Did DOE set up JFK for failure?


During a typical dismissal, hundreds of students can be seen surging off the Kennedy campus. 

They carry backpacks, iPods and textbooks. They joke with their friends as they walk down Tibbett Avenue, talk on their cell phones and greet the crossing guard waiting on the corner of West 230th Street with a nod, smile or fist bump.

It is impossible to tell which ones hail from the Bronx School of Law and Finance, where students have access to state-of-the-art technology. You cannot pick out who is from the Marble Hill School for International Studies, which was one of only five schools in the City to receive more than 100 points on its Progress Report in 2009-2010.

But when you check out the statistics, talk to teachers and look at students’ downcast, worried faces it is easy to tell that John F. Kennedy High School doesn’t belong.

In December, the Department of Education proposed that Kennedy be phased out and replaced with two schools by 2014. JFK has suffered for years from low test scores, corruption, violence and overcrowding. But how can a school that shares the same building as some of the top schools in the Bronx be doing so poorly while others thrive?

The answer, teachers and education experts claim, is complex and has to do with DOE policies that allow small schools to flourish at the expense of large ones. In Kennedy’s case, it is also the result of poor leadership, abrasive restructuring and the use of the school as a “dumping ground” for students who were not accepted anywhere else.

Kennedy’s “sad demise” according to Lynne Winderbaum, who taught foreign language at the school for 10 years and was a United Federation of Teachers chapter leader from 1994 to 2003, is not unique. She said large high schools throughout the City are suffering the same consequences and that the trend is unlikely to change any time soon. 


John F. Kennedy High School, JFK, Kennedy campus, Department of Education, DOE, phase out, United Federation of Teachers, UFT
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