William E. Grady High School (25 Brighton 4th Road) students and alumni gathered on the sidewalk between the school and Shore Parkway Wednesday to rally against the school’s impending closure – and they put the blame for their recent hardships on Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Hundreds of cars coming off the highway honked as they drove past the students, who held posters that said, “Honk for Grady,” and “Save Our School.”
While Grady High School is being targeted this year for a new “turnaround” school reform model – which will force the school to close down and then reopen with a new name and at least 50 percent new teachers – students and graduates feel their school is too good to close down, especially since it’s a trade school that’s seen drastic improvement in school progress reports.
“Closing down trade schools in general doesn’t make sense because schools like Grady give students an opportunity to experience a trade before college,” said former graduate Carl Harris, who works in construction for Local 79.
“I learned a lot in Grady, which helped bring me to where I am today,” he added. “I’m in a good place and I really think that the current and future students of Grady High School should be able to have that same opportunity.”
The Brighton Beach high school was forced into a transformation model last year, one of the most rigorous of the four models for school development under federal School Improvement Grants. The program was supposed to bring $2 million annually to each of the target schools, and the schools were to be evaluated over three years.
But, despite improvements in the progress report under the transformation model – from a D to a B – the city is scrapping the program and enlisting it for the new model. Other local schools are also in the Department of Education’s sights, including Sheepshead Bay High School – which saw improvements in graduation and attendance rates – and Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, which has received a “B” for several years running.
Teacher Evelyn Katz said that the abandonment of the transformation model in favor of the turnaround model is not only a breach of trust, but will upend the relationships within the school.
“We are a community, we are a family,” she said. “Its ridiculous that anybody would want to close us down, especially when under the Mayor’s policies we’ve gone from a D to a B.”
Katz said the decision will be made on April 26th and hopes that they can save their school.
As the sun went down over the protesting students, the kids made clear they want their school to see many more sunrises to come.
“Don’t close Grady Mayor Bloomberg!” yelled one student. “We need this school. Keep it open.”