Councilman Lew Fidler took to the microphone at a mandatory hearing on the impending closure of Sheepshead Bay High School last week, slamming the Bloomberg Administration’s proposal as an example of failed education policy and arguing instead that the school should become a testing ground for a new high school improvement model.

Several hundred Sheepshead Bay High School teachers, parents and students attended the March 28 hearing, with more than 50 people testifying before a panel that included Deputy Schools Chancellor Marc Sternberg that the school is a success despite the odds. The hearing itself is a legally required formality before implementing any major restructuring, in this case a plan to enroll the school in a “turnaround” model that would rename the school and replace 50 percent or more of its teachers.

Students and administrators of Sheepshead Bay High School (3000 Avenue X) decried the closure plan and the Department of Education’s assertion that it’s failing, saying the school has made major strides in its success rate despite having a higher rate of non-traditional students.

Gotham Schools reports:

They emphasized the school’s strengths: dedicated teachers, diverse students who come from all corners of the globe, and celebrated mock trial and track and field teams. The city should improve the school, not close it, they argued.

“The teachers go above and beyond. They’re tutoring us during their lunches and breaks,” testified Yuri Ostrozhynskyy, a senior who helped create a mock-trial video opposing the turnaround plan. “The teachers push us because they have a personal relationship with us, they know what to expect of us.”

“Our parent coordinator accepts children, families almost every day who are not in any school system in this country, and we gladly show the families around this wonderful school,” said Thaddeus Russell, a School Leadership Team member and the father of three graduates and a current student.

Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg acknowledged that the school has had “some success” graduating English Language Learners in four years, and can count its slowly climbing graduation rate among its strengths.

Fidler added to those arguments – which focused on the school’s strength in extracurricular activities and its ability to serve a unique student population of ESL children and kids from broken homes – noting that the successes have been made in the face of continuous Department of Education interference.

“In 2008 you started picking on Sheepshead Bay High School,” Fidler said, referring to the DOE’s earlier attempts to shutter the school. “In spite of that fact, these very same teachers that you want to get rid of half of have improved the graduation rate even though you are telling them that you are coming for their jobs.”

The school’s overall grade dropped from a C to a D in the most recent progress reports. However, the school has demonstrated steady improvements over the past three school years in its first-year student achievements, graduation rates, regent diploma rates and attendance.

These achievements were made in the face of repeated threats of closure, as well as a public campaign to portray the school as failing. Administrators at the school testified that anxiety over the school’s future and its performance has kept strong-performing Junior High School students from applying, and gave the school a potentially weaker student body to work from.

Fidler suggested an alternative to closure – turn the school into a laboratory for high school improvement based on a model used at P.S. 114.

At the Canarsie-based elementary school, Councilman Fidler, Assemblyman Alan Maisel, other elected officials and community leaders rallied with parents and school administrators when city ordered the school shut down. Surprisingly, DOE officials reversed course, negotiating a compromise with school administrators and local elected. The facility would co-locate a small charter school, while the electeds directed more funds for after school programs, and administrators worked with parents and teachers to ensure deeper involvment.

Fidler told Sheepshead Bites that the turnaround has been a huge success. In terms of enrollment, P.S. 114 is now over-performing while the charter school can’t fill its seats.

“It’s an indication that parents want their kids in 114,” he said. “They liked what they saw.”

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  • PayPaul

    The DOE (Department Of Education) sets up models of failure not models of success. They put enough obstacles in the path of potential teachers that only serve to discourage them. Why would I want to be a teacher in this fouled up system? What kind of teacher does Bloomberg want? He wants an $11/hour drudge who can generate paper dolls based upon a pathetic standardized testing system. He wants to break the UFT and destroy the respectability of the teaching profession. I have had discussions with various people over the possibility of becoming a teacher. After seeing what they go through trying to be teachers I’m through discussing it. I’m now only disgusted.

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  • spongeblog

    Statistics and state tests are bogus. Every student has different needs and deserves the chance to succeed. Save SHS!

  • applegreen

    There are successful public schools out there…. right?
    i dont have a dog in this fight, and i cant say i know much bout this, except that i went to public schools… 
    but it just seems that no one is asking why are the high performing schools are so successful, and why others are in such abysmal shape. 

    what makes Stuyvesant so successful? its specialized programs? its testing to get in? people are doing everything within their power to be able to attend that school. 
    or goldstein, thats not a specialized school, yet its the first choice of many in the neighborhood. 
    Why is Sheepshead Bay so much worse than Goldstein??? 
    why is closing a school a good idea and what the hell does it even mean? to close a school? 

    • http://www.nedberke.com Ned Berke

      Like you, I don’t have a dog in this fight – except I’m a taxpayer, a citizen who wants an educated society, and I went to public schools.

      My main concern is the fact that all the schools are being evaluated using the same metric, but education is not a one-size-fits all endeavor. Specialized schools like Stuyvesant require not only good grades, but also more parental involvement in the selection. If a parent is involved, it’s already an indicator that that student is coming from a better home than some of his peers, and is more likely to succeed. I’m not entirely sure how it works now, but when I went to Goldstein (at the time, Kingsborough High School), entry was dependent on citywide testing scores, just like Murrow was. Again – they’re already limiting their enrollment to higher performing students, and so the school is going to perform better.

      Meanwhile, a place like Sheepshead Bay High School becomes the dumping grounds for ESL and special ed students, kids from single-parent households or those where both parents work multiple jobs, and, of course, the school is funded less than the prestigious high-performing counterparts – even though they really need more resources than their peers. So when you compare Sheepshead Bay H.S. to Stuyvesant H.S., it’s like comparing apples to corvettes. 

      Wait. I’ve got a better analogy.

      When you make Sheepshead Bay H.S. compete against Stuyvesant H.S. for survival using the same metric, well, that’s more like pitting two horses against each other in a race, feeding one of them mcdonald’s for a month beforehand, then walking up to it and bashing one of its knees in with a baseball bat. That horse should be considered a winner just for taking a few steps in the right direction. Instead it gets turned into dog food.Sheepshead Bay High School. Soon to be dog food.

      • applegreen

        I agree with your reply wholeheartedly. 
        Just to explain – i wasnt asking “why goldstein is better than sheepshead bay?” but rather why no one over at the DOE is asking that question? 
        and if they are indeed asking that question, y is the answer “lets close it”? 

        I never understood why lower performing schools have their funds decreased?
        Isn’t that the opposite of what should be done? 

        Different schools have different standards – you are right one can’t compare Sty to sheepshead HS. But if we gave at least half of what Sty gets (in terms of funding, resources) to sheepshead HS, there will be a change in a positive direction. 

        I visited Sty high school a few times during my high school years, during school hours, and i saw how much better the facilities were compared to my “humble” high school (sure it was 10 floors high – and specialized too, but our science labs (for example) were in a deplorable condition). 
        I remembering wondering why that was, and resenting my friends who attended that school to a small degree. 

        I would imagine that if my fellow classmates had access to such resources, there would be more interest, bigger sense of purpose of being in school. 

        Its true that your socio-economic background will determine how far you land in life. 

        But shouldn’t the boost that education provides be at least equal regardless of what household you’re coming from? If you take a non-specialized school and compare it to one that is, why is MOST of the funding going to the school that is already more likely to succeed? Why does this not make sense to the DOE? 

        And why does the DOE simply ignore the socio-economic background of many students who dont go to specialized high school? 
         

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