High School of Graphic Communication Arts

New York

Graphics students are apprehensive on first day back to school

Students walk to the High School of Graphic Communication Arts Wednesday morning. Students from the High School of Graphic Communication Arts and several small high schools returned to their Hell's Kitchen building for the first time since Hurricane Sandy with trepidation. They had heard on the local news and read on Facebook that their school building was in disarray after serving as a shelter for more than 1,000 people displaced by the hurricane which destroyed homes and flooded many parts of the city. Many received emails from their principals and teachers reassuring them that the schools would be ready for them to return to normal, but some weren't convinced their classes were ready to pick up where they left off on Friday, Oct. 26, the last time the schools' held classes. "Yeah, I'm worried. It's pretty disgusting," said Yaina Reyes, a junior at Graphics, referring to conditions she observed in a news report about the school's hurricane shelter earlier this week. City officials originally planned to reopen Graphics to students Monday, while keeping its hundreds of shelter residents in place, even as Principal Brendan Lyons petitioned the department to send his students somewhere else on Monday, citing the turmoil that sharing the space might cause. "If it's not sanitary, it will be sanitary," Chancellor Dennis Walcott told reporters at the time. But as reports of the school's disarray trickled in, officials changed their plans. Instead of opening it to students on Monday, the city began shutting the Graphics shelter down earlier this week and relocating evacuees who had been staying there. Wednesday marks the school's first day back in operation.
New York

HS of Graphic Communication Arts in crisis, staff members say

Staff members at the High School of Graphic Communication Arts say Room 310, where musical instruments, books, and other discarded materials are piled high, is a symbol for deep disorganization at the school this year. Manhattan’s long-struggling High School of Graphic Communication Arts was supposed to turn a corner this year. But instead, students and staff throughout the school say a recent string of poor leadership decisions is threatening the school's ultimate fate. The toilet plungers that students were told to wield as hall passes last month — until the Department of Education ended the practice — are a distressing symbol of much larger problems at the school, they say. A month into the school year, longstanding programs are in disarray, materials and personnel are languishing unused, and many students have had such inconsistent schedules that their teachers say they have learned far less than they should have by now. "They are all so off-track right now that the first projects we have, I can't really truly grade them as I normally would," one teacher said about students. "I'm going to have to try to make up the knowledge somehow, but I don't know how yet. They should be much further along than they are now." GothamSchools spoke with nearly a dozen newly hired and veteran staff members under the condition of anonymity, as well as other people close to the school. The staffers span the school's grade levels, program offerings, and organizational hierarchy. All said that the ultimate responsibility for the problems should fall on Principal Brendan Lyons, who took over at the school last year and was the department’s pick to lead it through “turnaround.” The aggressive overhaul process for 24 schools was halted this summer after an arbitrator ruled the city’s plans violated its contract with the teachers union.
New York

At HS fair, turnaround schools struggle to define themselves

Paul Heymont, a social studies teacher at Automotive High School, shows off the list of sports and clubs on offer at the Brooklyn school. It's hard to get students interested in your school when, according to the  city's "turnaround" plan, it might not exist in the fall. That's what Deborah Elsenhout, a guidance counselor at Banana Kelly High School, reasoned when droves of families walked right past her booth at last weekend's Round 2 High School Fair, toward the hallway reserved for new schools opening in the fall. As one of 33 schools proposed for the "turnaround" school reform model, Banana Kelly is waiting to learn whether it will shut down this June, to reopen in the fall with the same students but a new name and a staffing overhaul. Students who apply to the 25 high schools on the turnaround list would automatically be transfered to the new schools that would replace them. Elsenhout said she either glossed over the turnaround situation to families who did stop, or didn't mention it at all. But it's hard, she noted, to advertise a school without a name. "We do have a rigorous academic curriculum and a strong connection with the community," she said. "But there's a sadness, knowing people will be losing their jobs." Teachers at many of the turnaround schools have expressed persistent confusion about the plan and its implication for their students. They also found it posed a dilemma at the fair, where 270 schools were given a weekend to pitch their programs, new and old, to hundreds of eighth-graders who were not accepted at their top-choice high schools during the city's main admissions process. Some teachers reassured families their schools weren't going anywhere, but others said the schools were already gone.
New York

Days from state deadline, city begins detailing turnaround plans

Confusion about whether the city's turnaround proposals would amount to school closures can be put to rest. Eight of the schools the Department of Education has said it would "turn around" are on the Panel for Educational Policy's April agenda — as closure proposals. The schools are among 33 the city has said it would overhaul in order to qualify for federal funding earmarked for overhauling low-performing schools. The eight schools do not represent all of the closure proposals the city will ultimately make. Other schools that are not yet on the agenda, including Brooklyn's School for Global Studies, were told on Monday that the city had scheduled public hearings about their closure proposals for late March and early April. (The panel approved 18 non-turnaround closures earlier this month.) City officials have said that they would move forward with turnaround at all 33 schools, even after the city and union settled a key issue that had derailed previous overhaul processes at many of the schools and after it became clear that the schools' performance varies widely. Turnaround would require the schools to close and reopen after getting new names and replacing half of their teachers. Thirty-page "Educational Impact Statements" for each of the closure proposals offer clues about what the replacement schools would look like. The statements indicate that the city would maintain the schools' partnerships, extracurricular programs, and many curriculum offerings. The school that replaces Automotive High School, for example, would still offer vocational certification in car repair. Several of the schools would be broken into "small learning communities" that include ninth-grade academies, according to the city's plans. In the statements, the department also explains the switch to a more aggressive overhaul strategy from the models that most of the schools had been undergoing until the end of last year, when their funding was frozen because the city and teachers union failed to agree on new teacher evaluations.
New York

At one school, turnaround news called surprising, low on details

Students at the High School of Graphic Communication Arts work on web-design projects Jan. 9. When the city unveiled its school closure proposals last month, the High School of Graphic Communication Arts was not on the list. So students and staff there were surprised to learn last week that their school might well be closed in June after all. Many students walking to the Manhattan school's Hell's Kitchen building this morning said they were primed for a typical school day, despite the news that Graphics, which received an F on its most recent progress report, would be one of 33 schools to undergo the "turnaround" process this year. Under that plan, which Mayor Bloomberg announced in his State of the City speech last week, the school would reopen in September with a new name and at least 50 percent of the current teachers gone. Brendan Lyons, the school's first-year principal, said the news was "definitely a surprise for our organization and our community," but said he would wait for more details from the city before commenting on potential changes in store for the school. If the turnaround plan is approved by the State Department of Education, Lyons would be eligible to stay on. But along with a team of educators and union officials, he would be responsible for selecting a new staff, drawing on current teachers for exactly half of the slots. "Every crisis is an opportunity," Lyons said. "I'd like to show how our school is a model turnaround that other schools can learn from."
New York

Low-scoring but not closing, CTE school showcases job training

Graphic Communication Arts juniors Lissy Alcantara and Kianne Martinez and senior Aziza Ramsay show off the video on HIV awareness they shot and produced at FACES NY. Just days after their school was spared from closure, students from Manhattan's High School of Graphic Communication Arts showcased fruits of the school's longstanding Career and Technical Education program. Founded as the High School of Printing in 1925, Graphic Communication Arts has offered students hands-on training in photography and visual arts since a time when CTE programs were called vocational schools. Now, through a workplace learning program funded by the city's Department of Education and the federal government, dozens of students at the Hell's Kitchen school are working as interns at private and public sector companies — 16 businesses this fall. More than 50 students also participated in summer internships that ran the gamut from print-production to photography to legal services. Four of the students are putting their academic-year training in photo and film editing to use at FACES NY, a social services agency that helps at-risk populations with HIV/AIDS prevention. Earlier this year the interns shot and produced a video about HIV awareness, which they are promoting via a Facebook page and a Tumblr blog they maintain for the agency. The mini-documentary they produced was as much a lesson in professionalism as film editing, according to the three students I met Tuesday, because it required them to talk to peers about sexuality and other difficult subjects.
New York

As anti-closure rallies expand to high schools, students jump in

A screenshot from the Facebook event advertising a rally to support Juan Morel Campos Secondary School Community meetings at schools that the Department of Education is considering closing have started attracting a new constituency: students. That's because the meetings, which the DOE calls "early engagement conversations," are now being held at high schools. Until this week, all of the meetings had happened at elementary and middle schools, for which the city released a shortlist of potential closures in September. One meeting took place Monday evening at Wadleigh Secondary School for Performing Arts, where some members of the school community are arguing that its progress report data aren't bad enough to warrant closure. Last night, students made the case for keeping Manhattan's High School of Graphic Communications Arts open. And today, students have recruited crowds to defend Juan Morel Campos Secondary School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Tiffany Munoz, a Juan Morel Campos junior who was student body president last year, said students were alarmed when they heard that the school could close and quickly invited hundreds of current and former students to a Facebook event, "Save Juan Morel Campos Secondary School (I.S. 71) From Being Closed." Tonight, when the school's superintendent meets with community members, 150 students who RSVPed yes plan to let her know that the school is a tight-knit community with a thriving arts and music program where teachers push students to do their very best.
New York

City plans for a management change at nine struggling schools

Unable to convince the teachers union to let school officials fire principals and teachers at a group of low-performing schools, the city is resorting to a another option: changing the schools' management. The so-called "restart" option is one of four programs districts can take on in order to win federal grants aimed at improving the country's lowest-performing schools. City officials announced today that nine public schools will undergo the restart model next year. The plan putting a school under new management — for example, under the guidance of an education management organization like New Visions. A major, and so-far unanswered, question is how this plan will differ from the relationships schools already have with support networks, whose job it is to offer academic and operational guidance. Another question is what organizations would apply to partner with these schools on such short notice. Three other schools that are eligible for the federal improvement grants will not receive them next year. Plans to overhaul the High School of Graphic Communication Arts, Harlem Renaissance High School, and W.H. Maxwell Career and Technical High School, all of which could begin any of the improvement models next year, will be put on hold for another year while the city decides whether to close them or improve them as they are. Department of Education officials said they intend to announce their plans for 31 other schools that are eligible for the grants tomorrow. Some of those schools will undergo the restart strategy, but the officials did not say how many.