Dating back to 1875, Flushing High School is the oldest public school in the city.
But the Bloomberg administration, citing poor academic performance in recent years, has the school on a list of 33 that are facing radical reorganization, including the termination of 50 percent of all teachers and possibly the administration.
On Feb. 24, civic and elected leaders from Flushing rallied outside the school to tell Mayor Bloomberg to back away from efforts to reorganize it, and permit recent progress to continue.
State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) who used to teach at the school, said its five-year graduation rate has increased from 54 percent to 60 percent in the last three years. Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said the rate was 39 percent a decade ago.
“Over the past few years, Flushing High School has improved,” Stavisky said. “There’s work to be done, but closing this school and replacing the principal and staff with multiple layers of bureaucracy is not the solution.”
The school had been in “reset” mode, which allowed the dedication of time and resources to turn underperforming schools around.
In December, following what had been an impasse on implementing a teacher evaluation system, Mayor Bloomberg said the school and others would be placed in “turnaround” mode.
Bloomberg said the move was made in an effort to save an estimated $58 million in federal funding for city schools that was predicated on having teacher evaluations in place.
“Then Gov. Cuomo stepped in and settled that dispute,” said Dermot Smyth, representing United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.
Bloomberg still has not relented on his intention to put Flushing HS and the 32 others in turnaround mode.
“The problem was solved, but Mayor Bloomberg threw a tantrum because he didn’t get his way,” Smyth said. “We have evaluations. Mayor Bloomberg should keep his promise.”
Flushing High School has about 3,000 students and more than 200 teachers. Under Bloomberg’s current plans, 50 percent of the latter would be removed from the building, but kept in the school system.
The union representing the city’s principals estimates that hiring new teachers and keeping those they replaced on the payroll could cost the city upward of $180 million annually in an effort to secure the one-time $58 million in federal funding.
City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and Ken Cohen, director of the regional council of the NAACP, said turnaround plans would further crowd surrounding schools, break up the neighborhood school concept even further, and bring a halt to the progress that already has been made.
“It would be like when you are getting ready to drive up a hill and then you suddenly have to stop,” Cohen said. “It takes a long time to build that speed up again.”
“It’s not about numbers,” said Jane Reiff, president of the Queens High School Presidents Council. “We all know they have to go up.”
Meng, like all present, acknowledged that a 60 percent graduation rate still requires much work. But she said she would be willing to send her own child to the school.
“Yes, if it keeps improving,” she said. “Because if you have a school at 90 percent but is trending downward, that’s not the answer either.”