While graduation rates at Flushing High School have climbed over the years — and education officials praised some of the school’s “areas of strength” — the extra credit points may not be enough to save the embattled institution.
Hundreds of supporters — sporting anti-Mayor Bloomberg pins — packed Flushing’s auditorium to have their voices heard by the Department of Education (DOE) during an agency-hosted public hearing on April 16.
Flushing is one of 26 high schools on the updated list for Turnaround after seven were removed from the original list of 33 on April 2. If the school is turned around, it would close and reopen under a new name. The students at the school would be guaranteed a seat, and half the teachers would be replaced, according to the DOE.
“Closing the school is not a solution,” said Jenny Chen, who teaches Chinese at the school. “If they change 50 percent of the staff, then it’s going to create a disaster. The students know now where to find help, and they know who they can talk to. I feel angry, and I feel sorry for the students and parents. They don’t deserve that.”
DOE Deputy Chancellor David Weiner said closing and replacing Flushing with a new school would “create a school environment that will prepare students for success, college, work and life.”
The statement launched an avalanche of uproar amongst audience members — many of whom told The Courier they felt improvements made along the years have been overlooked or ignored.
Graduation rates at Flushing have risen from 54 percent in 2007 to 60 percent in 2010, according to the DOE’s report. The review also indicated “areas of strength” at the school, including Flushing’s ability to “maintain a culture of mutual trust and positive attitudes toward learning.”
However, the report states these elements do not particularly help keep the school open, but is instead “worth preserving” in the new school.
“With the new supports and restructuring available under the Turnaround model, we expect that the New School will be able to effectively leverage these areas of strength while improving student outcomes for all students,” the report stated.
James Manning, a junior at the school, said Flushing’s major problems stem from an “overwhelming” population of students who cut school every day, do drugs in the hallway and simply “choose not to learn.” He said this is at no fault to the teachers.
“No matter who you put in front of that classroom, they are still the same kids,” Manning, 16, said.
While senior Sun Lin is graduating as possibly Flushing’s last valedictorian, he said the real honor lies in having attended Flushing for four years — a school he now considers a second home.
“Seeing a home be destroyed is not what I want,” Lin said.
Some supporters said the DOE jumped the gun by already introducing the new school’s proposed principal — Magdalen Radovich — before the city’s Panel for Educational Policy even voted on the closure. The DOE Division of Portfolio Planning hosted the meeting on April 25, and the voting took place a day after on April 26. The Courier went to press before both events.