Among the press releases that went flying after the city announced its first set of school closures earlier today, the one from principals union president Ernest Logan stood out for its stridency.
In a statement the length of a short essay, Logan decried school closures as “a losing strategy” that traumatizes needy students, shuts out educators, and prevents scrutiny of the city’s reform efforts. Adding eight months to mayoral control’s age, he said twice that the Bloomberg administration has had a decade to fix all schools but has not.
Nine of the 15 schools whose closures or truncations were announced today have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools; one replaced a failing elementary school just three years ago. Logan suggested that at least two additional Bloomberg-started schools would show up on the second installment of the closure roster when it comes out tomorrow.
“The fact is that closure is an admission of failure by City Hall, whose weak or non-existent interventions amount to either a cynical statement of indifference to children of poverty or an inferiority complex about their own ability to come up with solutions,” Logan said.
The statement elicited a rebuttal from Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who called Logan’s statement “embarrassing” for the union.
“Real leadership is standing up and saying that we’re not going to leave students in failing schools,” Walcott said. “It’s embarrassing that the union representing the leaders of our schools — our principals — is more focused on making excuses and pointing fingers than on doing what is best for students. We hold all of our schools, new or old, to the same high standards.”
The policy got backup from Joe Williams, head of the nonprofit Democrats for Education Reform, which generally supports Bloomberg’s education policies. Williams called the practice of closing struggling schools and opening new ones to take their place is the mayor’s “crowning achievement.”
“These are schools that simply aren’t worthy of Gotham’s schoolchildren,” Williams said in a statement. “We applaud the mayor for resisting intense pressure to not rock the boat and make things as comfortable as possible for adults in the system, as our children are cast adrift.”
But in his statement, Williams did tread some common ground with Logan and other critics of the closures, including UFT President Michael Mulgrew and the nonprofit Coalition for Educational Justice.
“The mayor’s education legacy hangs in the balance here,” Williams said.
Here’s Logan’s statement in full:
Yesterday evening, Deputy Chancellor of Portfolio Planning Marc Sternberg announced to the press the pending closure of 25 more struggling schools. This is in addition to the 117 the DOE has already closed since Mayor Bloomberg took over the school system more than ten years ago. Those opened under Bloomberg have been touted by Sternberg ‘as better than those they replaced.’ Tweed’s own failed schools number in the double digits, although the DOE sheepishly avoids making public an exact number. But in today’s and tomorrow’s round of closings alone, 11 schools were opened during the Bloomberg administration. The NYC public school system is not a place for whimsical experiment where we open and close schools for students who have already been traumatized by previous school closings. Then, there is the tragedy of all the young people who have not been saved even briefly by the city’s new-school safety net, but have been turned away from new schools for reasons of poor academic achievement and sent to be warehoused in other low-performing schools slated for the scrapheap. Bloomberg’s DOE has come up with a losing strategy for turning around low- performing schools, which are invariably attended by children of color from economically disadvantaged communities. That strategy includes rejecting most offers of collaboration from experienced educators and relying instead on theories hatched in ivy halls. The endgame of the strategy is to eliminate schools that the administration has had at least a decade to fix and to improve its data by creating new schools that won’t have data for as long as four years. The fact is that closure is an admission of failure by City Hall, whose weak or non-existent interventions amount to either a cynical statement of indifference to children of poverty or an inferiority complex about their own ability to come up with solutions. The Bloomberg administration needs to take more responsibility, not less, for schools that are not doing well, rather than turning them over to private entities like EPOs or closing them and washing their hands of a deep-rooted problem that it has been unsuccessful in remedying. CSA is mindful of Tweed’s lack of support for Principals and APs, how little it cares about the opinions of educators in the front lines and how the entire system of local superintendent support has been eviscerated so that control can be consolidated centrally.