According to the Education Department (DOE), graduation rates at Grover Cleveland were at or below 55 percent for the last five years. In addition, the school is named one of the “Persistently Lowest Achieving” schools in the state.
But students and teachers attended a recent Community Board 5 meeting to speak out on the closure, saying their school has a legacy of academic achievement and giving back to its community.
Student Association President Geline Canayon said at the meeting that Grover Cleveland recently beat specialized high schools in a citywide science fair.
“We hope to continue this legacy, but in order to do that we need the support of the community to keep our school open,” she said.
Teacher, dean and coach Michael Irizarry said his students do graffiti removal in the area, volunteer in senior centers, donate to food banks, and work with students from local elementary schools.
“Kids giving back to kids is very important,” he said. “That’s what we do at Grover Cleveland, and I want to continue doing it.”
Lydia Martinez, a Grover Cleveland teacher and Board 5 member, said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott visited the school in October and was “very impressed with what he saw.”
She said Walcott assured staff members that he was visiting on a positive note, and would not close the school. However, in January, they were told that 50 percent of the staff, including the principal, could be cut.
“The DOE has turned Grover Cleveland into another roller coaster ride,” Martinez said.
She added that the struggle to keep the school open gets in the way of its progress.
“The professional adults that have anything to do with the decision-making of these schools should be ashamed of themselves when they see students fighting to keep their schools open,” she said. “Students should be concentrating on their school grades and their future, not on attending meetings and rallies to keep their schools open.”
According to DOE, possible plans for Grover Cleveland include staff replacement and leadership change. However, bringing in mentor teachers with higher salaries and introducing new education programs are also options.
The school could be phased out by not accepting new students, helping current students graduate and bringing in a new district or charter school to the building.
The DOE has no specific plans for the school at this time.
The community is hosting a human chain-link march around the high school on February 16. It will begin at 7 a.m. outside the school.