Paul Robeson High School is Brooklyn is one of more than 20 city schools that the Department of Education plans to close because of poor performance. Some parents, teachers and education activists have questioned the DOE’s approach to shutting down large, traditional high schools and replacing them with multiple, smaller institutions. The DOE, however, maintains that for truly unsuccessful schools, shut-down is the only viable option.
Whatever the wisdom of the DOE strategy, schools on the shut-down list dwell in a strange limbo: Slated for closure, they cannot accept new students, but they are duty-bound to serve the students who remain enrolled. However, as the student population dwindles and teachers are tempted to find other jobs, the challenges of serving those last classes swell.
As Helen Zelon reported this week, one school—Paul Robeson High in Bedford-Stuyvesant—has faced these problems, and more: the departure of a veteran, beloved but entrenched principal, the hasty ouster of his first replacement, and the recent arrival of a third leader in a year’s time—with another boss likely to be in place by the beginning of next school year. What does that kind of change mean for a school and its students?
Don Mathisen interviews Helen Zelon