One Crown Heights school sends their students to Ivy League colleges, the other Crown Heights school gives at-risk kids a second chance to finish high school, but both are being screwed by the Department of Education (DOE).
That after the DOE suddenly announced this week they are shuttering W.E.B. Du Bois High School, 402 Eastern Parkway, which has among other things, a state-of-the-art recording studio for at-risk teens, and consolidate the students with Brownsville Academy High School on account of low enrollment rates.
The move, that took educators, parents and students by surprise, comes on the heals of the DOE last month announcing two changes to Medgar Evers Preparatory School (MECPS), 1186 Carroll Street, a top 6-12 grade school serving mainly black and brown students – also without little notice.
The first, a technical change, would centralize the MCEPS middle school admission process into the DOE’s current system. The second, would work to recruit and admit a larger number of students with disabilities (IEP), consistent with the percentage in District 17, which includes the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, East Flatbush and Crown Heights.
According to the Nov. 2 notice the DOE issued to both W.E.B. Du Bois High School and the Brownsville Academy High School, 1150 East New York Avenue, the schools will be consolidated at the Brownsville High School on account of low enrollment rates.
The notice states, a “consolidation means that two or more existing school organizations are combined into one school to operate and serve students more effectively. Proposals for consolidation seek to improve learning environments by combining the strengths and best practices of both schools and distributing resources to reinforce academic enrichment opportunities, interventions, and other supports,” read the letter.
The DOE cites the lack of less “than 200 students per year over the last five years” for the decision, claiming that enrollment at W.E.B. Du Bois has declined by 46% in the last five years and enrollment at Brownsville Academy has declined by 29% in the last five years.
However, the new proposal has many community leaders and elected officials worried about the future of education in District 17 including Senator Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn) who believes that the imposed changes continue to be an aggressive tactic by the DOE to minimize community input in the educational system.
“Alongside parents and neighborhood residents, I am deeply troubled by the routine failure of the NYC Department of Education to pursue truly inclusive consultation and planning. If they had included parents, students, educators, and cross-community stakeholders from the outset, the DOE would have learned the value W.E.B. Du Bois High School adds to our community. The DOE would have learned about the recording studio and arts program. The DOE would have learned that 100% of students will not relocate to another school,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton even hinted at the lack of trust growing amongst parents and educators as the DOE continues to attack minority schools in the area.
“These incidents add up. The cumulative impact: mistrust. That is the absolute last thing we need in our education system. I want us, DOE, parents, educators, and students, collectively, to pull in the same direction, provide excellent education to children, build vibrant learning communities, and celebrate parent and community engagement,” said Hamilton.
According to a statement from the staff at the Du Bois High School, including Principal Catherine Costa, to parents and local supporters, the school would be eliminated in the proposal along with its policy of giving all students a second chance at learning.
“The NYCDOE is proposing to consolidate W. E. B. Du Bois with Brownsville Academy because both schools have struggled with low enrollment, which has created budgetary and programmatic challenges. If this proposal is approved, WE.B. Du Bois and Brownsville Academy will be combined such that students, staff and resources of WEB. Du Bois will become part of Brownsville Academy, and W. E. B. Du Bois will no longer exist as a distinct school option as of the 2018-2019 school year. The consolidated Brownsville Academy will continue to serve students in grades 9-12,” read the letter.
W.E.B. Du Bois High School is a transfer high school serving over-aged, under-credited students since 2001. The school has a history of serving academically challenged students and has been critical in the predominantly Black community of Crown Heights for giving second chances to any student willing to earn their high school diploma.
Additionally both the high schools are the only two transfer schools in District 17 with Du Bois having two alternative learning programs, the District 79 ReStart Program and the Alternative Learning Center (ALC). The ReStart Program serves over-aged 8th graders and the ALC serves students who are on Superintendent’s suspension.
The proposal is scheduled for two joint public hearings early next month and will officially be voted on by the Panel for Education Policy (PEP) closer to the end of the year.
Joint Public Meetings For the proposal will be held at 6 p.m., on Dec. 13, at Building K824, at 420 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights and 6 p.m., on Dec. 14, at Building K907, at 1150 East New York Avenue in Brownsville.
The Panel of Public Education (PEP) meeting will take place at 6 p.m., on Dec. 20, at High School for Fashion Industries, at 225 West 24th Street in Manhattan.