Teachers, students and parents were so frustrated with the city’s decision to shut down Jamaica and Beach Channel High Schools that they walked out en masse from the city Panel for Education Policy meeting Thursday night, before the decision was finalized in the early morning hours.
The PEP voted 11-1 to close the high schools for a second year in a row during a seven-hour meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School. The two Queens institutions were among 12 city schools that Department of Education voted for phase out because of low graduation rates and school report cards.
Thousands of supporters from those campuses filled the streets outside Brooklyn Technical and chastised the department for choosing a plan that involved closure instead of providing students with more resources. When the meeting started, they continued their shouts at the panel and Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, but when the time came for public comment at the meeting, all of the supporters got up and left the room.
“We might as well be talking to the walls,” said David Pecoraro, the United Federation of Teachers chapter leader for Beach Channel High School, after the walkout, which occurred an hour into the meeting.
Several students and teachers said the walkout was initiated by a word of mouth campaign inside the auditorium. A UFT representative said the union had nothing to do with the action.
Under the approved closure plan, Jamaica and Beach Channel would stop admitting freshman students in the fall and new institutions would be created in its place. Jamaica already shares its space with three other high schools.
The only member not to vote for the closures of Jamaica and Beach Channel was Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s PEP appointee. The panel will vote on the fates of PS 30 in Jamaica and IS 231 in Springfield Gardens sometime in March.
Last year the panel’s vote was overturned following a lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers. The union said it does not have another lawsuit in the works as of yet, but several supporters, including state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Whitestone), said they will be putting up a fight to save the schools from closure.
Avella had some harsh words for Black during the meeting and blamed the department for Jamaica High’s failing rate, saying students were denied adequate academic resources such as computers and smart boards.
“I’m sure you’re a very nice person, but you should not be sitting there,” he said to a round of applause.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@c
©2011 Community News Group
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