Say goodbye to John F. Kennedy High School.
Early Friday morning, the Panel for Educational Policy voted in favor of phasing out JFK by 2014 starting next fall.
After hours of public comment that began at 6 p.m. at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene, eight of the 13 members appointed by borough presidents and Mayor Michael Bloomberg voted in favor of the phase-out. Four opposed, there were no abstentions and one member was absent.
All eight of the mayor-appointed PEP members voted in favor of JFK’s closure and the four borough representatives present — Monica Major (Bronx), Dmytro Fedkowskyj (Queens), Patrick Sullivan (Manhattan) and Gbubemi Okotieuro (Brooklyn) — voted to keep the school open. Staten Island representative Joan Correale was absent.
The evening took a turn when the first student, Kennedy senior Ahmani Croom, got up to speak.
"John F Kennedy was set up for failure. This process is a complete joke," she screamed, before starting a "fix our schools now!" chant that lasted for about 10 minutes and ended in a massive walkout of more than half of the meeting’s attendees.
The large auditorium dissolved into chaos as attendees started walking out shouting, waving signs and shaking their fists in what appeared to be a planned boycott of a meeting by those who perceived the closure process as being stacked against them.
“In case you didn’t notice, this meeting is officially adjourned!” one student screamed before leaving.
DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said he had never seen a walkout at a PEP meeting. He was unsure how many of the 350 people who signed up to speak left.
After the walkout, the room became decidedly more subdued as Community Education Council members, parents, community members and a few remaining students spoke, mostly in favor of phase-outs, charter schools, co-locations and having more choices for their children.
Hours earlier, a raucous rally outside Brooklyn Tech drew hundred of protestors by 4:30 p.m. Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez spoke to attendees who stood outside in the cold evening air, waving sings and chanting.
"I think Cathie Black and the DOE failed the students, parents and elected officials," Mr. Rodriguez said in an interview after he spoke, adding that he is in favor of phasing out Kennedy, but not of the two New Visions charter schools the DOE has proposed to replace it.
Mr. Rodriguez was one of two politicians represented at the hearing but did not stick around to speak to the panel. Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, community liaison for State sen. Adriano Espaillat, spoke.
“This hearing came too late to ensure meaningful public participation,” she said.
There were 20 proposals up for vote on Thursday, including eight for schools from the Bronx. The PEP approved all of them, 12 of which will result in the eventual or immediate closure of schools. Ten phase-out proposals were also approved on Tuesday.
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