Monday, October 13, 2008

The Slow Destruction Of Jamaica High School By The DOE

There was a report in the New York Post that showed how few students selected Jamaica High School as one of their 12 schools of choice. Only 1,433 students listed Jamaica High School compared to 12, 602 students who selected nearby Francis Lewis High School. This figure for Jamaica High School was the lowest for all traditional schools in New York City and was almost twice as low as the next lowest school, New Dorp High School in Staten Island with 2,619 selections.

It was only 20 years ago when Jamaica High School was a great school with a top-notch student population and staff. However, demographics changed and more lower income and working class families moved into the area, many of them immigrants, and the higher income families chose other schools for their children. However, in the early 2000's Jamaica High School was slowly improving, despite some poor administration, primarily because of an experienced teaching staff and a variety of programs. In fact, many students who had shunned Jamaica High School for other schools gave it a chance and the academics of the school was better than many of the schools in the Borough. However, in came Joel Klein and his non-education managers who started to close many of the failing high schools to the south of Jamaica High School. First it was Far Rockaway High School, next it was Springfield Gardens High School, then Franklin K. Lane. Next, Klein and company allowed many of the other high schools schools to exclude the level 1 8th graders, especially those with behavior and attendance problems. Further, the small schools did not have to take these "not ready for promotion 8th graders" as well as special education and ELL students for the first couple of years. The result? Many of these needy students were dumped into Jamaica High School which caused an increase in student discipline problems and a lowering of both student and staff morale. It didn't help that the school suffered from a weak administration and lacked a backbone when confronting Tweed. Further, to ensure the school's demise, Tweed dumped almost all the students that were released from jail into the school in the Fall of 2006, claiming the school had the space for them. You can imagine what happened next. Right, the school made the most dangerous schools State list. Coincidence? Yeah right. Finally, the final nail in the school's coffin was giving a small Gates school almost a third of the school's space.

While the school is still functioning and has the best damm chapter leader in the City, starving the school of good students and an ever-continuing exodus of experienced teachers is the beginning of the end for a school that should be one of the best in the city.


Anonymous said...

Chaz- I thank you for the kind words. Interesting follow-up. Last month, the DOE actually said we could not accept any new incoming Over the Counter students. I am not kidding. They said we had no seats available. Yes, we complained to them. Jamaica will somehow survive.

James Eterno
UFT Chapter Leader
Jamaica High School

ed notes online said...

Don't discount the undermining of a strong union chapter led by James. I know he won't agree but knowing the Unity Caucus machine, they aren't exactly unhappy to see a school with ICE influence disappear. Both Klein and the UFT hierarchy benefit from these situations - small schools with little real union activity but with people who still pay dues.