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 mosti 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.
Jim Donohue 917-318-8762 firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Moss 914-319-1227 email@example.com
Deidre Walker 347-869-4810 firstname.lastname@example.org