Jelani Cobb is a Jamaica High School graduate from the 1980s. He wrote a fascinating piece on the demise of Jamaica High School for the New Yorker in August of 2015.
Last weekend National Public Radio broadcast a companion audio presentation on the New Yorker Radio Hour. If you have twelve minutes, please listen to the program. It features an interview with Kymberley Walcott from the Jamaica High School Class of 2013.
When Kymberley was a junior, she was an important leader of the protest movement as the school community pushed to be allowed to stay open and for more funding while we were phasing out. Kym is quoted here at a press conference in 2011 commenting on new schools opened up in the building:
"The other schools are given meals, and we at Jamaica are given crumbs," she said. "They treat us like we don't matter, and we do matter."
Those students at Jamaica were some of the collateral damage of school reform. Kymberley's activism in part led to Jamaica getting some money thrown at us for the last two years of our existence. We called it Department of Education guilt money. They had to do something to make up for what they did to the students.
We dedicated a social studies honors class to Kymberley when the school finally had the money to offer one in the spring of 2013. One year after she graduated, Kym was invited as a special guest for the final Jamaica graduation in 2014.
Kymberley is now attending Hunter College while the teachers have moved on but Cobb's article along with the displaced employees and alumni have kept the Jamaica High School spirit alive. A bunch of former Jamaica staff came together to walk for charity at the Bronx Zoo in October under the name Reopen Jamaica High School.