Thursday, February 02, 2017


What awful memories I've had the last couple of days after I was sent the speech Jim Donohue of JHS 145 made the other night at the UFT Executive Board trying to get UFT support to save his school. We put up a great fight at Jamaica High School when we were slated for closure. At Jamaica, we certainly were supported by the UFT.

However, since the UFT is now on board with most of what the administration at City Hall does, I doubt the UFT will provide much more than lip service and Eva Moskowitz will get the JHS 145 building.

Please UFT prove me wrong on this one and find a way to save this school.

Hello. My name is Jim Donohue. 

I’d like to start by thanking you for allowing me a few minutes to speak tonight, and I’d also like to thank Carol Harrison and Mary Atkinson from the Bronx chapter for their support in what has been a very difficult couple of weeks.

I’m an English teacher at JHS 145, where I’ve worked for the past 17 years. JHS 145 is a renewal school, and we were told (through a leak to the New York Times) that a proposal has been made to close the school at the end of the school year.

I want to share a quote with you because it precisely defines the situation my colleagues, my students, and our school community find ourselves in today. It reads as follows:

“For the past 12 years, New York City’s ‘answer’ for struggling schools was simple: warehouse our neediest students, starve the schools of support, and then close their schools if they didn’t miraculously turn around."

As you may have guessed, that was spoken by Mr. Michael Mulgrew back in 2014 in response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement of the Renewal school plan. 

Mr. Mulgrew used the term “warehouse our neediest students.” Well, I’ve come to you tonight directly from the warehouse.  How else to describe a school whose students come NOT FROM ONE OR TWO zoned elementary schools in their district, but from 94 different schools located in EVERY BOROUGH of NYC? How else to describe a school with 140 students who arrived at its doors DIRECTLY from the Dominican Republic? How else to describe a school with 53 (20% of its population) shelter students, another 50 classified as Special Needs students, and another 20 with Interrupted Formal Education? We’ve done some research. NO OTHER MIDDLE SCHOOL IN THE BRONX has demographics to match this.

Mr. Mulgrew used the term “starve the school of resources”.  Well, I come to you from a place of terrible starvation. How else to describe a situation in which 140 out of 298 students are English Language Learners but had NO ESL teacher for the entire 2014/2015 school year, and only 1 this year. How else to describe a situation in which 60% of a school’s population are English Language Learners, but have NO Bilingual math teacher, NO bilingual science teacher, NO bilingual English teacher and No Bilingual Social Studies teacher? How else to describe the following absurdity: One year into the renewal program, a program that promised ADDITIONAL RESOURCES to schools like ours, the DOE allowed the Success Academy to take 18 of our classrooms, which scattered our staff and students across 3 floors of a building occupied by 4 different schools, and forced us to dismantle our computer lab in order to convert it into classroom space?

 Mr. Mulgrew mentioned the closing of schools, which brings me to my true purpose tonight. After attempting to systematically starve JHS 145 to death, the DOE now calls for the school to be closed.   And I say “ATTEMPTING TO STARVE TO DEATH” because we are far from dead. Despite DOE claims that our students “FAIL” the state ELA and MATH assessments, we have data that shows otherwise. 

Our students come to us reading at levels between Kindergarten and 4th grade. Do they miraculously (another term used by Mr. Mulgrew) achieve grade level scores on these tests at 145? No, they do not.

What they do is move, consistently, from Kindergarten levels to 2nd grade, from 2nd to 3rd or 4th, from 3rd to 5th or 6th and so on.

Despite years of neglect, our students have won the Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition 8 times, more than any other school in the citywide tournament.

Our students have won the BronxWRITeS Poetry Slam more than any other school in the city, recently sharing the stage with Mayor De Blasio and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy in an exhibition at Goldman Sachs.

 The DOE’s 2014-2015 School Quality Snapshot tells us that “86% of this school’s former 8th graders earned enough high-school credit in 9th grade to be on track for graduation,” a number that is nearly identical to the citywide average of 87% and better than the district average of 81%.

Our kids are some of the most vulnerable in the city, living in the poorest congressional district in the country, but they are smart and capable and worthy of respect. They are not failures.

Finally,  I want to use a term  that Mr. Mulgrew didn’t use. That term is DIRTY POOL. Because a full 3 weeks before the DOE’s closure proposal even becomes official, and 2 months before the PEP vote takes place, and despite the DOE’s claim that the closing has NOTHING to do with the charter school, Success Academy’s website has begun advertising for applicants to its new middle school, opening in 2017, at JHS 145. In recent weeks, Success Academy staff members have been measuring our classrooms, apparently 100% confident that the PEP will rubberstamp our demise in March.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m here to ask you for 4 things:

We ask that the UFT publicly demand that the proposal for the closing of JHS 145 be pulled from the PEP agenda.

We ask that the UFT utilize its resources in the form of media, social media, twitter, etc. speak out against this proposal. 

We ask the UFT to help us move the PEP from Manhattan to the school so that the community can attend, and if that proves impossible, to supply a bus for community members to travel to the PEP.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we ask that Mr. Mulgrew come to our school to witness or participate in the student march to the District Office that we are scheduling for next week.
Thank you.

Please Contact 
Jim Donohue   917-318-8762
Craig Moss    914-319-1227
Deidre Walker 347-869-4810  


Anonymous said...

Eva already has that school, UFT signed off on it.

burntouttecher said...

Memories for me as well. The UFT was of no help whatsoever when Bloomberg started the wholesale sellout of students with the first round of closings some 10 years ago. I was teaching at South Shore and the UFT didn't even help us enforce the contract that guaranteed a percentage of teaching spots in the new small schools would be filled with excessed teachers. We filed grievance after grievance and most teachers couldn't even get interviews with the new principals, much less the promised teaching spots. The UFT reps who were supposed to be a part of the selection committees were AWOL or worse. We were flung into the horror of the world of ATRdom with no support from the union whatsoever, just vague threats that we should take a position as soon as we can find one lest we somehow get fired. Unbelievable but true -- the mucky mucks of the UFT were telling us that despite tenure, despite years of excellent reviews, our jobs were in jeopardy and the contract be damned. I had been a chapter rep and could not believe how the union I was working for/with seemed not only to care nothing for our plight but were actually making things worse for us. I assume that that same scenario was playing out at the other big schools being targeted for closure at the time.

Anonymous said...

Dont waste your time, the end is near...

Anonymous said...

Typical tactic by the DOE. Set you up for failure, and when you do, you take the blame and are punished.

Anonymous said...

I find it so funny that everybody is up in arms over Betsy when the real enemy is the UFT.

Chaz said...


Correct me if I'm wrong. Didn't Jamaica close, despite Micheal Mandel's efforts? Then of course, he royally screwed the ATRs with his rotation proposal and failure to ask us what we thought.

Anonymous said...

Who saw the pieces of garbage who threatended to shoot up a school today in Howard Beach? Maybe we should put them in a restorative circle.

Anonymous said...

The UFT is against the teachers, they side with management and the Chancellor.

Anonymous said...

We need to let everybody know that the UFT is not on our side.

Anonymous said...

Well, its done. We ATRs are now force placed and we are subject to Field Supervisors AND the school principal.

Anonymous said...

Who saw that piece of garbage white nationalist who killed those 6 people in Canada? All white Canadians should be banned from coming into the country.

James Eterno said...

Chaz, I respect you a great deal but your impressions of Michael Mendel (try spelling his name correctly) as a villain are not aligned with how I see Mendel. Michael Mendel was a tremendous advocate for Jamaica High School.The fact that he couldn't convince the DOE to save the school shows how the union does not have the power it used to. He had retired before de Blasio was in so he did not get to lobby the new regime.

We lost the second school closing lawsuit (our only real hope) in my opinion because the UFT in its settlement of the first case did not put provisions in the agreement on what would happen if the DOE did not keep their part of the deal.

Michael Mendel was on the wrong side of many issues but we would discuss them all the time. He is one of the most decent people I have worked with within the Unity Caucus. Mendel knew in the end we dissidents were not the enemy.