Brooklyn's failing schools

High bye! Sheepshead Bay and Dewey to close

Brooklyn Daily

Two storied but struggling Southern Brooklyn high schools will be closing come June, the city Panel for Education Policy decided last night.

The panel agreed to overhaul both Sheepshead Bay High School and John Dewey High School by enrolling them into a turnaround program that will flood each institution with more than $1.5 million in federal funds — as long as they fire their principals and half of their teachers and administrators by July 1.

The school buildings will reopen in September under new names in exchange for the federal aid, Department of Education officials said.

Supporters urged the panel to reconsider closing Dewey, which received a C grade on its city-issued report card last year, and save Sheepshead Bay High — which got a D grade in 2011, but has improved its graduation rate by 17 percent since 2003 — in the weeks leading up to Thursday’s vote.

“We’ve been improving every year,” said Sheepshead Bay High School’s Parent Coordinator Salvatrice Shipone. “We’ve come a long way.”

But the education panel voted 84 to close the schools after a five-hour hearing at Brooklyn Tech’s Prospect Heights Campus — despite opposition from some panel members who said there was no proof that the turnaround program could actually work.

“Money is driving this decision,” said panel member Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who voted against the plan. “I’m extremely disappointed.”

The Department of Education has long argued that new teachers and staff will help put failing schools on the road to recovery.

Sheepshead Bay High was founded in 1959. Dewey was formed 10 years later on Avenue X near Stillwell Avenue in Gravesend.

In January, prominent Dewey alum Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) waded into the fight to keep Dewey open by demanding that the www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/2012/6/bn_deweyremove_2012_02_03_bk.html">city spare his alma mater, but fire its principal.

A new principal was picked to lead Dewey last month. A Department of Education spokesman said the new principal will be allowed to say on, but up to half of the school’s teachers will still have to be laid off.

It remained unclear if Sheepshead Bay High School’s current principal will be let go at the end of June.

The city will overhaul 24 schools, in addition to Dewey and Sheepshead Bay High schools, which found themselves on a state list of persistently low-achieving schools this year. Seven schools on the list with A or B grades, including William E. Grady Career and Technical High School in Brighton Beach and Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Borough Park, were spared from enrolling in the program.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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