Southern Brooklyn

Maisel Blasts Plan To Close Sheepshead Bay High School, Says Department Of Education Failed Students

From a rally to save the school when it faced closure in 2010.

The Department of Education held a required hearing to “phase out” Sheepshead Bay High School (3000 Avenue X) last week, but the event drew a smaller crowd of about 80 students and faculty, as compared to hundreds in the previous attempts to shut it down.

It’s the third year in the row the city is trying to shutter the school – this time by replacing it with two public schools and two charter schools – and some school supporters say the teachers, students and parents have simply been beaten, broken and demoralized by the process.

If the plan to close Sheepshead Bay High School is approved, a “phase out” period would begin in which no new ninth graders would be accepted to the school. Current students would be allowed to graduate or transfer out, and, beginning this September, a new public high school, two new charter high schools, and a district transfer high school would all be co-located in the same facility.

Department of Education administrators say the school’s ongoing inability to improve its grade on the Progress Report Cards – on which Sheepshead Bay High School earned a C in 2009-2010, and Ds in the two most recent school years. They also say the four-year graduation rate was 51 percent in 2012, below the citywide average of 65.5 percent, and has been defined by the state Education Department as a member of the bottom 5 percent of schools.

Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm explains the plan here:

But school advocates say the DOE numbers only tell a small part of the story, and omit context. Sheepshead Bay High School, they said, has had a number of important victories, particularly in their extracurricular activities. They say that, unlike other schools, Sheepshead Bay High School cannot cherry pick their students, and so receive a higher percentage of problematic youth and English Language Learners than other schools – which present unique challenges to the statistics.

The advocates handed out fliers during the hearing pointing out that 9 percent of Sheepshead Bay High School’s student body requires special education services in self-contained classrooms, as opposed to 7.2 percent citywide. They also point out that 15.1 percent of their students are overage, compared to 9.9 percent in the rest of the city, and that 22 percent are English Language Learners, as compared to 13.6 percent citywide.

The rate of students who graduate in five years or more, a number that the DOE does not consider, is higher than comparable schools, Sheepshead Bay High School advocates said, showing that it performs very well with these challenging students.

You can see the advocates’ statements in this video:

Still, the DOE’s hearing was regarded by many as a “kangaroo court,” a formality required by law even though the department’s decision has already been made.

Assemblyman Alan Maisel, the only elected official in attendance, and who spoke on behalf of himself and Councilman Lew Fidler, condemned the DOE for failing the students, and blasted the notion of co-locating charter schools with public schools.

You can see his statement here: