For the second night this week, Anna is stationed at Brooklyn Tech High School, sending us dispatches from the meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy. The meeting is once again likely to be a long marathon of a night as the public lines up to comment on school closures and space changes proposed by the Bloomberg administration.
At the end of the night, or maybe the beginning of tomorrow, members of the panel — the latest version of the city school board — will vote on whether to adopt the proposals, which could close up to 12 schools and make significant changes in another nine. The panel is controlled by a majority of members appointed directly by the mayor.
1:20 a.m. One final update, with a visual: The last people left at Brooklyn Tech were about a dozen school safety officers submitting their overtime. The first bell rings at 8 a.m.
1:04 a.m. She won’t be speaking with reporters, but Chancellor Cathie Black did make sure to have the last word. “We all want to say a very large thank you to the parents, the teachers, and the students who came out earlier this evening,” she said. “These are never early decisions. A great deal of time and thought and angst has gone into them. A big thank you to everybody.”
By “early,” Black probably meant “easy,” Anna notes. And with that, our reporter heads into the night.
1:02 a.m. All of the contracts under the panel’s review have passed.
12:51 p.m. Often, the panel makes quick work of any proposed contracts. But tonight, panel members are questioning a three-year, multi-million-dollar proposal for a package of 16 contracts to provide online coursework. The largest, a $4.5 million bid from Apex Learning, would allow schools to offer Advanced Placement courses virtually.
Investing in online learning would allow schools that are phasing out to offer advanced courses even as their student bodies and teaching rosters dwindle, says Deputy Chancellor John White.
But Lisette Nieves, one of the panel’s eight mayoral appointees, is challenging White’s logic. She says that would be true only if the department urged phase-out schools to challenge their students — but it doesn’t.
“I did vote for the phase out,” Nieves says. “But there’s a difference between saying leadership is committed to providing a basic service versus an advanced servive. I just want to make sure there’s an incentive. I don’t inherently buy into the idea that there’s an incentive.”
12:40 p.m. Despite pressure from reporters, Chancellor Cathie Black is “unavailable for comment,” DOE officials are saying.
This is a particular problem for television and radio reporters, who couldn’t hear a word of what Black said during her introductory remarks because she was being booed so loudly. The only journalist who can use the audio, Anna reports, is the Spanish-language NY1 Noticias reporter, who plans to translate Black’s comments and run the script.
Last year, then-Chancellor Joel Klein huddled with reporters after the school closure Panel for Educational Policy meeting ended — and that was at 4 a.m.
12:35 p.m. The voting is over, just 10 minutes after it started. The panel voted to close 12 more schools, bringing the total closures approved this week to 22.
Almost of the votes — including the proposed space use changes, which were also approved — fell along the 8-4 margin that reflects the split between the panel’s mayoral and non-mayoral appointees. Two proposals, to phase out Beach Channel and Jamaica high schools in Queens, passed by a margin of 11-1, with just Patrick Sullivan dissenting.
And Sullivan cast a rare “yes” vote tonight, too, joining his colleagues on the panel to vote unanimously to close the high school at Frederick Douglass III in the South Bronx. The middle school will remain open.
The panel is now turning its attention to a handful of contracts it must review before the department can enter.
12:27 p.m. The proposal to place Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School inside PS 9 has passed. PS 9 parents, who by now make up the majority of audience members remaining, stand up and walk out. “Shame on you,” some call out as they leave.
12:25 a.m. And the voting has begun. Once again, there are eight mayoral appointees on the panel and four members appointed by borough presidents. On both of the motions proposed tonight, the votes have split down that line, as did nearly all of the proposals passed on Tuesday night.
12:20 a.m. Calling attention to Norman Thomas High School, another school that could be closed tonight, Patrick Sullivan cites a recently leaked internal study conducted for the Department of Education by the Parthenon Group in 2008. The study suggests that the department has known for years which schools are likely to flounder, based solely on their demographics.
Rather than shy away from discussing the Parthenon study, which teachers union president Michael Mulgrew cited in his comments before the panel on Tuesday night, the DOE’s Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky embraced its conclusions.
“If you look at peer demographics for Norman Thomas, the projected graduation rate would have been 48 percent,” Polakow-Suransky says. “The actual graduation rate was 38 percent. The point [of the Parthenon study] was to understand which schools have the capacity to beat the odds. In this case, Norman Thomas was underperforming.”
Somewhat surprisingly, a mayoral appointee to the panel comes to Norman Thomas’s defense — at least historically. Philip Berry says he was once very involved with the school because of his position in the business community, but that his friends who worked there became “disenchanted” by it.
“I have watched the quality of that school decrease steadily over the years,” he says. “On one level it pains me to see that we have to close Norman Thomas. On the other hand, we are finally taking the type of direction we should be taking.”
12:13 a.m. Now Monica Major has proposed a motion to take PS 102, a Bronx elementary school, off the chopping block — “as you have done with PS 114 in Brooklyn,” she says. “We think it’s comparable.”
PS 114, of course, is the elementary school run into the ground by an uncommonly bad principal. (She’s now working as assistant principal in the Bronx.) Earlier tonight, after indicating that it was considering doing so, the city withdrew its proposal to close PS 114 at the end of the school year.
The motion fails, with the four borough president appointees voting in favor and the eight mayoral appointees voting against.
12:11 a.m. The conversation has moved north, to John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, which is facing closure tonight. Monica Major, the Bronx Borough President’s panel appointee calls the physical conditions of the Kennedy building “atrocious.”
“It is beyond me how the DOE is allowing students to even be educated in that building,” Major says. “I visited the other schools in the building. It was something that should have been controlled, reviewed, and for that reason alone, we feel that Kennedy has been neglected whether intentionally or due to insufficient leadership. Whatever reason you want to give, we feel it has been neglected.”
12:04 a.m. Panel members and department officials are still discussing PS 9. Patrick Sullivan alleges that Uncommon Schools, the charter school network that’s launching Brooklyn East Collegiate, shuts out parents who want to start PTAs. (A comment left on GothamSchools by a woman who says she is an Uncommon Schools parent, repeats the claim.)
“There is not a finer educational organization in the city than Uncommon Schools,” responds Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg.
12:01 a.m. Good morning! (Philissa here; I’ve been blogging since about 10:30 p.m.) in Anna just asked a department spokesman whether Chancellor Cathie Black would be fielding questions from reporters after the meeting concludes. “Depends on the time,” she was told.
11:38 p.m. Gbubemi Okotieuro has just proposed a motion to delay the vote on PS 9. All of the borough representatives vote yes, but panel chair Tino Hernandez, a mayoral appointee, says the motion is premature, and the motion is defeated.
The city has allotted space for PS 9 to grow from 544 to 675 students, DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld tells Anna. And Paymon Rouhanifard says that if a huge number of new students enroll from the neighborhood, the department reserves the right to move Brooklyn East Collegiate out of the building. But right now, he says, just 40 percent of PS 9’s students live in the school’s zone.
PS 9 parents are calling out as Rouhanifard defends Brooklyn East Collegiate. “We don’t want it,” they call from the dwindling audience.
11:35 p.m. The Brooklyn Borough President’s appointee to the panel, Gbubemi Okotieuro, says he is leaning toward voting against the proposal to place a charter school in PS 9’s building. Prospect Heights is going through a major redevelopment, he says, predicting an influx of new families within the next five years.
The DOE doesn’t dispute Okotieuro’s characterization of the neighborhood, but it doesn’t back down from its proposal. “We understand this community is growing,” says Paymon Rouhanifard. “But the statistics show you that at this point in time, the demand is not there for this time.”
Rouhanifard’s explanation echoes those the city has offered for overcrowding in Tribeca and other neighborhoods, where parents say the city’s school space planning has leant too heavily on current data while giving short shrift to growth patterns.
Rouhanifard says there won’t be room in the building for PS 9 to expand through eighth grade, as some community members have said they prefer, once all of the schools in the building have grown to their full size. That includes Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School, the school being voted on tonight.
11:25 p.m. Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan Borough President’s appointee to the panel and its most outspoken member, hammers at the issue of diminished opportunity as schools move toward their final days.
“At phase-out schools, isn’t it inevitably that through elimination of AP classes, electives, the children in that school are going to receive an inferior education to what they would have otherwise?” he asks.
Not at all, answers Marc Sternberg. “You’re aware that first of all in many instances where there are multiple schools on a phase-out campus we have a collaboration to share resources,” he says. “At Evander, when I was working there as principal, we invited Evander students into higher-level classes at the small school. They were afforded opportunities at the other schools that might not have been afforded to them through their school.”
The explanation doesn’t sit well with Sullivan. “If that were happening at Jamaica, there wouldn’t be a play about how it’s not happening.”
11:18 p.m. Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg makes the argument that Jamaica High School would benefit from closure because all schools the department phases out receive federal school improvement funds.
He also says that students in Jamaica’s selective Gateway program will get preference in transferring to Gateway High School, a new small school the department plans to open in the building. Other students at Jamaica won’t get the same priority. “We think it’s the best of Jamaica,” Sternberg says of the Gateway program.
11:10 p.m. Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens Borough President’s appointee to the panel, starts the question-and-answer period by calling attention to the many concerns he heard about class size, technology, resources, and other supports in schools that are facing closure.
“I have taken a tour of Jamaica High School and I saw how the new schools did seem to have newer technology while Jamaica didn’t have it,” he said. “And it concerned me.”
Paymon Rouhanifard, a top official in the DOE’s portfolio office, responds that the inequality is simply a function of the way the department organizes school budgets.
“What you see in Jamaica is the fact that Jamaica has been around for a long time, by virtue it has a more senior faculty that has a higher budget need to soak up the salaries of those teachers. Its principal has to work around those challenges,” Rouhanifard said. “The new [schools] may have younger teachers so their cost may not be as high.”
11:04 p.m. And with that, public comment concludes. Next up, the panel members can ask questions about the proposals in front of them.
Few will be on hand to hear the answers. Most of the audience left hours ago. Anna emailed teachers union officials shortly after the union’s walkout for an explanation but has so far heard nothing back.
10:54 p.m. The Glass-Steagall Act makes another appearance, this time apparently serious, as a woman takes the microphone and begins railing against monied special interests controlling the schools. She’s followed a few speakers later by a man whose argument invokes the ideology of Social Darwinism.
10:36 p.m. We’re now on speaker number 145. It’s Brian Pickett, the City University of New York theater teacher who helped students at Jamaica High School with a briefly-banned play that criticized the school policies of former Chancellor Joel Klein. He says he’ll read aloud a portion of the students’ script.
Tino Hernandez, the panel’s chair, cuts him off: “You have one minute.”
Pickett reads aloud a brief scene set in the principal’s office (watch it here) before exiting stage right.
10:34 p.m. Parents from PS 9, who have dominated tonight’s meeting, are now calling on the panel to postpone the vote that could move a charter school into their Prospect Heights building.
10:25 p.m. A Prospect Heights parent introduces herself with a joke.
“I’m sorry I’m not here to talk about to talk about the Glass-Steagall Act,” she says.
Tino Hernandez, the panel chairman and a Bloomberg appointee, breaks into laughter.
She actually wants to protest the plan to move a charter school into P.S. 9. “This plan is going to undermine all the success that P.S. 9 has achieved. I don’t understand why when you see a successful school like P.S. 9, why you’re not promoting it and supporting it,” she says. “I’ve not heard one discernible benefit to placing Brooklyn East Collegiate in P.S. 9.”
10:19 p.m. Not everyone who speaks at public hearings about education is talking about school closures. One man identifying himself as Geronimo C. Williamson and wearing a gold hat that he said symbolizes the holy spirit spoke about corruption concerns.
Williamson also attended last year’s PEP meeting about school closures. It’s hard to tell exactly what he’s after, but his hat is pretty cool.
9:59 p.m. A charter school parent at the microphone elicits some boo’s by saying, “I’m grateful the UFT is gone and the riff-raff is gone because now the real parents can speak.”
“Chancellor Black,” the parent continued, “I hope you’re listening to every parent here.”
Black, who has been remarkably motionless throughout the night, nodded.
9:50 p.m. Several principals of small schools came out tonight to defend their schools against the accusation that they receive disproportionate resources.
One is the principal of Metropolitan High School in the Bronx, Carla Theodorou. She described her own school as receiving a wide majority of students (85 percent) who begin at level 1 or 2 out of 4 in reading, math, science, and Social Studies. She said that 22 percent of her students are English language learners, and 13 percent receive special education.
A recent report by the Independent Budget Office found that schools slated for closure do serve disproportionately more students with special needs.
9:39 p.m. During the break, a mother from Uncommon Schools approached the stage where panel members and Department of Education officials. She carried a box of chocolate bars.
“Only a dollar,” she said. “I’ll give you two for two dollars.”
At least two officials walked down the stairs and bought a chocolate. The chocolate-supporting group included at least one mayoral appointee to the panel, Tomás Morales, and Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, the former principal who now oversees school closures and the creation of new schools.
9:37 p.m. The meeting is taking a short break.
Meanwhile, a Marist poll released tonight shows that Chancellor Black has a long way to go to win public support.
From our story:
A Marist College poll released this evening shows that new Schools Chancellor Cathie Black has less public support than her predecessor, Joel Klein, did when he took the job eight years ago.
Current poll results show that 21 percent of registered New York City voters think that Black has done a good or excellent job of handling of the public schools. When Quinnipiac University first surveyed the public on Klein in 2003, a month after he took office, its results showed that 46 percent of New Yorkers approved of him.
9:08 p.m. With students at schools slated for phase-out gone, much of the speech-making tonight is being devoted to two relatively minor space-sharing issue.
Both are plans to put charter schools with the Uncommon Schools network in district buildings: Brooklyn East Collegiate is set to move into the P.S. 9 building, and Leadership Prep Ocean Hill is slated to move into the building where P.S. 332 now is.
P.S. 9 parents complain that a charter school would block plans to expand the school to middle school grades. A Department of Education spokesman said that the move would only take away one classroom from P.S. 9 next year and that the school would receive multiple rooms back next year.
9 p.m. After receiving withering personal attacks from elected officials and opponents of school closures, Chancellor Cathie Black is getting a break from criticism in the last hour or so.
The whole night, she’s been almost expressionless: sitting quietly next to a bottle of water.
WNYC’s Beth Fertig says Black did render one hint of emotion. When a woman at the microphone said her name was Cathy, Black smiled thinly.
8:45 p.m. Something you don’t often see at these public hearings, late on a school night: The next speaker is Nancy Amling, the principal of a small high school called Hudson High School of Learning Technologies in Manhattan.
Amling talks about her experience serving as principal of Bayard Rustin High School, which she took over when the city first began to phase it out — and which shares space with Hudson.
She argues that phase-outs don’t have to hurt the students at the closing school:
I took over a failing school that was marked for closure. Although I know the phase out process is shocking at first and difficult, we have been able. We’ve planned for the graduation of our current freshman. They have been innovative and the students know they are getting the best education they can get.
We are co-located on a campus with six other schools, we have a viable campus governing council, and we worked together, we share space, we share resources, and we share the excellent pedagogy in our building
Something else Amling said also stands out, a reference to calls from the union and other opponents of school closures that staff at phase-out schools did not receive enough teacher training. “I’d like to know when was the last time many of the people in this room got so exited, as they did tonight, about professional development,” Amling says.
8:40 p.m. Responding to the proposed closure of Christopher Columbus High School, a man describes growing up in Columbus’s catchment area in the Bronx.
“Academic performance was sub-par,” he says, “so my parents had no choice but to send me and my brothers to catholic schools in the Bronx and Westchester.”
He goes on, “For over three decades, my parents have been paying taxes for school they couldn’t use. Unfortunately, it’s too late for me because I grew up. The New York City public school system didn’t just fail me, it failed my friends.”
8:37 p.m. Heather Lawrence, a teacher at the Urban Assembly School for the Urban Environment, speaks, saying that we can’t wait to fix failing schools.
“If we wait, what happens to the students who are there? What happens to the generations of students who are waiting for us?” she asks.
Anna catches up with Lawrence after her remarks. She says she doesn’t care if the new options are charter schools or new small schools, like the one where she works. But she says it’s “criminal” to sit and wait.
8:20 p.m. Stephanie Campbell, mother of a son at Explore Charter School, talks about how school choice helped her family. Her oldest son went to military school; her daughter went to private school. Now, she’s placed her youngest son at Explore, which would absorb students from P.S. 114 if that school is phased out.
Campbell also makes a policy suggestion. “Tenure, that should be from 5-10 years,” she says. “Then they’ll have an idea of what real teaching is.”
“I hear people talking about, ‘Save our school,'” she says. “No. It should be about save our children.”
8:15 p.m. Another Leadership Prep mother, Tanisha Sutton, speaks. Her son is a 5-year-old at the school.
“Leadership Prep is an incredibly positive and warm family school,” she says. “From the first day, I believed in the academic progress my son would achieve. He is now reading a book a night. Every family in this district should have access to that opportunity. ”
8:09 p.m. Next comes a mother of a student at one of the Uncommon Schools charter schools that would receive space at a closing school, Leadership Prep.
“I’m here because every child in District 23 should experience the joy and excitement of learning in a productive atmosphere,” the mother says. “Leadership Prep Ocean Hill isn’t just a school; it’s a culture.”
She describes her child coming home singing a song called “Math Time” to the tune of “My Girl.”
“I’m not hear to speak negatively about P.S. 332,” she says, referring to the school proposed for phase-out. She adds that “colocation equals sharing” and “sharing is caring.”
8:06 p.m. Charter school parents are now speaking.
Marjorie Hannah, the mother of three students, including one at a charter school, says there are two types of people here tonight. One group wants to see change.
“On the other hand, you see those believing in the legacy of the schools. Perhaps they once attended one of these schools and they consider this part of their identity,” she says. “But let us not allow our emotions to get the better of us. Your school is not your child’s identity if the school fails to prepare them.”
8:05 p.m. The slogan of choice for the political action group Education Reform Now tonight is “Better Choices, Brighter Future.” The group favors charter schools and school closures as a means to improved student achievement. Its new board chairman is Joel Klein, and its partner organization is Democrats for Education Reform.
A list of talking points handed out to everyone at Brooklyn Tech tonight outlines the group’s position. “These schools have a long history of poor performance, low graduation rates and safety issues,” the flier says. “We know we can do better.”
7:55 p.m. Anna estimates that there are about 350 people at Brooklyn Tech. The walkout cleared many people away.
That said, Bloomberg opponents are still streaming to the microphone. Right now, Noah Gotbaum, president of the Community Education Council for District 3, is chiding the panel on a vote early yesterday morning that put a new Success Charter Network school into Brandeis High School on the Upper West Side.
“What level of feedback do you require from the community? You see them throughout the city and yet you ignore them. You ignore us,” Gotbaum says.
7:36 p.m. Parent activist Lisa Donlan performed a puppet show at last year’s PEP meeting about school closures. On Tuesday, she sang original lyrics to an adaption of the Sam Cooke song about not knowing much about history.
Tonight, she and two teachers from the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) activist group, Sam Coleman and Liza Campbell, updated an old miner song
Which side are you on?
Gather round good teachers
listen to my tale
of how the ole DOE
put our schools up for sale
Which side are you on..
Come down to new York City
and look us in the eyes
either you want community schools
or you want to privatize
The full text is here, on the GEM web site.
7:30 p.m. The Gompers students have walked out. Students from Uncommon Schools who look to be about middle school age are taking their place.
Two Uncommon Schools charter schools are slated to take space in schools slated for closure: P.S. 332 would be replaced with Leadership Preparatory Ocean Hill Charter School and M.S. 571 would be replaced by Brooklyn East Collegiate charter school.
The latter proposal has generated strong opposition because parents at the other school in the building, P.S. 9, don’t want to share space with a charter school.
7:23 p.m. Anna overhears one security guard talking to another.
“What are you doing standing there?” the first says.
“We’re outnumbered,” the second replies.
7:18 p.m. The walkout rumor was real. Anna reports that about a quarter of the people in the room have now left.
Anna reports passing a man walking out. He’s wearing a UFT t-shirt and waving students out of their seats.
“They don’t care about us,” he tells them. “They’re not listening.”
The room is chaotic, filled with students chanting and screaming, Anna reports. Most of the yells, interestingly, are coming from the Gompers group — the students whose high school in the Bronx isn’t actually slated for closure at all.
“Show me what democracy looks like!” they chant. “This is what democracy looks like.”
7:12 p.m. Anna hears grumbling that students are preparing to walk out after the first student speaker.
No.1 after the elected officials and union president Mulgrew is a student named Hermione from Kennedy High School in the Bronx, which the Bloomberg administration is proposing to close.
As she rises, all the students in the audience stand with her.
“Do you like to watch us suffer? Don’t you care about the people? Don’t you care about what we’re saying?” Hermione asks.
Every person in the room is now standing, Anna reports.
7:08 p.m. We have the text of Chancellor Black’s prepared remarks, the ones drowned out by whistles and chants.
Challenging leaked reports, she cites research finding that the new schools that replace closed schools serve children better and serve struggling students:
Independent research overwhelmingly shows that these new schools perform better, and students at these schools are more likely to be on track to graduation compared to students in other high schools.
And the research shows that new small schools are particularly successful with students traditionally considered the most disadvantaged, including minorities, special education students, English Language Learners, and students entering high school with low proficiency levels.
Black also had warm words for the people shouting at her:
I want to thank each and every one of you for coming out tonight. You’re displaying an admirable commitment to public education and I look forward to hearing your feedback.
Black’s complete prepared remarks are here.
7:04 p.m. From the department of amusing gaffes: At least two council members tonight have called for creating “smaller classrooms.”
What they mean, of course, is smaller class sizes.
The Bloomberg administration has downplayed the importance of class size reduction as a means for improving student achievement, saying that the quality of the teacher standing in front of the room is most important.
6:55 p.m. I’ve been wondering how whistling could really completely drown out the voice of a woman speaking into a microphone.
Anna just reported that she saw UFT President Michael Mulgrew walking down the aisle and handing something to NY1 education reporter Lindsey Christ. It was a whistle.
6:48 p.m. City Council Members Letitia James and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn, speaking next, also target Black.
“What in the world is wrong with you?” Williams asks the chancellor. “You’ve shown nothing but contempt and scorn for these parents.”
“I’m happy to see the charter school parents here because you’re standing up for your children, which you should be,” Williams adds. “Everybody deserves to have what those charter schools have, and they’re not getting that.”
James also speaks directly to Black. “You knew that 571 and all of these schools were going to fail way back way and you did nothing, nothing, nothing,” she says. M.S. 571 is a middle school on Underhill Avenue in Brooklyn up for closure.
6:44 p.m. Accusations that Black is “not qualified” to sit on the stage as chancellor make their third appearance of the night as City Council Member Charles Barron takes the microphone.
A fierce opponent of Klein and Bloomberg’s for years, Barron last week led a symbolic protest of school closures that (deliberately) led to his arrest.
“That little ugly sound that you made on TV, jeering our parents, is the height of disrespect,” Barron tells Black.
Watch that moment, captured by NY1, here. The part he’s referring to happens at 1:43.
As we reported Tuesday:
“She first asked people to quiet down,” Anna reports. “Then they booed her.” Finally, Black mimicked the protestors, saying, “OOOOOOH.”
6:42 p.m. Data dump:
The UFT paid for 11 buses to drive protesters here tonight, spokesman Dick Riley says. The city estimates 1,700 people are in the crowd tonight. (Brooklyn Tech’s auditorium has 3,104 seats, according to the New York Times.) And 350 people have signed up to speak.
By Anna’s estimate, tonight’s crowd is smaller than both the one on Tuesday and the massive one at last year’s PEP meeting, the first ever to collect public comment on school closure decisions. The balcony at Brooklyn Tech is spottily seated; last year, it was packed.
6:31 p.m. Public comment period has begun, and as on Tuesday night, elected officials get the first turn at the microphone.
State Senator Tony Avella is first, arguing that the meeting should have been held at Jamaica High School and accusing the city of treating Jamaica unfairly.
Next comes Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn.
Both Avella and Jeffries are not only challenging the Bloomberg administration and Chancellor Black; they’re challenging Black herself, saying she’s not qualified to be chancellor.
6:26 p.m. The panel members seated, Black opens the meeting with remarks, a feat she did not attempt on Tuesday. Immediately, the crowd loudly boo’s her. She cracks a thin smile and soldiers on.
What she says, neither the shouting students nor Anna knows, because all anyone can hear is shouts and whistles.
One remark jumps out: “We’ve been successful.” And then the crowd makes the chancellor inaudible again.
She seems to be saying a fair amount, because Anna reports seeing her turn a page in her notes. We’ll ask school officials for a transcript and report back.
6:22 p.m. Panel member Patrick Sullivan of Manhattan enters and the crowd roars, chanting, “Patrick! Patrick!”
Sullivan has led opposition to Mayor Bloomberg on the panel — first solo, and now with some support from other appointees of the borough presidents.
On Tuesday, the borough president appointees united in voting no to several proposed closures and space-sharing arrangements. Sullivan, however, was the only one to vote no to all of them.
6:18 p.m. Chancellor Cathie Black walks onto the stage, elevating the chanting students from whistles to shrieks.
“Cathie Black is wack!” they chant, as Black talks calmly to Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott.
The chanting keeps up for several minutes. Black, wearing a black jacket, is stoic: sitting down, arranging her papers.
6:14 p.m. High school students broke into a spontaneous chant — “Save our Schools! Save our Schools!” — five minutes ago, and they’re still going. Whistles burst into their chant.
A security guard in front of Anna stands still, “just watching the crowd, chewing gum, not doing anything,” Anna reports.
One of those chanting is Dalcean Prdomo, a senior at Gompers High School, a career and technical high school in the Bronx. The school isn’t on the closure list tonight, but students from Gompers have been actively protesting closures anyway.
Anna reports running into them at a closure hearing at Columbus High School, also in the Bronx. Prdomo tells Anna he has the sense that Gompers could easily end up on the closure list next year, so he feels he should speak out against the process now.
Gompers, of course, is a legendary labor leader and former president of the American Federation of Labor.
6:04 p.m. Inside Brooklyn Tech, the auditorium is filling with people quickly. The orchestra area is completely packed. Without as many small children as Tuesday night*, and with more high school students, each body takes up more space.
Security also feels tighter tonight. Guards are pushing people to take seats, and Anna’s been reprimanded half a dozen times for sitting in the wrong spot.
The balcony is empty — for now.
*Why were there more small children Tuesday? On that night, Success Charter Network bused in families from its schools, including many as young as 4 and 5 years old. Tonight, many of the schools slated to be closed are also large high schools: Jamaica, Columbus, and Beach Channel among them.
5:50 p.m. The city’s reversal on P.S. 114 in Brooklyn could also mean the end of a novel plan for the school’s life after death. The Explore Charter Network had been slated to absorb students leaving P.S. 114 as the elementary school phased out.
Kinnari Patel, a managing director of program with Explore, tells Anna that the network would still like to work with students leaving a closing school. “We’re looking to go into a supportive school, and if that’s not P.S. 114, then we would hope the DOE would find another community that needs our help,” Patel says.
5:44 p.m. UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who stayed until the end of Tuesday’s meeting, hurling insults at the stage, steps up to speak.
“It’s a sad day when the Department of Education doesn’t have a department of teaching and learning, but there’s a department of data and law,” he says.
Former chancellor Joel Klein dismantled the division of teaching and learning last spring. That part of the schools bureaucracy had been steadily shrinking under the Bloomberg administration as officials handed more and more power over curriculum and instructional matters to principal.
Mulgrew continues his short remarks: “It does not matter what happens in that puppet panel in there.”
Then a freezing Anna heads in for the meeting.
5:30 p.m. The crowd at the teachers union rally is now just as big as last year, Anna reports.
Spokesmen from the teachers union won’t comment on how many buses the UFT sent tonight.
Meanwhile, early speakers have included a teachers union chapter chair and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. Bramer says that Jamaica High School shouldn’t close. He cites his alma mater, Bryant High School, which he says is on the closure list.
It’s actually not. The full list, again, is here.
5:29 p.m. Just after receiving the e-mail about P.S. 114, Anna walks by a group of people holding signs that argue for keeping 114 open. “I read them the DOE’s e-mail, and they start cheering,” she reports. “They hadn’t been told they were off the list tonight.”
P.S. 114 parent Jimmy Orr tells Anna: “We’re overwhelmed. If it’s true, we’re elated. It’s a delay, but it gives us hope that we can turn things around.”
5:21 p.m. In a major twist, the Department of Education will delay a closure vote on P.S. 114 in Brooklyn “so we can take more time to analyze and respond to the public comments we have received,” department spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld just told reporters in an e-mail.
This brings the number of schools proposed for closure by phaseout tonight to 12. Community members have argued that the Bloomberg administration itself played a role in the school’s downward spiral — which parents and teachers complained about to no response.
City school officials came the closest to acknowledging their part in the school’s situation at a public meeting last Friday.
After this new “analysis” is complete, the PEP will decide whether to vote on the proposal to close P.S. 114 and replace it with new schools, according to Zarin-Rosenfeld’s e-mail to reporters.
The full list of proposed school closures is here.
5:04 p.m. Students from a school voted for closure Tuesday night — Metropolitan Corporate Academy — are performing a new musical act, Anna reports. This one seems to combine “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World.” Another group of students accompany them on guitar.
From across the street, Anna can faintly hear yells emanate from a charter school crowd.
5:00 p.m. The UFT’s rally has kicked off with the theme song from “Rocky” pumping people up.
State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn steps up and quickly denounces Chancellor Cathie Black as an Upper East Side socialite.
“I couldn’t believe what we saw on display with her behavior on Tuesday,” Jeffries says, referring to Black’s public statement at the first PEP meeting this week. (Watch this NY1 video of Black’s remarks, which began with a snickering mock ‘OOHHH’ to the audience of protesters.)
Jeffries promises to charge Black “with the crime of impersonating an educator” and perform a citizen’s arrest against her outside the Department of Education’s Tweed Courthouse headquarters.
4:28 p.m. Tonight could be another slogan war, Anna reports. People tied to Uncommon Schools are wearing yellow t-shirts that say “Be Uncommon.” Education Reform Now workers are wearing green shirts that read “Better Choices, Brighter Futures.” And the group everyone expects to be the largest presence tonight — the United Federation of Teachers — is holding signs that say “Instruction not Destruction.”
There’s also a massive pile of garbage next to the line parents have to stand in to get in, Anna reports.
4:19 p.m. The night begins with a JumboTron parked in the middle of DeKalb Avenue in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and barricades helping people begin to form a line outside the school building. The teachers union’s protest — delayed from Tuesday by the ice storm — will start in 30 minutes. So far about 30 people from the union have gathered.
A group of people from charter schools is also here, waiting outside. Two parents from the Uncommon Schools charter network said that they arrived at 1 p.m. to make sure that they were the first to speak. They declined to share their names with Anna after a group leader suggested they wait until a press conference by Education Reform Now, the political action group tied to Democrats for Education Reform that now boasts former chancellor Joel Klein as its board chairman.