Community House and Sunnyside Community Services, for example.

• It is also possible that these “new” schools will not have fully implemented plans forextracurricular activities and advanced course opportunities, when the school year starts. Keep an eye out for free College Now courses at the City University of New York.

• Since there will be staff turnover at turnaround schools, make sure your high school junior requests college recommendations before the school year is over. Get several copies, including an electronic copy if possible and several in sealed envelopes.

• Stay involved in your child’s education. Help him or her make a plan for the rest of high school and help keep it going by checking in often.
Keep your eyes open for more news on this important concern.


By: Sandy Jimenez