But the DOE statistics don’t tell the whole story, according to Mr. Ettman, an English teacher at Clinton.
As the department closed large high schools across the Bronx, more high-needs students were sent to Clinton. English Language Learners make up 19 percent of the student body and special education students comprise 13 percent of the school, according to Mr. Ettman.
About 74 percent of students receive free lunch. The incoming freshman class included 950 “list notice” students who landed at Clinton because they didn’t get accepted at high schools of their choice or didn’t go through the traditional enrollment process. Approximately 59 percent of ninth graders were deemed behind state standards on eighth grade exams and more than 100 failed a majority of their eighth grade courses.
The DOE has consistently overestimated how many students will enroll at Clinton, forcing the school to return funds it already budgeted. This year Mr. Ettman said Clinton forfeited $1.7 million, which swallowed up most of the state aid it received for being labeled a struggling or “priority” school.
Despite these obstacles, Mr. Ettman says the staff is proud that Clinton’s six-year graduation rate has surpassed the citywide average and reached 71.5 percent. About 60 percent of graduates go on to earn 30 credits during their first two years of public college. The state average is 61.5 percent.
Students waiting for the morning bell Monday said they felt Clinton served them well. Sophomores Rakeem Jerrick and Danielle Hernandez said they were surprised to hear the department was considering closing an institution that graduated the creators of Spiderman, Batman, Casper the Friendly Ghost, 55 state supreme court judges and dozens of professional athletes from Sugar Ray Robinson to Nate “Tiny” Archibald.
“Everybody I know likes it here,” Danielle said. “And it has a lot of historical value.”
Others said fights, gangs and other violence have plagued the campus. Clinton was designated a dangerous school and placed in the DOE’s Impact program in 2010.