After a four-hour-long public hearing held by the Panel for Educational Policy this evening at Brooklyn Technical High School, the panel, headed by Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, voted to co-locate the on the John Jay Campus.
The panel voted 11 in favor of the decision, with two abstentions.
But earlier in the evening, as Secondary School for Research Principal Jill Bloomberg was asked to stop speaking before her allotted two-minute speaking time was even over, it seemed the decision was already made.
“The country’s schools remain blatantly segregated,” Bloomberg said, chronicling the schools achievements in spite of the lack of support from the Department of Education. She urged the DOE to remove scanners on the campus and to create a “heterogeneous” environment rather than simply add a separate, selective school.
As the sound to Bloomberg’s mic was cut, she continued to shout across the auditorium. Students, teachers, and parents from Seventh Avenue’s John Jay Campus chimed in, chanting “integration yes, segregation no,” until finally quieted by the panel.
The when the Department of Education proposed to next fall add a fourth, selective high school to the John Jay Campus, which is currently populated by mostly-minority students from outside Park Slope.
At tonight’s hearing, 11 issues were heard (as was plenty of Black bashing), but none so loudly as the proposal to collocate a replica of Manhattan’s popular Millennium High School on the John Jay Campus.
The school has continually argued that the proposal is racially biased and unfair, citing that only because of Millennium will the campus finally receive long-needed funds.
At the hearing, local politicians, parents, teachers, students and John Jay supporters from several boroughs asked the DOE to consider removing scanners, upping funding and holding off on adding Millennium Brooklyn to the campus.
“The DOE failed to meet the needs of John Jay High School,” said Assembly Member Jim Brennan, citing budget cuts and inequality as his reasons for opposing the Millennium proposal. “The process is a sham. The existing schools [at John Jay] have been completely disrespected.”
As the evening began, Marc Sternberg, Deputy Chancellor for Portfolio Planning, reminded the audience that the Millennium proposal would better provide local high school options to area residents and be open to any students who met the qualifications. Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm shook off criticism of the controversial scanners at the school, saying the issue is the responsibility of the NYPD.
But even some endorsements for Millennium Brooklyn were hesitant.
“I rise here in very critical support of Millennium High School in Brooklyn. The way this has been done is horrendous,” said Council for Community Education 15 President Jim Devor. “The fact remains that John Jay is highly segregated."
Devor urged the PEP to consider earlier recommendations by Councilmember Brad Lander, including banning scanners, investing equally into the building and giving John Jay the start-up money it did not receive when it was a new school. Both recognized the need for a school to better serve residents of the Park Slope community.
One student in the Secondary School for Law took the mic and detailed the divide , describing being rushed to the train station or the bus station after school.
“Predominantly white schools are not treated the same way we are treated,” Kwaesi Laguer said. “Opening this fourth school is basically a slap in the face to us.”
As the night slowly dragged on, with over 60 speakers from the community taking the mic, the roar of John Jay only grew louder. Decorum was frequently called for as John Jay chanted, and even sang along as Grassroots Education Movement and the Ad Hoc Coalition to Stop School Closings and Charter Takeovers sang, “This little school of mine/we’re not going to privatize” to the tune of “This Little Light of Mine.”
“The fight around Millennium has been misinterpreted,” said John Yanno, a history teacher at the Secondary School for Law, before the hearings began. “I’m not against a selective school, but not in our building, not now. The DOE needs to clean up its mess first.”
It was after 10 p.m. by the time the hearing ended, and the crowd had significantly waned.
But though disappointment was thick in the air, for the supporters of John Jay not all was lost.
“We’re obviously very disappointed, but one place I think we’ve succeeded is that we’re very possibly going to see the end of the scanners. And the community of Park Slope is now aware of underfunding,” said Yanno, the history teacher, after the hearing. “We’re not just going to sit back, we’re going to continue to fight.”