Friday, January 8, 2010

Columbus HS Alum Reports on Jan. 7 Meeting

Richard Barr sent this to the nyceducation news listserve:

I went to Christopher Columbus H.S. in the Bronx (my alma mater) last night for the joint hearing that DOE arranged about closing the school and also one of the small schools that share the building, Global Enterprise H.S., (which was started during the Bloomberg-Klein regime.)

The auditorium was packed, and everyone who spoke during the first 2 hours, while I was there -- the local elected officials, the B.P.'s rep., the head of the community board, administrators, teachers, union reps (teachers and principals unions), students, alums -- everyone was passionate in their defense of the schools, their opposition to the closings, and their criticism of the DOE.

Heartfelt testimony included statistics refuting the DOE's charges that the schools were failing, charts showing graduation rates above the city-wide average, information about successful coping with over-crowding, high percentages of special needs students and new-arrival students who enter not speaking a word of English. The words of praise in the DOE's own recent progress reports were cited as direct contradiction of the words they now use in their closing rationales.

People spoke about how they have not received help and support from the district office or DOE central. It was pointed out that DOE claims of having consulted with the "stakeholders" about this were bogus, because when personnel at Global asked widely who had been consulted, they could find no one who had. Several people suggested that clearing space for charter schools was the likely explanation for this DOE plan. One student, choked up with tears, said that the closing would shut the door to his future.

The building looked to be in great shape, inside and out, with lots of informational and inspirational signs and college posters all over the walls. It was maybe in better shape than when I attended, and since it opened in 1938, it is now well more than twice as old as it was then.

If PEP votes to close these schools after a hearing like this, it will be a chilling example of how an irrational dictatorship rides roughshod over the near-unanimous opinions and desires of practically all aspects of the communities it supposedly serves. If all the B.P. reps on the PEP, if they each wish to keep their schools open, make common cause for the meeting on the 26th ("Don't vote to close my schools and I won't vote to close yours") and the vote comes out 8 Bloombergs for closing, 5 B.P.'s against, it will demonstrate how unfair the make-up of this group is, and ought to result in lawsuits against the closings.

Richard Barr


  1. Great reporting and necessary for public education. It dawned on me that not only the closing schools but the surrounding schools that once again will be impacted by the closings should also be involved in the movement to stop the closings of these schools.

  2. I agree with anon 7:09 that the surrounding schools should get involved without any second thoughts. Unfortunately, human nature is the precursor to any involvement of the current issues. Staff members will only see the need to get involved when it has actually impacted their school. When they see that many students with education deficiencies and behavioral problems end up in their school, they will be prompted to action and will then ask for help from the other schools. It human nature to sit back and do nothing until it's too late.

    I have asked my members to get involved and come with me to the rallies and hearings so we can support these schools. So far I'm the only one teacher from my school attending the rallies and hearings. My members don't feel that it will happen to them. It's human nature to deny the inevitable and people have a tendency of NOT reading the writing on the wall.

    But, I want to commend those schools who are NOT closing(phasing out)and are getting involved. Kudos to you those members.

  3. I recommend getting the new Commissioner of Education, David Steiner, involved in any and all decisions to close schools.

    Here is an excerpt from the website of the NYS Education Department's Office of Counsel:

    "General Information

    Education Law §310 provides that persons considering themselves aggrieved by an action taken at a school district meeting or by school authorities may appeal to the Commissioner of Education for a review of such action. A §310 appeal must be initiated within 30 days of the decision or action complained of, unless the delay is excused by the Commissioner for good cause shown in the petition.

    In addition, Education Law §306 allows the Commissioner of Education to remove a trustee, member of a board of education and certain other school officers for wilful misconduct or neglect of duty. An application for removal must also be initiated within 30 days of the decision or action complained of, and must contain evidence of wilful, intentional wrongdoing.

    The burden of proof in an appeal to the Commissioner rests with the person bringing the petition, i.e. the petitioner. The petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing all the facts upon which he or she seeks relief. This may be accomplished by the submission of affidavits, exhibits or other proof. Mere allegations, suppositions, theories or conclusions, without factual proof are insufficient."

    See the following webpage for further details and links:


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