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School Closings: Third Time’s a Charm?

March 16, 2011

By Sandra Thomas, grandparent of two children at MS 391

MS 391 in the Bronx is on New York State’s list of Persistently Lowest-Achieving schools, and is at risk of being closed next year. But the school has already been closed and restarted twice, and parents wonder what will make this time any different Click here to read today’s Daily News story about the school’s struggles.

My name is Sandra Thomas and I have lived in Community School District 10 in the Bronx for just about all my life.  My son graduated from MS 391 and my granddaughter now attends the school.  I remember when MS 391 was first built.  And I can remember watching the school’s decline as it became more and more infested with drugs and gang activity.  The whole community knew it as a danger zone.  In the 1990s it was phased out twice.  But both times—closures did nothing but add to its degradation.  It was not until about five years ago when Principal Santana and his administration came that our school began to turn around.  They gave the school hope for a good education for our children.  But they did it by rolling up their sleeves and working with parents like me, with students like my son, and with teachers to figure out what it was that we needed.   We brought support services in the school.  We made the school a safe and inviting environment to be in.  We brought the community in for special events.  Student attendance rose and teacher turnover dropped below the citywide average.  I watched the school’s ranking climb a ladder from an F to an A.  But what really mattered was that we did it together.

But now, in spite of the steps we have made towards progress, the Department of Education says they may close our school down once again.  MS 391, like all of the other schools on the PLA list, has more than double the citywide average of students that are ESL, homeless, special ed, and Black and Latino.  And still, we’re expected to “Do more with less.” But you know what?  My school IS a transformation school.  We rolled up our sleeves and worked together.  My son came out of MS 391 an Honor Roll student.

My son’s story and my school’s story should be a lesson to the DOE.   How dare you come after we’ve worked so hard to improve and tell us that we’re failing.  We don’t need you to shut us down.  We don’t need a new school.  We need you to listen.  We need you to give us the resources we need and work with us so that we can keep on climbing.  DON’T cut us off at the knees when you haven’t even given us the chance to show you the heights we can reach.

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