Scowling at a lengthy document from the city detailing its proposal to close John Adams High School in Ozone Park, and reopen it with about half the teachers replaced next fall, student Symone Simon gives the packet of papers a dismissive flick of her wrist and issues a harsh verdict of Mayor Bloomberg — he has failed her and her classmates, who want their instructors to remain put.
“The mayor says 50 percent of the staff that works here is not doing their job, but there has been a 17 percent increase in graduation rates to 64 percent over the last three years,” said Simon, a senior and one of the editors at John Adams’ school newspaper. “I’ve seen people grow so much here — that’s what our teachers do for us. They’re like our other parents.”
John Adams High School is one of 33 that the mayor wants to close in the city, including eight in Queens. First proposed in his State of the City address in January, the plan to close the schools will be voted on April 26 by the city Panel for Educational Policy — often known as a rubber stamp for all the mayor’s schools plans because it has never rejected anything Bloomberg proposed. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s appointee to the PEP, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, has repeatedly voiced his opposition to the school closures, as have other borough presidents’ appointees.
Fedkowskyj and the other borough president designees, however, make up a minority of the PEP, with the mayor’s appointees making up the majority.
According to the Department of Education’s educational impact statement, which the city is legally required to issue for any school it proposes to shutter, all John Adams teachers would be forced to reapply for their jobs and about half of them would be replaced by the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. John Adams would also likely be renamed.
What the city has labeled for now as the “new school” would “put in place a process aimed at hiring the best possible staff, thus immediately improving teacher quality and, by extension, improving the quality of learning,” according to the EIS.
Students scoffed at this statement, slamming both the city’s plan to rename the school and its criticism of current teachers.
“They’re wiping away a history with a new name,” senior Dion Pierre, also an editor of the school newspaper, said of the school that was built during the Great Depression. It was one of five high schools in the city, including Bayside and Grover Cleveland, to be built from the same blueprint in an effort to save money during the that era.
Brandon Garcia, a sophomore, said he dreads having to attend a school where many of his teachers may be gone.
“I’ve grown to have really good relationships with my teachers,” Garcia said. “The next two years will be a whole different world for me. People are nervous. It’s like being a freshman all over again.”
Cassandra Jagroop, a senior and president of the student government, also emphasized the bonds students and teachers have formed.
“We have at least one teacher we consider a friend,” Jagroop said.
The students emphasized that their school has made significant strides in recent years, which they attribute in part to the creation of small learning communities — specialized programs every student is a part of that allow them to study subjects like media and communication, business, environmental issues, health and sports careers, and law and international relations.
Simon said the SLCs have inspired students, and she noted that about one in five John Adams seniors is a member of the National Honors Society.
Should the school end up closing, Simon added that she “can guarantee our graduation rate will decrease drastically” because students will feel as if they’ve lost mentors.
Teachers, who did not want to be named, said the proposed closure has been “demoralizing” for educators and students.
“It’s depressing because we’ve developed a rapport over the years,” a teacher said. “It’s especially worrisome for the juniors; who will write their college recommendations?”