closings

DOE announces 9 more school closures in biggest round yet

In the most sweeping round of school shuttering this year, the Department of Education announced today that it intends to phase out nine more schools, eight of them high schools and three of them opened under Chancellor Joel Klein.

The schools slated for closure today include large high schools in every borough except Staten Island. Paul Robeson High School in Brooklyn, Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan, Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx, and Beach Channel High School in Queens all will not accept new students for next year, provided that the city school board approves the closures next month. Together, the four schools have nearly 6,000 students.

Beach Channel received attention in 2007 after students and teachers complained about a destabilizing influx of students who had not chosen to attend the school but were placed there. Those students included many who would have been zoned for Far Rockaway High School, a large school nearby that has since begun to phase out.

Today’s proposed closures also include three schools that were opened by the current administration: New Day Academy and Global Enterprise Academy in the Bronx and Brooklyn’s MS 334, which opened in 2005 to replace a failing school in the same building that later closed.

Today’s announcement brings to 17 the total number of schools so far slated for phase out after this school year. The department proposed two sets of closures last week, one of which included another large high school in Queens, Jamaica High School.

According to the school governance law passed in August, the proposed closures must be given public hearings and approved by the city school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy. The panel has never rejected a DOE policy proposal.

The full list of schools and the city’s bullet-pointed reasoning behind the closure of these schools, taken from an e-mail sent to reporters by DOE spokesman William Havemann, is below:

Phase-out of Beach Channel High School (27Q410)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of Beach Channel High School, a high school in Queens that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The graduation rate at Beach Channel has consistently remained below 50%:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 46.1%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate was 46.9%.
  • Credit accumulation rates are also low:
    • In 2007-08, only 52.1% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
    • In 2008-09, that figure fell to 50.8%
  • Demand for the school is low and declining:
    • In 2008-09 1,522 students enrolled in the school.
    • In 2009-10 this number fell to 1,345.
  • Beach Channel received a C on the 2006-07 Progress Report, a C on the 2007-08 Progress Report, and a D on the 2008-09 Progress Report, including an F in the Progress and Environment sub-sections and a D in the Performance sub-section.
  • Parents, teachers, and students expressed widespread dissatisfaction with the school on the 2009 Learning Environment Survey:
    • Only 59% of students believe that their teachers inspire them to learn, and only 56% of students feel safe at school.
    • Only 56% of teachers believe that order and discipline are maintained at the school.
    • Only 68% of parents believe their child is safe at school.

Phase-out of Paul Robeson High School (17K625)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of Paul Robeson High School, a high school in Brooklyn that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The graduation rate at Robeson High School is well below the citywide average and has declined while most other schools have made progress:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 56.7%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate fell precipitously to 40.1%.
  • Credit accumulation rates are also low:
    • In 2008-09, only 58.4% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
  • Demand for the school has remained consistently low:
    • In 2008-09 1,049 students were enrolled in Robeson.
    • This year, Robeson enrolls 1,020 students.
  • Robeson received a C on its 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09 Progress Reports. In 2008-09 it also received an F in the Environment sub-section and a D in the Performance subsection of the report.
  • Last year, average attendance at Robeson High School was 69.2%.
  • Parents and students expressed widespread dissatisfaction with the school on the 2009 Learning Environment Survey:
    • Only 64% of students feel that their teachers inspire them to learn, and only 64% of students feel safe at school.
    • Only 66% of parents feel their child is safe at school.

Phase-out of the Middle School for Academic and Social Excellence (17K334)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the Middle School for Academic and Social Excellence (MS 334), a middle school in District 17 that currently serves students in grades 6-8. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new sixth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The school has failed to help students make the progress they need. Math and ELA scores lag significantly behind district averages:
    • Only 39.7% of students are proficient in math, compared with 75% district-wide.
    • Only 30.0% of students are proficient in ELA, compared with 62.4% district-wide.
  • The school’s performance is well below that of MS 354, a middle school located in the same building as MS 334 that serves a similar student population and shares MS 334’s zone.
  • The 2008-09 Learning Environment Survey found dissatisfaction with the school among all constituents, and especially among students:
    • Only 76% of students say their teachers inspire them to learn, and only 61% of students feel safe at school.
    • Only 43% of teachers feel order and discipline are maintained at the school.
    • Only 75% of parents reported satisfaction with the education their children have received.

Phase-out of Metropolitan Corporate Academy (15K530)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the Metropolitan Corporate Academy, a high school in Brooklyn that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The graduation rate is low and declining:
    • The 2007-08 graduation rate was 48.0%.
    • In 2008-09 the graduation rate fell to 47.1%.
  • The percentage of students earning Regents Diplomas is very low:
    • In 2007-08, the Regents completion rate was 16.8%.
    • In 2008-09, the Regents completion rate was 25.3%.
  • The school earned a C on the 2006-07 and 2007-08 Progress Reports. The school’s grade fell to a D on the 2008-09 Progress Report, including a D on the Performance sub-section.
  • The school earned an “underdeveloped” on its 2008-2009 Quality Review.

Truncation of the Choir Academy of Harlem’s high school grades (05M469)

  • The Department of Education is proposing to truncate the high school grades of the Choir Academy of Harlem, a middle and high school in District 5 that currently serves students in grades 6-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The school’s graduation rate has declined below the citywide average:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 73%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate fell to 57.5%.
  • First-year credit accumulation is also declining significantly:
    • In 2007-08, 79.3% of first-year students earned 10 or more credits.
    • In 2008-09, that figure declined to 61.5%.
  • Demand for the school is very low:
    • Choir Academy only has 40-50 students in each high school grade, a student population that is too small to constitute a viable high school.
    • The availability for seats in performing arts programs citywide exceeds the level of demand for such seats.
  • The Choir Academy middle school earned an A on its 2008-09 Progress Report, but fewer than 40% of eighth-graders continue on to the high school. Only 25% of Choir Academy ninth-graders attended the Choir Academy middle school. The school’s current configuration is not fulfilling its primary purpose, which is to provide a seamless educational experience for students from grades six through twelve.
  • The Choir Academy’s high school received a D on its 2006-07 Progress Report, a C on its 2007-08 Progress Report, and a D on its 2008-09 Progress Report.

Phase-out of Christopher Columbus High School (11X415)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the Christopher Columbus High School, a high school in the Bronx that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • Columbus’ graduation rate is low:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 36.9%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate increased slightly to 40.3%, still 20 points below the citywide average of 60%.
  • First-year credit accumulation is also low:
    • In 2007-08, only 48% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
    • In 2008-09, that figure increased slightly to 49.4%.
  • Demand for the school is low:
    • Columbus is a zoned school, but only 11% of students zoned for the school attend it. Just 46% of the students attending Columbus are zoned for the school.
  • Columbus received a D on the 2008-09 Progress Report, down from a C in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Phase-out of Norman Thomas High School (02M620):

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of Norman Thomas High School, a high school in Manhattan that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • Fewer than half of Norman Thomas students graduate on schedule:
    • The 2007-08 graduation rate at Norman Thomas was 41.7%.
    • The 2008-09 graduation rate was 42.7%.
  • The school has persistently failed to help students progress toward graduation. In 2008-09, the school had 109 registered twelfth-grade students and 945 registered ninth graders – meaning that half of the total student body was in the ninth grade.
  • The 2009 Learning Environment Survey indicates low satisfaction with the school among all constituents, especially among students:
    • Only 57% of students feel that teachers inspire them to learn and only 64% of students feel safe at school.
    • Only 68% of teachers feel that order and discipline are maintained at the school.

Phase-out of New Day Academy (12X245)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the New Day Academy, a middle and high school in District 12 that currently serves students in grades 6-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new sixth and ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The New Day high school received a D on its first high school Progress Report in 2008-09, including Fs on both the Environment and Progress sub-sections. The graduation and credit accumulation indicators from the 2008-2009 year are low:
    • The 2008-09 graduation rate was 56%.
    • For two consecutive years, fewer than 55% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits – a key predictor of future academic success.
  • The New Day middle school received a C on its 2007-08 and 2008-09 Progress Reports, with low ELA and math proficiency rates:
    • In 2008-09, 40.8% of students were proficient in ELA and 34.3% were proficient in Math.
  • Demand for the school is low:
    • 2008-09 enrollment is 461 students.
    • Only 30% of the New Day eighth grade students continue to ninth grade, where they represent about 30% of total ninth-grade enrollment.

Phase-out of the Global Enterprise High School (11X541)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the Global Enterprise High School, a high school in the Bronx that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The graduation rate at Global Enterprise High School is low and declining:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 52.7%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate fell to 50.9%.
  • First-year credit accumulation is also low:
    • In 2007-08, only 55.8% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
    • In 2008-09, 63.6% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
  • Demand for the school is low:
    • Global Enterprise participated in the supplementary high school admissions round, indicating that the school did not get enough matches during the main high school admissions round to fill its ninth grade class.
  • The school received a C on the 2007-08 and 2008-09 Progress Reports, down from a B in 2006-07.

first steps

Superintendent León secures leadership team, navigates evolving relationship with board

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Superintendent Roger León at Tuesday's school board meeting.

As Newark’s new superintendent prepares for the coming academic year, the school board approved the final members of his leadership team Tuesday and began piecing together a roadmap to guide his work.

The board confirmed three assistant superintendents chosen by Superintendent Roger León: Jose Fuentes, the principal of First Avenue School in the North Ward; Sandra Rodriguez, a Hoboken principal who previously oversaw Newark Public Schools’ early childhood office; and Mario Santos, principal of East Side High School in the East Ward. They join three other assistant superintendents León selected for his team, along with a deputy superintendent, chief of staff, and several other officials.

The three assistant superintendents confirmed Tuesday had first come before the board in June, but at that time none of them secured enough votes to be approved. During last month’s meeting, the board assented to several of León’s leadership picks and to his decision to remove many people from the district’s central office, but it also blocked him from ousting several people.

This week, Board Chair Josephine Garcia declined to comment on the board’s reversal, and León did not respond to a request for comment.

What is clear is that the board and León are still navigating their relationship.

In February, the board regained local control of the district 22 years after the state seized control of the district due to poor performance and mismanagement. The return to local control put the board back in charge of setting district policy and hiring the superintendent, who previously answered only to the state. Still, the superintendent, not the board, is responsible for overseeing the district’s day-to-day operations.

During a board discussion Tuesday, Garcia hinted at that delicate balance of power.

“Now that we’re board members, we want to make sure that, of course, yes, we’re going to have input and implementation,” but that they don’t overstep their authority, she said.

Under state rules, the board is expected to develop district goals and policies, which the superintendent is responsible for acting on. But León — a former principal who spent the past decade serving as an assistant superintendent — has his own vision for the district, which he hopes to convince the board to support, he said in a recent interview on NJTV.

“It’s my responsibility as the new superintendent of schools to compel them to assist the district moving in the direction that I see as appropriate,” he said.

Another matter still being ironed out by the board and superintendent is communication.

León did not notify the full board before moving to force out 31 district officials and administrators, which upset some members. And he told charter school leaders in a closed-door meeting that he plans to keep intact the single enrollment system for district and charter schools — a controversial policy the board is still reviewing.

The district has yet to make a formal announcement about the staff shake-up, including the appointment of León’s new leadership team. And when the board voted on the new assistant superintendents Tuesday, it used only the appointed officials’ initials — not their full names. However, board member Leah Owens stated the officials’ full names when casting her vote.

The full names, titles and salaries of public employees are a matter of public record under state law.

Earlier, board member Yambeli Gomez had proposed improved communication as a goal for the board.

“Not only communication within the board and with the superintendent,” she said, “but also communication with the public in a way that’s more organized.”

The board spent much of Tuesday’s meeting brainstorming priorities for the district.

Members offered a grab bag of ideas, which were written on poster paper. Under the heading “student achievement,” they listed literacy, absenteeism, civics courses, vocational programs, and teacher quality, among other topics. Under other “focus areas,” members suggested classroom materials, parent involvement, and the arts.

Before the school year begins in September, León is tasked with shaping the ideas on that poster paper into specific goals and an action plan.

After the meeting, education activist Wilhelmina Holder said she hopes the board will focus its attention on a few key priorities.

“There was too much of a laundry list,” she said.

early dismissals

Top Newark school officials ousted in leadership shake-up as new superintendent prepares to take over

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Incoming Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger León

Several top Newark school officials were given the option Friday to resign or face termination, in what appeared to be an early move by incoming Superintendent Roger León to overhaul the district’s leadership.

The shake-up includes top officials such as the chief academic officer and the head of the district’s controversial enrollment system, as well as lower-level administrators — 31 people in total, according to documents and district employees briefed on the overhaul. Most of the officials were hired or promoted by the previous two state-appointed superintendents, Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf, a sign that León wants to steer the district in a new direction now that it has returned to local control.

The officials were given the option to resign by Tuesday and accept buyouts or face the prospect of being fired by the school board at its meeting that evening. The buyouts offer a financial incentive to those who resign voluntarily on top of any severance included in their contracts. In exchange for accepting the buyouts, the officials must sign confidentiality agreements and waive their right to sue the district.

Earlier this week, León submitted a list of his choices to replace the ousted cabinet-level officials, which the board must approve at its Tuesday meeting. It’s not clear whether he has people lined up to fill the less-senior positions.

It’s customary for incoming superintendents to appoint new cabinet members and reorganize the district’s leadership structure, which usually entails replacing some personnel. However, many staffers were caught off guard by Friday’s dismissals since León has given little indication of how he plans to restructure the central office — and he does not officially take the reins of the district until July 1.

A district spokeswoman and the school board chair did not immediately respond to emails on Friday about the shake-up.

Some staffers speculated Friday that the buyout offers were a way for León to replace the district’s leadership without securing the school board’s approval because, unlike with terminations, the board does not need to sign off on resignations. However, it’s possible the board may have to okay any buyout payments. And it could also be the case that the buyouts were primarily intended to help shield the district from legal challenges to the dismissals.

León was not present when the staffers learned Friday afternoon that they were being let go, the employees said. Instead, the interim superintendent, Robert Gregory, and other top officials broke the news, which left some stunned personnel crying and packing their belongings into boxes. They received official separation letters by email later that day.

The people being ousted include Chief Academic Officer Brad Haggerty and Gabrielle Ramos-Solomon, who oversees enrollment. Also included are top officials in the curriculum, early childhood, and finance divisions, among others, according to a list obtained by Chalkbeat.

In addition to the 31 being pushed out, several assistant superintendents are being demoted but will remain in the district, according to the district employees.

There was concern among some officials Friday about whether the turnover would disrupt planning for the coming school year.

“I don’t know how we’re going to open smoothly with cuts this deep,” one of the employees said. “Little to no communication was provided to the teams about what these cuts mean for the many employees who remain in their roles and need leadership guidance and direction Monday morning.”