DOE grants reprieve to Alfred E. Smith's automotive program

A technical education high school the Department of Education slated for closure is getting a reprieve — sort of.

Instead of shuttering the Bronx’s Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School entirely, the DOE is now proposing to keep the school’s automotive technology program open. The school’s other programs, which include home construction, carpentry, electrical and plumbing, will still be closed.

About 500 of the school’s 1,100 students are enrolled in the automotive program this year, said DOE spokesman Danny Kanner.

Kanner said the DOE’s proposal was revised after receiving strong community feedback against eliminating the Bronx’s only automotive technical education program. Kanner also cited “the strength of the school’s corporate partnerships,” which include IBM, BMW and a number of city dealerships for other car companies including Toyota, Lexus, Buick and Nissan, according to the school’s website.

In the space vacated as the school’s other trade programs phase out, the DOE is now proposing to open two new schools, one for engineering training and the other dedicated to older students who lack enough credits to graduate. The original phase-out plan for the school didn’t detail what would replace it.

Jeremiah Cherry, a 2006 Smith graduate who has worked at a Brooklyn electrical firm since leaving the school, was audibly delighted when he heard that Smith would remain open. But he was less excited to hear of the plan to phase out other trade programs, including his own, electrical construction technology.

“I don’t want them to just keep automotive. I want them to keep the building trades, too,” he said. “Those are really important parts of the school.”

Earlier this year, a group of teachers, alumni and supporters of Smith released a music video featuring footage of students participating in trade workshops at the school, with lyrics written by one of Cherry’s colleagues, Mark Noakes, and set to the song “Can’t Stop Me,” by Jadakiss.

“This is something that needs to stay in the Bronx,” Cherry said, who still lives near the school and said he frequently returns to work with current students.

“A lot of my friends who graduated with me — if it wasn’t for Smith, it wouldn’t be good for them, to tell you the truth,” he said. “It opened the door to teaching them to work with their hands, to learning a skill, so they could go out in the world with something to do.”

Here’s the full statement on the DOE’s new proposal, from spokesman Danny Kanner:

Based on community feedback and further analysis of the programs and capacity of the school, the Department of Education has decided to modify its proposal to transform Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School. In its place, the DOE will submit a new proposal that will keep open the school’s automotive technology program and phase out the school’s other programs. A second proposal will be submitted to open two schools in the facility that will focus on over-age and under-credited students, and engineering training and education.

Given the community’s desire to sustain the only automotive CTE program in the Bronx, the strength of the school’s corporate partnerships, and the uniqueness of the automotive program, the DOE has decided to modify its proposal.

No sooner than 15 days after the posting of the revised Educational Impact Statement, a joint public hearing will be held on the modification of the proposal to phase-out Alfred E. Smith. This proposal will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy at its February meeting. The second proposal concerning the opening of two schools in the building will be subject of a separate Educational Impact Statement and will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy at its March meeting.

on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”