Monday, April 21, 2008

89 From Jamaica High School Rally at Panel For Educational Policy Meeting

by James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

Monday evening was a special night as 89 teachers, other educators, parents, students, and alumni came from Jamaica High School to the Panel for Educational Policy meeting to express our outrage at a new College Board School that will have mostly high achieving students is placed in our building. Six speakers (two parents, three teachers and a student) told Chancellor Joel Klein and the PEP about how the Department of Education has been strangling our school over the last few years. Many of us chartered a bus to attend the meeting.

Audio has been posted at
EdNotes Online.

The speech that I wrote out (there were a few minor changes that I said off the top of my head on Monday) is below. Hopefully, the positive feeling all of us had will lead to some support for our school. We would like to publicly thank Manhattan PEP member Patrick Sullivan for his support.

PEP Presentation

Good evening PEP members. I’m a long time social studies teacher from Jamaica HS. We are sick and tired of the unwarranted negative publicity our school received because we were wrongfully labeled by the state as persistently dangerous and now we are being slowly strangled by the DOE.

In 2007 when we were mislabeled persistently dangerous, the DOE sent an ominous letter because of No Child Left Behind to every parent encouraging them to transfer their students out of our school. When 173 took the offer and transferred, DOE slashed our annual budget in the middle of the year. You forced us to excess 13 teachers but most of them remained in our building doing busywork and covering classes. How does it serve the public to have teachers who are not allowed to teach? We could have used those teachers to lower class sizes.

Now to add insult to injury you are placing a College Board School in our building because of the declining enrollments that your misuse of statistics caused. Our students will lose a part of their school while other Queens’ schools are busting at the seams so that an elite group of 85 students can be accommodated with lower class sizes and modern technology from Gates and Dell. This is morally indefensible. What about Jamaica’s kids?

The PEP needs to reevaluate the comprehensive high school. Big isn’t necessarily bad.

Not too many 14 year olds know what they want to do with their lives. A comprehensive school offers a wide range of academics, sports and clubs so that kids can find a niche. When academic schools are too big as they are in most of Queens, it’s not good but when they are too small like us, then we can’t offer the students the wide range of programs to be a proper comprehensive school.

We propose that you let us ask some of the thousands of students who are scheduled to be placed into overcrowded Queens schools to be allowed to voluntarily come to Jamaica instead to even out the enrollments.

Also, the city looking to save money. We understand that 600 buildings have more than one school in them. Multiple administrations in the same building are very expensive. That’s money that could go to kids. The College Board School with a separate administrative staff is not cost efficient and does not belong in Jamaica.

Many of us from Jamaica HS came here tonight to show you our school spirit. It’s an intangible your Aris Computer and learning environment surveys can’t measure. Our school is 116 years old and should continue as one school. Jamaica High School: one school!


NYC Educator said...

And on the flip side, when some schools are closed, others are overloaded well beyond capacity. This makes it difficult for them to function. Eventually we'll be looking at their closures as well, as the Chancellor drives them past the point of no return.

It's like he delights at seeing schools fail, at making schools fail, and at driving that fickle finger of "accountability" ever farther from his doorstep. Everything wrong with the system is the fault of unionized working people, and nothing is ever Tweed's fault, if the chancellor is to be believed.

Anonymous said...

Good speech. But knowing Klein's mind, you're screwed.

Anonymous said...

JD wrote about the DA meeting and was not too kind about James' amendment or ICE.

Anonymous said...

Good job James but going to the PEP meeting is only a start. You need to take extreme measures like picketing the DOE and blocking traffic. You should bring in Al Sharpton in since Jamaica is a majority black school and the Gates school will not be.

Anonymous said...

JD is No Action. Nothing more needs to be said about his bias.

Anonymous said...

I wish you good luck, but in reading your speech I realize that there is something wrong and I would like to respectfully explain it to you. There will continue to be a Jamaica HS. When you say "one school" this is incorrect because it makes it seem that your school has been split. Your building has been split, not the school. Some of the students you would've gotten may or may not go to Jamaica, but they may go to John Bowne, or August Martin, or Thomas Edison, or to the college board school in your building, etc. Regardless of where is Jamaica HS, whether in its own building, or in a building shared with another school, or in a new building, Jamaica H.S. will continue to be Jamaica H.S. It is the programs, the core staff, the belief of the community it serves, and the students (regardless of where they come from) that make the school. It is NOT the building that makes a school, nor its proximity or distance to another school.

Anonymous said...

The slogan for Jamaica is one building=one school.