The Bloomberg administration's high school "turnaround" plan suffered a stinging and perhaps fatal defeat on Tuesday evening as a New York State Supreme Court judge upheld an arbitrator's decision to reverse the plan to close 24 city high schools, including seven in Queens, fire much of the staff and reopen them in the fall under new names.
The judge ruled that the Department of Education broke its contracts with the UFT and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators in closing the schools and reopening them under new names. In her ruling, Judge Joan Lobis, who originally sent the two sides to the arbitrator, Scott Buccheit, in May, upheld his ruling which stated the renamed high schools opening in September were not "new schools" which would have allowed the city to void its contracts with the unions.
The decision means the layoffs made by the DOE at the end of the school year are voided, though whether or not the schools will be renamed is still in question. The city may also lose out on $60 million in federal money since the DOE and the unions failed to agree on a teacher evaluation system, which prompted Mayor Bloomberg's decision to proceed with the "turnaround" plan. The DOE did not immediately respond for comment, but UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised the decision and asked the DOE to focus now on the upcoming school year.
"We appreciate the judge’s decision to uphold the arbitrator’s ruling. It is now time to prepare the teachers, principals and school communities for the opening of school and we hope that the Mayor will spend as much effort on helping struggling schools succeed as he does on his own political needs," he said in a statement Tuesday evening.
The seven high schools that would have been closed under the plan were August Martin, Flushing, John Adams, Long Island City, Newtown, Richmond Hill and William Cullen Bryant.