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Sheepshead Bay HS

500 insist ‘We’re open!’

Miller Photography

Students cross-examine a cutout of Mayor Bloomberg during a mock trial at the rally. More Photos >>

Miller Photography

Teacher Iris Velarde (right) — with her son, Omar, and student Saba Parvez — shows what she thinks of the Panel for Educational Policy.

DOE removes 7 from closure list

As the New York Teacher went to press, the Department of Education announced that it would not close seven of the 33 schools that the mayor had targeted in January. All seven received a grade of either A or B on the DOE’s annual School Progress Report last year.

Those given a reprieve are Maxwell HS, IS 136, Brooklyn School for Global Studies, Cobble Hill School of American Studies, Franklin D. Roosevelt HS and William E. Grady HS, all in Brooklyn, and Harlem Renaissance HS in Manhattan.

“The idea that A and B schools deserved to be closed made a mockery of the DOE’s system, as the agency has apparently now realized,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “There are 26 other schools that have improvement strategies in place, including many that don’t meet the DOE’s official closing criteria. The focus should now be on helping make those plans a reality, rather than mindlessly closing schools that can and should be fixed.”

Sporting school-color orange T-shirts and hoodies reading “We’re Open” superimposed over “Sorry, We’re closed!” the Sheepshead Bay HS community in Brooklyn is fighting for its life.

On March 28, prior to a public hearing on its planned closure, more than 500 rallied and circled the school to support its teachers and demand that the Department of Education reverse course.

The hearing was the first of dozens that will take place before April 26, when the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, which is controlled by the mayor, votes on the future of 33 schools. The mayor first targeted these schools in January, on top of 25 schools that the panel has already voted this year to close, after the DOE failed to reach an agreement with the UFT on a new teacher evaluation system for those schools.

Under the mayor’s proposed “turnaround” plan, the 33 schools would close and reopen this summer, retaining their students but replacing up to half of the current staff.

UFT Vice President Leo Casey called the mayor’s gambit “a political process to target teachers, a process without honor.”

The Sheepshead Bay protest featured members of the school’s moot court and mock trial team performing a cross-examination of the accused, a cardboard Mayor Bloomberg.

“What the mayor is doing is outrageous,” said Gloria Woods, the grandmother of a 12th-grader. “There’s no need to close this school. The teachers are wonderful. The teachers come out and tutor when the kids are sick. It’s a school with great spirit.”

At the hearing, every speaker, including some 30 students, blasted the plan to gut the school’s staff, with student after student praising their teachers for turning their lives around.

Maya, a junior at the school, testified that “without my teachers, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. My teachers have always been with me.”

Chapter Leader Teresa D’Ambrosio, a 19-year paraprofessional with a master’s in education who opted to stay a paraprofessional “so I could work one-on-one with children,” said that “many of these kids may come from broken homes, but not from a broken school.”

Charles Turner, the UFT’s district representative for Brooklyn high schools, summed up the sentiment in the room: “Mayoral control is out of control.”

Local City Councilman Lew Fidler told the hearing’s lone DOE representative, “You want to excess teachers at will and move administrators around, but you’re forgetting that it’s all about the students.”

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