With the Department of Education’s proposed phase out of John F. Kennedy High School in full swing, some are wondering whether the DOE will move to close DeWitt Clinton High School next.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew certainly seems to think so.
“DeWitt Clinton, the last large high school on the west side of the Bronx, has been hit by a surge of high-need students. Between 2005 and 2010, the special education population has increased 37 percent and the homeless population has increased 350 percent. There are 700 English Language Learners and over 620 students in special education, over half of which are in intensive self-contained classrooms. I can assure you we will see this school on a school closure list in the very near future if the DOE does not step in and work with them on the challenges they face,” Mr. Mulgrew said in a speech given at the Center for New York City Affairs on Jan. 26.
One of the last large high schools in the area, Clinton has been forced to absorb a disproportionate share of high-need students, which stretches resources, creates overcrowding and burdens students and teachers alike, Clinton teachers interviewed Friday said.
Small schools, which often have grade caps and screening processes, are seldom forced to take large numbers of “over the counter” (OTC) students, who are often new to the country, homeless or didn’t go through the high school application process. Large high schools bear the brunt and if things keep up, teachers say, it could be curtains for Clinton.
“They sabotage every school,” Alan Ettman, an English teacher and UFT representative at Clinton, said of the DOE. “They’re sending a lot of hard-to-educate kids.”
Mr. Ettman said he does not object to the class of students but to the DOE’s accountability system, which dictates that students must score well on standardized tests and graduate within four years. It does not take other factors such as socio-economics into account, he said.