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Newest PEP member could face a vote on closing son’s school

The latest addition to the citywide school board responsible for signing off on school closures has a child at a school that could be on the chopping block this year.

Robert Powell is replacing Wilfredo Pagan as Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s pick for the Panel for Educational Policy, starting with tonight’s meeting in Manhattan. Pagan served on the board, which is controlled by the mayor, for just a year.

Powell attended city schools, then sent six children to them, according to a press release Diaz’s office put out today. One of his children currently attends Herbert H. Lehman High School, which last month was told for the third time in a year that its performance is so weak that it might be closed.

Powell has a long history of participating in school governance. 

He formerly headed the parent teacher association at Lehman, and he has also headed the parent association at a District 75 school for students with severe disabilities. Until today, he was a member of the Citywide Council on High Schools, a legally mandated elected parent council that advises the chancellor on high school issues.

Powell joins the panel just in time to vote on two proposals for charter school co-locations in the Bronx, along with more than a dozen other co-location plans, mostly for charter schools. And this spring, he will cast votes on what could be the largest slate of school closure proposals under the Bloomberg administration.

The Department of Education has named 60 schools that officials are considering closing this year, and Lehman was on the list after legal issues tripped up the city’s previous effort to close it. A series of required meetings at each school was delayed because of Hurricane Sandy, so the department has not yet announced which schools it will propose closing.

All closure plans require the Panel for Educational Policy’s approval, and Powell will join a hardened voting bloc of borough president appointees who always vote against closure proposals. But the majority of members on the panel are appointed by the mayor, and the panel has never voted against a city proposal.