After a long anticipated period the Appellate Division, First Department has upheld Justice Lobis' decision to enjoin the DOE from closing 19 schools. In their decision the Appellate Division found, as the lower court did, that the DOE failed to follow the newly drafted law which required parent and community input in school closing decisions. The law requires, among other things, the preparation and dissemination of an Education Impact Statement whenever the DOE wants to close a school. In the 19 schools case this was found to have been done improperly.
The Appellate Division also dealt with the DOE's main argument in the case wherein the City claimed the Union (and other plaintiffs) had no standing or right to bring the lawsuit. This was rejected summarily when the Appellate Division found that the union had designated persons (Chapter Leaders) on each School Leadership Team and the SLTs were an indispensible part of the law.
Before we start dancing in the aisles it is still unclear what impact, if any, this decision will have on the actual closing of the schools. The DOE has technically complied with the decision by admitting a small freshman class. (Jamaica is reported to have only 22 students enrolled for this September). And of course, there is nothing in this decision which prevents, deters or any way prohibits the DOE from trying to close the schools (or any other school) again. This decision only dealt with the inadequate procedural requirements that the law requires for closing a school.
Additionally there may be other schools, like Rikers, which close without any Impact Statement or notice and because of their lack of parent or union support get little media coverage.
When all is said and done we do have a lot to be proud. In schools like Jamaica students, teachers, staff and in some cases even the union, got together and registered their dissatisfaction with DOE unilateral decision making. Our work is not done. We will continue to sound our voices even after this administration can no longer buy its way into office.