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Another court battle could be brewing between the city and supporters of four southern Queens public schools that were put on the Department of Education’s latest list of institutions to be closed.
The city DOE issued a list of 26 failing schools around the city earlier this week that would be required to stop taking in students for next fall and open the way for the creation of smaller schools in their buildings.
The borough schools include Jamaica and Beach Channel High Schools, IS 231 Magnetech 2000 in Laurelton and PS 30 in Jamaica.
Deputy Schools Chancellor Marc Sternberg said the campuses have been failing students for years and this was the best choice to improve academics.
“These are tough decisions, but we cannot afford to let schools continue to fail students when we know we can do better,” he said in a statement.
The DOE attempted to phase out Beach Channel, Jamaica and the Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School at Campus Magnet earlier this year despite a huge outburst of protests from parents, teachers students and elected officials.
The plan was terminated in March following a lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers, which claimed the city did not properly inform parents about the phase-out and did not give them a chance to voice their concerns.
Although the DOE is determined to shutter the 26 failing schools on the latest list, the UFT and other supporters have vowed to fight the proposal again. UFT President Michael Mulgrew would not rule out another lawsuit to prevent the closings.
“The UFT, our lawyers and the teachers in the closing schools will be closely monitoring the process this year. If we find any substantial violations of the statute that covers school closings, the DOE can expect to see us in court,” he said in a statement.
James Eterno, the UFT chaplain for Jamaica High School, said PTA President Charm Rhoomes, a student and her parent traveled to the DOE’s offices Monday to personally hand them 1,670 signatures to save the school.
“Just like everything else, it goes on deaf ears,” he said.
The chaplain said he and administrators of the school, which already shares its space with three other schools, will fight the proposal.
This time around the city went into extensive detail on the reasoning behind each of its closing proposals and said it reached out to parents about the DOE’s plans well in advance.
During the summer the city identified 55 schools that were struggling based on the State Persistently Low Achieving list, school report cards and quality reviews. Magnetech and PS 30 had D grades in their overall report cards last year while Beach Channel High had an F grade, according to the DOE.
The middle and elementary schools had English and math proficiency rates lower than 20 percent and the graduation rate at Beach Channel was 52 percent, the city said.
The schools received additional support with new teacher training and restructuring class sizes and schedules, but nothing worked, according to the DOE.
“Year after year, even as we provided extra help and support, these schools simply have not gotten the job done for children,” Sternberg said.
The remaining 29 schools that were not scheduled to close will be subject to other procedures such as a turnaround and transformation procedures, the DOE said.
The Queens institutions that were spared from closing include Newtown, Richmond Hill, Grover Cleveland and John Adams High Schools, PS 40 in Jamaica, PS/MS 147 in Cambria Heights and Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High.
The DOE said that although the Campus Magnet school’s graduation rate has fallen from 62 percent to 51 percent over the last three years, its six-year graduation rate, which it did not disclose, was “far above average.”
“The school has a strong new principal who has gotten real investment from the staff and turned around the school’s safety culture,” a spokesman said in a statement.
City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) also said he will look into the proposals and work with the DOE to find a better solution for students. He urged the city to be forthcoming with parents and be mindful of their concerns.
“I’m not accepting any scenario unless it benefits our community,” he said.
Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) agreed.
“We need to do better. We owe it to our children and our communities to get these priorities straight and get our schools back on track,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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