Hours before the vote to determine the fate of 26 schools citywide, Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood heard news that it had been pulled from the list of schools scheduled for closure.
On Thursday, April 26, a cheer went up from classrooms as the principal announced over the loudspeaker that the school would remain open instead of being put into the controversial turnaround plan.
The decision was announced the same day that the Panel for Educational Policy voted to proceed with the plan and close 24 city schools.
Bushwick Community High School was also pulled from the list at the same time as Grover Cleveland.
The Department of Education said public feedback and reassessment changed their decision.
“Over the past several weeks, during public hearings and visits from my senior leadership, we looked closely at schools whose performance and quality of instruction have shown positive signs in the last two years,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said. “We have come to believe that two of those schools—Grover Cleveland High School and Bushwick Community High School—have demonstrated an ability to continue their improvements without the more comprehensive actions that are clearly needed at 24 other schools.”
Additionally, the DOE said Cleveland and Bushwick showed they were already progressing without the dramatic intervention of the turnaround plan, which closes the schools and reforms a new school in the same building with the same
Grover Cleveland received B grades on its progress reports and proficient grades on Quality Reviews in the last two years, according to the DOE.
Public comment also held some sway over the decisions.
A hearing at Grover Cleveland was especially spirited, with school leaders presenting meat-and-potatoes defenses of the school process, while students and teachers issued emotional pleas.
“After the Principal made the announcement, students and teachers cheered throughout the school,” said Kathy Carlson, president of Grover Cleveland’s parents association. “I was thrilled when I heard the news. I was so happy that my eyes filled with tears and the Principal handed me a tissue.”
DOE representatives also spoke favorably of Grover Cleveland’s principal, Denise Vittor.
During the PEP’s meeting, Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg said a meeting with her where she laid out her plans to keep improving the school was a major factor in
Students and faculty still attended that
PEP meeting to protest the vote.
During the comment period, Senior Class President Diana Rodriguez launched into
a sarcastic tirade—praising Mayor Michael Bloomberg for policies that made13 percent of black and Hispanic students in New York
Her classmates wore shirts and held a banner proclaiming themselves the “13 percent.” “The DOE and Bloomberg administration have worked flawlessly,” she said, drawing out the last word and rolling her eyes.
Rodriguez said, despite her and her classmates’ excitement at keeping their school
open, she felt 24 other schools were being unfairly harassed.
“Regardless of that matter, I do not tolerate injustice,” she said.
At the end of her speech, Rodriguez and her classmates tore of their shirts and ripped up their banner.
“In reality we are not students for Bloomberg,” she said. “We are student activists.”
By Jeremiah Dobruck