A sea of red dotted with white caps made up the graduating class at William E. Grady Career and Technical High School on Monday.
The color contrast on display during Grady’s graduation exercises reflected the school’s stark gender imbalance: 80 percent of students are male. They were the ones wearing red caps and gowns, while female graduates wore white.
Grady’s vocational programs — which include automotive technology, construction trades, and heating and air conditioning repair — tend to enroll mostly male students. A culinary program attracts both men and women. (A cookbook distributed at graduation, titled “We ♥ Julia: The Recipes of the Whisk & Ladle Bistro,” showcased senior culinary arts students’ top recipes, including Cuban black bean soup, Swedish meatballs, and spanakopita.)
But despite the odds, both of Grady’s two top graduates were women. Valedictorian Jannatul Noor is heading to Philadelphia University, and salutatorian Catalina Lucero, who said in her speech that she graduated with an 88 average, will attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. Citywide, two-thirds of valedictorians were women this year and last.
At the graduation exercises on Monday, held under a tent on the school’s football field in Brighton Beach, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew spoke about having taught at Grady for 13 years earlier in his career.
“In every fight, every negotiation … I always go back to what I learned here in this school,” he said. Geraldine Maione, finishing her first year as principal after being placed at Grady as part of the city’s efforts to boost the school’s performance, told Mulgrew she was bestowing a title upon him: “The Common Man’s President.”
Last year, Grady’s 4-year graduation rate was 42.3 percent, one of the lowest rates among schools that the city is not trying to close. The school listed 173 students in its graduation announcement this week. According to Department of Education data, Grady had 464 students classified as ninth-graders in 2007, when this year’s seniors would have started high school.
Grady is one of three schools we’re following as part of The Big Fix — the year-long series we’re doing in partnership with WNYC about a variety of efforts to improve struggling schools. Look out for a more detailed report soon about the school year’s end at Grady.