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UFT protesters create “cemetery” of Manhattan school closures

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew told teachers to dress for a funeral today.

Teachers who worked at schools that the city has closed or is trying to close gathered at “Mayor Bloomberg’s Cemetery” — actually Foley Square, in Lower Manhattan — to mourn the Bloomberg administration’s school closure policies.

Joined by about 60 union members, the teachers displayed pictures of tombstones etched with the names of schools the city has targeted for closure, including Bread and Roses High School, Legacy High School for Integrated Studies, Manhattan Theater Lab School.

The protest drew Mulgrew’s predecessor at the UFT, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, as well as union leaders from Baltimore, St. Louis, and Norway — all in town for an international conference about the teaching profession. The UFT also held simultaneous protests in the other four boroughs.

Dressed in a black suit, Mulgrew renewed his oft-repeated criticisms of Bloomberg’s school closure plans. The citywide school board voted to close 23 schools last month and is set to consider 33 ‘turnaround’ closure plans in April.

He and Weingarten came from meeting with union leaders from around the world, Mulgrew said, adding, “They said, ‘Why would you close your schools? If you close the schools, that means the system has failed the community.'”

“We’re going to let everyone know that Mayor Bloomberg has failed New York City,” he said. “Who’s going to be here in the end, always standing for the kids? We are.”

Several teachers and students from schools proposed for closure in the past year also spoke.

“Graphics High School has been in existence since 1927. I can’t count the number of alumni from Graphics that are presently employed in the New York City printing industry,” said Steve Londress, a teacher from the High School for Graphic Communication Arts. “You said you were an advocate of career and technical education. You said you saw a need for it. Mayor Bloomberg, why are you closing this school? Why?”