Facebook Twitter

DOE grants reprieve to Alfred E. Smith’s automotive program

A technical education high school the Department of Education slated for closure is getting a reprieve — sort of.

Instead of shuttering the Bronx’s Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School entirely, the DOE is now proposing to keep the school’s automotive technology program open. The school’s other programs, which include home construction, carpentry, electrical and plumbing, will still be closed.

About 500 of the school’s 1,100 students are enrolled in the automotive program this year, said DOE spokesman Danny Kanner.

Kanner said the DOE’s proposal was revised after receiving strong community feedback against eliminating the Bronx’s only automotive technical education program. Kanner also cited “the strength of the school’s corporate partnerships,” which include IBM, BMW and a number of city dealerships for other car companies including Toyota, Lexus, Buick and Nissan, according to the school’s website.

In the space vacated as the school’s other trade programs phase out, the DOE is now proposing to open two new schools, one for engineering training and the other dedicated to older students who lack enough credits to graduate. The original phase-out plan for the school didn’t detail what would replace it.

Jeremiah Cherry, a 2006 Smith graduate who has worked at a Brooklyn electrical firm since leaving the school, was audibly delighted when he heard that Smith would remain open. But he was less excited to hear of the plan to phase out other trade programs, including his own, electrical construction technology.

“I don’t want them to just keep automotive. I want them to keep the building trades, too,” he said. “Those are really important parts of the school.”

Earlier this year, a group of teachers, alumni and supporters of Smith released a music video featuring footage of students participating in trade workshops at the school, with lyrics written by one of Cherry’s colleagues, Mark Noakes, and set to the song “Can’t Stop Me,” by Jadakiss.

“This is something that needs to stay in the Bronx,” Cherry said, who still lives near the school and said he frequently returns to work with current students.

“A lot of my friends who graduated with me — if it wasn’t for Smith, it wouldn’t be good for them, to tell you the truth,” he said. “It opened the door to teaching them to work with their hands, to learning a skill, so they could go out in the world with something to do.”

Here’s the full statement on the DOE’s new proposal, from spokesman Danny Kanner:

Based on community feedback and further analysis of the programs and capacity of the school, the Department of Education has decided to modify its proposal to transform Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School. In its place, the DOE will submit a new proposal that will keep open the school’s automotive technology program and phase out the school’s other programs. A second proposal will be submitted to open two schools in the facility that will focus on over-age and under-credited students, and engineering training and education. Given the community’s desire to sustain the only automotive CTE program in the Bronx, the strength of the school’s corporate partnerships, and the uniqueness of the automotive program, the DOE has decided to modify its proposal. No sooner than 15 days after the posting of the revised Educational Impact Statement, a joint public hearing will be held on the modification of the proposal to phase-out Alfred E. Smith. This proposal will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy at its February meeting. The second proposal concerning the opening of two schools in the building will be subject of a separate Educational Impact Statement and will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy at its March meeting.