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Meeting, protest held over NYC school closings

February 4, 2011 3:03:12 AM PST
A massive protest was held Thursday by parents, teachers and students angry over plans to close some two dozen New York City public schools.

Members of the Panel for Educational Policy moved their meeting along, but most of the time, they could not be heard.

"Hundreds of thousands of students are not performing at grade level in reading and math," Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said. "Graduation rates at many schools are below 50 percent."

Some of the rhetoric was personal, as members of the crowd and some speakers railed against Schools Chancellor Cathie Black.

"Cathie Black is not qualified to be in a classroom," City Councilman Charles Barron said.

It was announced at the meeting that one of 13 schools facing a vote on closure Thursday night would be given a further review.

"It's not the teachers, they fail because they don't have the equipment they need," said Michael Hall, a parent of a student at P.S. 114.

There were parents who came to plead for their children's school.

"P.S. 260 should not be closed, because they never had the resources that they needed, and they should be given the resources before they make their final vote," parent Evelyn Torres said.

There was a large group from Jamaica High School.

"We have so much spirit," Jamaica High School teacher Julia Schlakman said. "We have so many students who have no where else to go.".

However, one Queens parent was not so sure about Jamaica High.

"It's not a good high school," Eldora Henderson said. "They have a low graduation rate, and they have a lot of X's against them."

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott says the system for closures works for students and parents.

"Part of our goal is to make sure that we phase out schools that are not doing well and replace them with small schools that are, that will do very well," Walcott said.

Earlier, at least 200 opponents of school closings turned out for a pre-vote rally Thursday, including Teachers Union members and their allies, activist parents and students of schools marked for closure.

"I feel disrespected, because they never gave us any resources to help make our school stable," student Noelle Flowshaw said. "They just closed it down."

Earlier this week, the panel voted to shutter another 10 failing high schools.


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