Melissa Kissoon is an 18 year old graduate of Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn and a youth leader with Future of Tomorrow and the Urban Youth Collaborative. This post originally appeared at EdVox, a blog featuring members of UYC and the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.
I was a victim of high school phase out. My first two years of high school at Lane were great. There were clubs and extra credit activities to help students get ahead or to help struggling students pass. I had some teachers I really liked and there were many teachers who had been in the school for over 15 years. Overall it was a great school despite its reputation and as a student, I would say it was improving. Then one day in 2007 the principal and deans got us together to tell us our school is phasing out, which meant that they would be putting another school into our building and would no longer accept any new students or freshman. Also, the building would be incorporating not one school but FOUR. Do you know what it’s like to have four new schools come into your school building?
Once the four new schools came, it was hard to be proud of a school that was no longer ours. I was a cheerleader for my school, so school pride was something that was very important to me. The four schools came and took the fourth floor in our building and we weren’t allowed to set foot on the fourth floor anymore. Then when the next year came, and there were more students in the new schools and fewer in our school, the DOE split the rest of the floors in halves. So, if your classroom was around the corner, you could no longer just walk over to your room, you’d have to go upstairs and around and back down stairs to make it to your class. As a result of this, many students became late for their classes. Students missed class time and got in trouble because our school was chopped up and our building was divided!
Now, all the great teachers we once loved have either switched to the other schools in the building or have just gone to another school completely. Now, there is no money for the last year of students within my school. For example, there is no longer a library! Lane doesn’t have enough money for a library and the other four schools have small budgets, so none of the students have a library. Students with essays due and no printer or computer can’t print-then they struggle to figure out how to pass their class.
Almost all the after school activities belong to the other schools, including the sports and the ROTC. Two of my friends are in their last year at Lane this year, which is also Lane’s last year open. One of them is only taking one academic class. He scored well on his SAT and is applying to Brown University but there are no AP classes for him to take and he is done with school every day at noon. My other friend was told last year that he had enough credits to graduate. He was 16, a junior and not ready for college. There is a difference between having enough credits to graduate and getting a rigorous education and being prepared for college. The phase out has failed us all, hundreds of us in Brooklyn and thousands of us in New York City.
We as the students should have a right to decide what should be done to our school, because one simple decision has affected over 1,000 students in a negative way. There is no longer school pride, there is no drive to be there, there is no encouragement to pass, there are no familiar teachers, there are no resources around to help us pass. All that remains is a push, a push out of the school by any means possible.
I graduated and I’m in college now. But I look back at the last four years of my life and I feel robbed of my high school experience. My school was no longer MY school; I was basically being kicked out of a school that made a promise to support me and give me all I need to pass. Students must be consulted about the use and future use of their school.
If the Department of Education is truly committed to students, they must include us in decisions about OUR education.
About our First Person series:
First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.