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Education Panel Votes To Phase Out 22 Public Schools

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Members of the Panel for Educational Policy approved the phasing out or closing of 22 low-performing public schools in an early-morning vote Tuesday.

The decision will close two schools – M.S. 45/STARS Prep Academy in Manhattan and Freedom Academy High School in Brooklyn – by the end of this school year. The remaining 20 will be phased out over several years.

The voting came at the end of a long Monday night meeting, with the final tally coming at 1:09 a.m. Tuesday.

The panel also approved new schools to replace the schools they are closing, and co-locations of schools to fill the soon-to-be vacated buildings.

The affected schools are in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

Members of the panel, a majority of whom are appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have the final say on schools that the Department of Education wants phased out because of low performance ratings.

"What we're doing is planning for the future and making sure that we build successful schools," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott before the vote. "We have a proven track record of those schools that have been poor-performing schools, replacing them with schools that perform at a high level. There are some schools we've even put in place that are not performing to our level of satisfaction and we phase them out as well. So we try to make sure we focus on the school, proving the supports, and when those supports don't work making a decision that is difficult for families and teachers and principals, to accept the times to phase them out."

Hundreds of parents, teachers and students have attended previous meetings, asking the panel to save their schools.

Education officials say both schools were able to prove they were improving academically.

Each year before this one, the DOE has taken one or two schools off the roster the day before this vote. This year, Herbert Lehman High School in the Bronx and P.S. 140 in Queens were taken off the list last Thursday.

The DOE did say that Lehman will get significantly smaller in the future, and several new high schools will open and share its building.

The panel will also vote on March 20 whether to phase out the middle school grades in another two schools.

This is the fourth year since a state law was revised to require that the panel votes on school closures, but since the majority of the panel is appointed by the mayor, the panel has approved every single one of the DOE's proposals to date.

Of all of the DOE's controversial policies, closing schools consistently generates the most vocal push back. Even if the outcome of the final vote is almost certainly assured, thousands of people show up to the meeting every year. Most are teachers, students or parents at the schools that are being closed, but the teachers' union has also traditionally brought in hundreds of other members to speak out against the policy.

This year, the United Federation of Teachers has not organized a large protest for the first time. The union president said that he has given up trying to work with the current mayor to get anything done and is focused on the next mayor.

Before tonight's meeting began, Democratic mayoral candidate William Thompson rallied outside Brooklyn Tech to demand a moratorium on school closures, a goal he shares with several other candidates.

"Closing schools is an admission of failure, but it's also quitting, giving up on our students, giving up on parents, giving up on our communities. It is time to say no today," Thompson said.

22 School Phase-Outs

The Department of Education will phase out or close the following 22 schools:

Manhattan
High School of Graphic Communication Arts
Choir Academy of Harlem
Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School
J.H.S. 013 Jackie Robinson
M.S. 45/STARS Prep Academy*

The Bronx
M.S. 203
P.S. 064 Pura Belpre
Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications
M.S. 142 John Philip Sousa
Performance School
P.S. 230 Dr Roland N. Patterson
P.S. 050 Clara Barton

Brooklyn
Freedom Academy High School*
P.S. 167 The Parkway
J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin
J.H.S. 302 Rafael Cordero
Sheepshead Bay High School
General D. Chappie James Middle School of Science
P.S. 174 Dumont
P.S. 073 Thomas S. Boyland

Queens
Law, Government and Community Service High School
Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School

* Denotes a school that the DOE plans to close completely in June 2013, rather than phase out over several years

In addition, the Panel for Education Policy is voting on March 20 whether to phase out middle school grades from two schools: Academy for Social Action: A College Board School in Manhattan and P.S. 156 Laurelton in Queens.

On March 7, the DOE decided to remove Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx and P.S. 140 Edward K. Ellington in Queens from the list of proposed phase-outs.

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