Boys & Girls Fights For its Life

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As the clock ticks down on the fate of Boys & Girls High School, Principal Bernard Gassaway vowed to steer a new course for the pride and joy of Bed-Stuy.
Now if he can only get the city’s Department of Education (DOE) and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to join together in embracing his plan to turn the school around.
“I will work with every fiber in my being to keep Boys & Girls from closing,” Gassaway promised a packed Community Board 3 meeting earlier this week at Restoration Plaza.
Gassaway said while some in the DOE are trying to close the school and turn it into four smaller schools, he sees it becoming one of the city’s larger schools that works much like Bayside High School in Queens.
In order to do this Gassaway wants the power to get rid of as much as fifty percent of the staff through a federally funded “turn around” model of academic change.
About 25 percent of the staff is stellar and another 25 percent are competent and want to improve, but the other 50 percent need to be replaced and the principal needs the authority to remove them, he said.
Under Gassaway’s plan, he would turn the roughly 2,000 student body school into four small academies under one roof as opposed to the DOE’s often-used plan to actually break Boys & Girls up into four small separate schools.
In order for Gassaway’s plan to succeed the DOE needs to file an application with the state by April 30 to access federal money and implement the ‘‘turn around” model for change. The model is one of four the Obama Administration uses under its improvement grants. Boys & Girls also fits the urban school criteria to being eligible for the program.
The rub is the DOE and UFT are at odds on how to remove 50 percent of the staff.
“We’re working with the union and that’s where we are now, but the deadline is approaching,” said DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfield. “Our primary interest is to make sure these struggling schools have the best chance of success, but the UFT is not working with us and there’s no question on who is dragging their feet here.”
Several calls and e-mails to the UFT were not returned at press time.
But Gassaway and others in the community also dispute many of the DOE’s claims that Boys & Girls is such a struggling school.
“The DOE is sending us (at-risk) kids from outside the district which is weighing down the school,” said Gassaway. “Not only did we win the city boys basketball title but we also have one of the better robotic teams in the city.”
Also standing firmly behind the school is City Councilman Al Vann.
“I fully support Principal Gassaway and believe that, if provided with the necessary support from the DOE and all stakeholders, he can return Boys & Girls High School to academic prominence.”

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