Bill de Blasio Closing schools Education Reform New York City

Will DeBlasio Close Another School for At-Risk Students?

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Normally I wouldn’t write about the fate of a single school. But this is a special case.

I recall that when Bill DeBlasio ran for Mayor in 2013, he said emphatically that he would not follow the Bloomberg script of closing schools. I moderated a debate back in that first election where he pledged to take a different path. He has recently hinted that he has national ambitions, so his reversion to the previous Mayor’s plan of closing schools as a matter of course, over the protests of the school community, is very disturbing.

Here is a statement by the PTA president of a school that is slated for closure. It is a “transfer school,” that is, a high school for kids who have persistently struggled and are trying to earn a diploma. In other words, it is a “last chance” school for kids who have not been able to make it in the general education program.

Read this and see what you think. Should this school die?

“For Immediate Release

Contact: Shaunte Williams, PTA President

“Crotona Academy, a transfer high school in the South Bronx, is actively rallying its community of students, alumni, parents, and staff to challenge a New York City Department of Education proposal to lock its doors to more than 150 at-risk students.

“Superintendent Paul Rotondo informed the school’s community in early February that the DOE had put the alternative high school on a fast track toward closure by August 2018. “This proposal threatens a major disruption in the education of teenagers who are at Crotona precisely because they have already suffered a disruption in their education,” said Shaunte Williams, president of Crotona Academy’s parents association and the parent of a current student at Crotona Academy.

“Unlike other identified NYCDOE schools proposed for closure, the decision to close the transfer high school Crotona Academy was left totally at the discretion of the Superintendent of transfer schools, Paul Rotondo. Superintendent Rotondo has been granted the authority to select which of his transfer high schools he elects to merge, co-locate, replace the school leader, or close completely. On February 9, 2018, Superintendent Paul Rotondo shocked the Crotona Academy community of students, parents and staff by stating that the school was proposed for closure effective September 2018.

“For thirteen years, Crotona Academy High School, the “Little Transfer School That Could” has dedicated itself to educating and supporting at risk, over aged, under credited students in their determination to earn a traditional high school diploma. Crotona Academy High School is a small transfer high school located in the poorest congressional district in America in the heart of the South Bronx. Since its inception, Crotona Academy High School has worked in conjunction with community-based organizations to offer in depth-individualized support, job readiness and career exploration to students who for a litany of reasons could not succeed in a general education high school. A large proportion of the Crotona students and their families are struggling with poverty-induced obstacles such as homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, and mental health issues. Nearly half of Crotona Academy’s total enrollment compromised of special education and English language learners. In September 2016, the Crotona Academy school community was grateful to move into a new school building location after eleven years of being relegated to receiving instruction situated in series of TCU trailer units.

“Superintendent Rotondo’s decision to close Crotona Academy High School leaves many questions to bear in mind…

“Crotona Academy High has been identified by NYSED as a school “In Good Standing” for over five consecutive years. There are currently nine underperforming Transfer High Schools identified by the NYSED ESSA as “Focus” or “Priority” schools. Four of these underperforming Transfer High Schools identified by NYSED as Focus or Priority transfer high schools are located in the Bronx. Superintendent Rotondo however has elected to select only Crotona Academy High School, a school in GOOD STANDING for closure. Crotona Academy High School is actually the only transfer high school Superintendent Rotondo has selected for closure.

“Crotona Academy has made significant educational gains within the last three years in student attendance and has experienced a steady increase in student enrollment, graduation rates of English Language Learners and Special Education students and the inclusion of a variety of multi-cultural and college/career ready programs.

“Unfortunately, Superintendent Rotondo in the published Impact Statement has strategically concealed much of this data in order to support his rationale to close Crotona Academy High School.

“In spite of the educational gains Crotona Academy has made, the school’s five year identified status as a school “In Good Standing” by NYSED ESSA, and the fact that Crotona Academy students were just moved into their new school building less than two years ago, Superintendent Rotondo has still chosen Crotona Academy High School for closure. To add insult to injury, the proposed plan for the school building is to move the Crotona Academy students out and designate the school building to another school currently located in TCU trailer units.

“What message does this send to the Crotona Academy students? Those Crotona Academy students are less worthy than other students to be educated within a nice school building. That although NYSED has identified Crotona Academy as a school in good standing for the past five years, that this information is irrelevant, that the gains made at Crotona Academy in attendance, enrollment, graduation rates and post-secondary enrollment rates, is deemed by Paul Rotondo as inconsequential. What is the rational for Superintendent Rotondo to TARGET Crotona Academy High School for closure rather than those underperforming transfer schools identified by NYSED? What was the rationale for Superintendent Rotondo directing Crotona Academy High School to seize enrollment in August 2018 and preventing admissions although there was a demand from the community and no indication that the school was being proposed for closure that announcement was made later in February 2018.

“Clearly, many unanswered questions deserve to be answered before a decision is made to close Crotona Academy High School. It would be a travesty to punish at risk students by forcing them to relocate to other schools due to the questionable and possibly bias decision making practices of Superintendent Rotondo.

“A public hearing on the DOE proposal will be held on Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 5:00 P.M. at Crotona Academy High School located at 1211 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY, 10459. The panel for Educational Policy will vote on the proposal at a meeting on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 5 pm Murray Bergtraum High School, located at 411 Pearl Street, New York, NY, 10007. The Crotona Academy community encourages supporters to attend and voice their opposition to the proposal at both hearings.

“To voice your opposition to the closure ahead of the above-mentioned hearing dates, contact the DOE (anonymously) calling 212-374-5159 or email [email protected]

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