Historically and affectionately named after distinguished musician and conductor Maestro Arturo Toscanini, CJHS 145 has a strong legacy of students who have gone on to colleges and universities including Princeton, Yale and Lehigh University. Alum include scientists, actors and actresses, WNBA players, writers, artists and music producers, professional spoken word poets, computer system developers at Fortune 500 companies and teachers.
The Department of Education’s proposal cites low test scores and underenrollment as their rationale for closing the school. The CJHS 145 community will not back down and aims to make it clear that the same funding for all schools in the district has been a misguided solution, that there’s more to why enrollment numbers appear to be low and that an influx in the community’s student population of English-language learners has rendered the school without the additional resources needed to help its students perform well on state tests.
Moreover, the DOE has not weighed in students’ unparalleled exposure to, and practice of, advanced applications of technology and the creative arts. Through innovative program offerings, for example, CJHS 145 has established a long-standing tradition of outperforming New York City-wide public and private schools to earn reputable Slam poetry and mock trial titles time and time again. CJHS 145 is also one of the few schools in the Bronx offering academically motivated sixth-eighth graders thorough preparation for entrance into specialized New York City high schools and independent schools nationwide through the Fieldston Enrichment Program.
What’s happening today is nothing new to me because it isn’t the first time the DOE has decided what they think is best for our school without having a full grasp of our true potential and performance, or perhaps they decided to ignore it. As a former student of CJHS 145, I experienced first-hand when the DOE disrupted my well-performing school in 2003 and added two additional schools to our campus, our home. Today, I fight back as an alumna to support current and future graduates who understand what it means to be a part of a legacy such as ours and that CJHS 145 will always be more of a home to us than any other middle school could be.
When I reminisce about about my years there, I remember that although I was a consistent honor roll student achieving threes and fours on state tests, I couldn’t care less about the grades. I cared more about friendship, being a part of something bigger than myself and that my teachers genuinely believed that we deserved more. Our teachers motivated and inspired us. They gave us a unique opportunity to build our own legacy and learn to find our voice in this world through creative means– this is the difference our school makes. I remember the day Mr. Moss inspired our class to want and work towards a better education, and like many of our teachers, he spoke to us about the reality of the have and have-nots. That was the day I took my future seriously.
I went on to earn a full scholarship to Radnor High School, ranked the 13th best public high school in Pennsylvania. When I aced my Advanced Algebra exam as a freshman and my teacher asked me where I studied before attending Radnor, I proudly said I went to CJHS 145 in the South Bronx. If I had to choose one alma mater, I would choose CJHS 145 hands down, and if I have children one day, I would want them to attend CJHS 145, hopefully with the same teachers who taught me. CJHS 145 taught me that there was a world much bigger and complicated then the one I lived in, and attaining perfect grades or test scores wouldn’t nearly be enough to be successful in life. My turning point is CJHS 145, the reason I fight today, and will continue fighting, as long as our school needs someone to defend it.
Closing CJHS 145, stigmatized as a “failing” school by the DOE despite its achievements and improvements, should not be an option – PEP, vote NO to its closure.
Dalisbeth Galvez is an alumna of CJHS 145.