Crowds Protest School Closures Ahead of Vote

The latest plan to close 24 schools makes for a total of 47 school closings across the city for the year

By Andrew Siff
|  Friday, Apr 27, 2012  |  Updated 9:30 AM EDT
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A New York City education panel is voting Thursday night on a plan to shut down more than two dozen schools.  Andrew Siff has reaction from teachers and parents.

Andrew Siff

A New York City education panel is voting Thursday night on a plan to shut down more than two dozen schools. Andrew Siff has reaction from teachers and parents.

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A city panel voted to shutter two dozen struggling schools in Brooklyn Thursday night, despite protests from more than 100 teachers, parents and students who had urged authorities to reject the proposal.

The latest plan to close 24 schools makes for a total 47 school closings across the city for the year (the other 23 schools were voted closed in February). That's the highest total in history, according to the teachers' union.

It's all part of the city's plan to close down underperforming schools and reopen them under new management -- essentially, mayoral control -- the following semester or school year.

Protesters addressed the Panel for Educational Policy during the public comment period before the vote in Prospect Heights. Most were hoping to convince the committee not to close the 24 failing schools, with Brooklyn's borough president firing up the crowd.

"Rather than close the schools, give them the resources they need to make it!" said Marty Markowitz.

There were also protesters inspired by Occupy Wall Street.

"They can't shut us down if we occupy these schools in the thousands," said Marjorie Stamberg, a teacher.

Many in the crowd blamed the city for mismanagement of schools. Maria Ortega, the eighth principal in four years at the soon-to-close Junior High 166 in Brooklyn, alleged the Department of Education "designed the school to fail."

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott reminded parents that the failing schools will be replaced by new ones this fall.

"This is all about our students and making sure our students benefit in the long run," said Walcott.

But the move could affect teachers across the city.

"All the teachers get fired, and 50 percent get hired back," said teacher Wendy Cortez, who faces an unsettling summer. "I feel heartbroken about it."

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