Friday, December 04, 2009

Shame On Tweed For Closing Down Jamaica High School - Shame, Shame, Shame







It has finally happened! Chancellor Joel Klein and his non-educator flunkies at Tweed have finally succeeded in destroying one of the great schools in New York City with a century long history, Jamaica High School. It was as recently as 1985 that the Federal Department Of Education ranked Jamaica High School the #1 secondary school in the nation. Yesterday the DOE formally announced the closing of Jamaica High School after they setup the school for failure. Under Joel Klein's awful stewardship and his anti-large school stance, the school suffered from terrible decision making by past and present school leaders in and out of the school that resulted in an exodus of both quality students & teachers, poor and inept leadership at the school, starved it for funds, was treated as an "impact school" by the City in 2005, found itself unfairly placed on the State's "most dangerous schools list" in 2007, and encouraged students to transfer out of the school or discouraged perspective students from selecting the school in the first place. The result was a school that was underpopulated while having large class sizes and only receiving the bottom feeders of the student body.

The closing of Jamaica High School was no great surprise to many who watched helplessly as Tweed dismantled the school step by step. I previously wrote about what the DOE was doing to the school Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here. Still, it was shocking that Tweed ignores the community and student body and goes on their merry way to destroy the traditional large high schools while lobbying for small or Charter schools to replace them. How ridiculous is it that nearby schools like Francis Lewis is bursting at the seams while Jamaica High School can't attract enough students to fill the school.

Despite repeated pleas by the community to allocate the necessary funds to help the school, Tweed instead placed a specialized school in the building in 2008 and made no effort to encourage students in nearby overcrowded schools to transfer to Jamaica. Furthermore, Tweed penalized Jamaica High School by cutting their budget and starving the school for funds.

Jamaica High School was one of the great high schools in the nation and because of Mayor Mike and Chancellor Klein, a 117 year history of accomplishment will disappear. The closing of Jamaica High School is a great loss for the City's culture and community pride. Shame on Tweed for what they are doing. Shame, shame, shame.

P.S. Where will the "at risk"students go with Jamaica High School closing? How about Thomas Edison, Martin Van Buren, Hillcrest, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, John Adams, & John Bowne? Yes these schools will be next in the slowly spreading plaque of destroying the large high schools in Queens.

25 comments:

jd2718 said...

I feel awful about Jamaica HS.

In the Bronx, they used kids from Morris to destabilize (already teetering) Theodore Roosevelt and Taft, and then moved to reorganize those schools, capped them, and again "deflected" the weakest students to Evander and Walton, and Stevenson, then JFK and Columbus.

At Columbus I recall finding kids on their 3rd or 4th school down this line.

The school getting closed, its students, teachers, its neighborhood - all victims.

The kids getting bounced - usually the academically weakest, years and years behind, acting out from frustration, unable to survive without massive support, unable to form positive relationships with adults as they got multiply transferred and forced to travel - more victims.

The receiving schools, lowest level classes suddenly swamped, discipline/deaning system overwhelmed (as the newcomers acted out), not able to quickly enough revamp their guidance systems to meet the needs of the very needy newcomers, unable to plan as numbers and crowding exploded - victims too.

This process did not go wrong. It did its job. It was designed to disrupt our schools.

I have no doubt that Jamaica High School was an excellent school. It served its students well. And with a different population, and with proper support would have served the new students well, too.

The support was not denied by accident. They knew which schools they were coming after, and they did their best to starve them of what they needed to thrive.

Jonathan

JW said...

Jonathan - what you describe in your 4th and 5th paragraphs is happening at Truman HS in the Bronx as well.

Kids are coming from Brooklyn and Staten Island to what? A place where their needs cannot be met.

There's no excuse for that kind of thing. The DoE is engineering failure and dysfunctionality, and ultimately, the demise of public education.

Shame on them, but shame also on a complacent public. They've become habituated to government abuse and don't even recognize the booted feet crushing their faces into the ground.

ed notes online said...

Great post Chaz.
Shame also on the UFT, which was the only body with enough clout to stop these farces, but has sat by year after year because they want to be considered a "reform" union by the ed deformers. Note how much of their platform the UFT/AFT leadership has adopted, from working with Gates on teacher effectiveness issue to merit pay schemes.

Now we see some signs of restiveness on the part of the leadership because it has all gone too far and the membership as a whole is getting nervous. Expecially with a UFT election coming. They may get away with smarter rhetoric through the election but in the long run the horse is out of the barn.

ed notes online said...

One more thing. The closing of large high schools, where the UFT had the strongest chapters, is part of the attack on the union at the school level (BloomKlein are fine with the central UFT, which they often partner with.) I remember TJC's Peter Lamphere (who will be running on the ICE/TJC slate for high school exec bd) spoke years ago at an ex bd meeting about the breakup of Columbus and talked about this issue of undermining strong UFT chapters. To deaf ears of course.

Chaz said...

It is no secret that Jamaica HS was once a school I taught in and when I left the school was already struggling to survive the inept Principals running the school into the ground and their bosses who found any excuse to attack the school.

Only, James Eterno stood in the way between the dismantling of Jamaica HS earlier. However, unless Michael Mulgrew puts the power of the UFT into this fight, I hold no hope for Tweed reversing their decision.

Anonymous said...

There are over 300 high school chapter leaders. Yet, at Leo's meeting of citywide HS chapter leaders I only see the same 25 - 35 HS chapter leaders attend the meeting. Since it is so critical that everyone get on board and unite to fight against the mayor's diabolical plan of destroying the public school, every HS chapter leader should attend every meeting so that we can address this travesty head on with a strong, solid plan. There's no time for complaining; it's time to save our public schools.

Chaz said...

anon:

First, we need to get rid of Leo Casey as HS rep. He cares little about us and more about international events such as Darfur.

Second, many CL's have more serious school issues to deal with than hear from a union lackey with his double pension that supported the 2005 contract disaster and insulted critics who were proven right about he damage that contract did to us.

Third, tell me what Leo did about the extreme overcrowding at Francis Lewis? or the situation at Jamaica H.S.?

Anonymous said...

Chaz,
Many of the chapter leaders have some issue or another with those in the leadership position. However, we need to set our feelings aside and to garner our collective power as a union to battle the mayor and klein's disstabilization of the public schools. Once we, as a union, not as various caucuses, have put "public" back in public education, then we can go back to our differences. Please be aware that I glean a great deal of information from reading your blog and other blogs. But, we cannot show the mass marauders at the DoE that we are divided.

I do respect your feelings towards those at the helm at the UFT, and I hope you understand that we cannot be divided - not this year.

ed notes online said...

Anon: Let's parse what you are saying here:
"we cannot show the mass marauders at the DoE that we are divided. I do respect your feelings towards those at the helm at the UFT, and I hope you understand that we cannot be divided - not this year."

Does this mean we should cancel the UFT elections so as not to seem divided? Should Eterno withdraw from challenging Mulgrew?

This is exactly what New Action has been saying since they began selling out in 2002.

Have the internal critics in the UFT done anything other than attempt to move the leadership to more militant action? Imagine if they went away, as you seem to wish.

Has the UFT done anything to democratize the body when in fact it denies ex bd seats to the groups that got more votes than New Action in a sham of a procedure? Have you seen how the delegate assemblies are run?

WOuld you have urged John Kerry not to have run against Bush in 2004 because we needed to present a united front to the world and Al Quada?

That is the logic you are engaging in here.

Chaz said...

Anon:


I understand your point about "united we stand, divided we fall". However, I must remind you that good old dissent makes unions stronger not weaker.

What weakens unions are unqualified people appointed (not elected) to positions of power which is presently happening in our own union. The very reason that our union leaders have lost touch with their members in the trenches.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Frohnhoefer Aviation HS. As a former chapter leader from a CTE school I must say Mike Mulgrew and Frank Carucci did an awful lot to help vocational schools get recognition for all their hard work from the State Education Department. I am sorry to say,however, union wide we have lost our goal of professionalism--mainly through the compromises of Randi Weingarten as illustrated in our last contract,also on the eve of Bloomberg's second election.
The Unity Caucus of which Mike and Frank were and are members needs to go. We need new creative dynamic leadership that puts emphasis on the principles of genuine education - not continuous and useless testing or self serving agendas, such as caving into charter schools, including day care workers in an educational union for the sake of numbers and increasing dues,and allowing extended day programs so bus companies can make more money, sacrificing seniority for supposed 'open markets', and relinquishing grievances against letters in the file.
Mike Mulgrew has to stand up on both what is happening to both Jamacia HS and Maxwell vocational which also was set up for failure three years ago with overcrowding while Thom Jeff also on Pennsylvania Ave., ENY was being renovated.He has to divest himself of the hacks like Leo Casey to put us on the right track or face a downfall in our next election.We need the likes of James Eterno who sticks up for students,teachers, secretaries and paraprofessionals without watering down educational principles "to fight tomorrow". Sorry tomorrow is now - and it's already late.
Overcrowding high schools in northern and eastern Queens cannot continue to go uncontested. Let's fight for the students and then all good things will come to us.

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Anonymous said...

Why is it that the 600 pound gorilla in the room is never mentioned that the students mainly served by N.Y.C. public schools are considered to be minority?
In my humble opinion, The Mayor and the Chancellor are showing by example and closing of these public schools that though they espouse improvement of the public school system, they are in effect, closing the avenues for minority children to get that leg up in society through the traditional route of success, education.
They also are choosing to ignore other societal influences and changes in society that contribute to the reasons why students are not doing as well as they could be doing in school. This becomes a prime excuse to blame the teachers, who with the little we have to work with, are supposed to bring forth miracles.
Why are these issues not discussed by the media and the politicans that are so fond of jumping on the bandwagon when discussing the "failure" of the public schools, and putting a Band-Aid on the problem by closing the large public schools, and putting smalller schools in their place? Seems like a land grab to me.....

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