Seven takeaways from this week’s second marathon Panel for Educational Policy meeting, for those who don’t have time for 6,000-plus words, minute-to-minute updates:
1. Sometimes a delay is just a delay.
Forty minutes before the panel meeting was set to begin, a DOE spokesman informed reporters by email that the city was withdrawing PS 114 from closure consideration, at least for the moment. Parents and teachers from the school greeted the news with hope that the DOE was reconsidering closing their school, which suffered under the leadership of a notorious principal for years.
From 5:21 p.m.:
Just after receiving the e-mail about P.S. 114, Anna walks by a group of people holding signs that argue for keeping 114 open. “I read them the DOE’s e-mail, and they start cheering,” she reports. “They hadn’t been told they were off the list tonight.”
P.S. 114 parent Jimmy Orr tells Anna: “We’re overwhelmed. If it’s true, we’re elated. It’s a delay, but it gives us hope that we can turn things around.”
But a day later, it’s clear that the DOE doesn’t intend to reconsider closing the school. P.S. 114’s closure has been postponed until the March 1 meeting of the PEP.
A DOE spokesman, Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, said the department delayed the vote because officials needed more time to respond to public comment, which they’re legally required to do.
“We felt like we wanted more time on this particular proposal to offer more responsive answers than we had ready,” he said. “We have a legal responsibility to make sure we’re responding to all the feedback we get.”
Asked if the city was acting out of concern it might be sued by the teachers union, Zarin-Rosenfeld said that wasn’t a consideration. Last year, the union successfully sued to keep 19 schools open after a court found that the city hadn’t followed the laws governing school closure. Though the union has taken a special interest in P.S. 114’s case, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers said it hadn’t threatened to sue.
2. The teachers union and charter school advocates have different ideas about how to get their points across.
On Tuesday night, Success Charter Network sent hundreds of parents to Brooklyn Tech, and many stayed until the wee hours of the morning, with sleepy young children in tow, until they could each comment publicly. Last night, the United Federation of Teachers held a rally outside the hearing and then filled the auditorium with supporters.
But just over an hour into the meeting, most of the union supporters walked out. We haven’t heard from the union with an official explanation for the walkout, but here’s an idea planted by one participant:
Anna reports passing a man walking out. He’s wearing a UFT t-shirt and waving students out of their seats.
“They don’t care about us,” he tells them. “They’re not listening.”
3. People are thinking ahead to next year.
Some of the most vocal attendees last night were a group of students from Samuel Gompers High School, which wasn’t on the chopping block at all.
From 6:14 p.m.:
One of those chanting is Dalcean Prdomo, a senior at Gompers High School, a career and technical high school in the Bronx. The school isn’t on the closure list tonight, but students from Gompers have been actively protesting closures anyway.
Anna reports running into them at a closure hearing at Columbus High School, also in the Bronx. Prdomo tells Anna he has the sense that Gompers could easily end up on the closure list next year, so he feels he should speak out against the process now.
We also heard by email from Megan Hester, a research associate at Annenberg Insitute for School Reform, which provides technical assistance to the Coalition for Educational Justice, a collection of community groups. “Gompers is on this year’s PLA list, so students there see the school as next up for closing … thus their turnout for the hearing tonight,” Hester wrote. PLA refers to the state’s list of persistently low-achieving schools.
4. Cathie Black’s leash isn’t getting any longer.
The new chancellor drew fire after mimicking the boos of some of her detractors late Tuesday night. Last night, she registered nary an emotion and barely opened her mouth.
From 9 p.m.:
The whole night, she’s been almost expressionless: sitting quietly next to a bottle of water.
WNYC’s Beth Fertig says Black did render one hint of emotion. When a woman at the microphone said her name was also Cathy, Black smiled thinly.
And while department officials told Anna at midnight that Black might speak to reporters after the hearing’s conclusion, just 40 minutes later reporters were told that Black would be “unavailable for comment.”
Last year, then-Chancellor Joel Klein huddled with reporters after the school closure Panel for Educational Policy meeting ended — and that was at 4 a.m.
5. Even when they vote for a plan, the mayor’s appointees aren’t always thrilled about it.
Philip Berry, one of the mayor’s appointees to the panel, spoke wistfully about Norman Thomas High School before saying he cast his vote for closure.
From 12:20 a.m.:
“I have watched the quality of that school decrease steadily over the years,” he says. ”On one level it pains me to see that we have to close Norman Thomas. On the other hand, we are finally taking the type of action we should be taking.”
Then, after the closure votes, the panel turned its attention to reviewing a handful of contracts. One of them, for a package of online learning services, drew raised eyebrows from mayoral appointee Lisette Nieves, who said, basically, that schools in the process of phasing out aren’t pushed to offer top-notch educations.
From our 12:51 a.m. dispatch:
“I did vote for the phase out,” Nieves says. “But there’s a difference between saying leadership is committed to providing a basic service versus an advanced servive. I just want to make sure there’s an incentive. I don’t inherently buy into the idea that there’s an incentive.”
6. Long hearings like the two this week come with a price tag.
At the end of the night, Anna snapped a picture of about a dozen School Safety Agents filing for overtime. The city has scheduled two PEP meetings for March (one on March 1, the second March 23), as well, which could mean more long nights and more overtime.
7. The following phase-outs and co-locations were approved:
These schools will be phased out:
Frederick Douglass Academy III’s middle school
John F. Kennedy High School
Christopher Columbus High School
Global Enterprise High School
Performance Conservatory High School
Norman Thomas High School
Beach Channel High School
Jamaica High School
These co-locations will move forward:
P.S. 325 with P.S. 260
New school P.S. 241 and Leadership Prep Ocean Hill with P.S. 332
Brooklyn East Collegiate with P.S. 9 and M.S. 571
New high school 11X508 in the Christopher Columbus campus
New high school 11X508 in the Christopher Columbus campus
New high school 11X511 in the Performance Conservatory High School building
New high school 27Q351 in the Beach Channel building
New high school 28Q350 in the Jamaica building