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Bloomberg Excoriates Protesters As Panel Votes To Close Schools

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Banners are scene at a rally against New York City school closings on Feb. 3, 2011 (Photo/Kathleen Maloney)

Banners are scene at a rally against New York City school closings on Feb. 3, 2011 (Photo/Kathleen Maloney)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Students arrived Friday morning at Jamaica High School in Queens, well aware its days are numbered. After last night’s contentious community meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School, a New York City Department of Education panel voted to close Jamaica, along with 11 other public schools, for good, citing their underperformance.

The educational panel was given a tongue-lashing Thursday night by an angry crowd. Another tongue-lashing came on Friday, this time from an irritated mayor who accused the crowd of overstepping its bounds, reports CBS 2′s Sean Hennessey.

Before the hearing about the school closures even began, parents, students and teachers chanted, help up posters insulting new Schools Chancellor Cathie Black.

Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, who mixed it up with a crowed during another schools closure meeting earlier this week, was again drowned out by shouting protesters. Black has come under withering criticism since Mayor Michael Bloomberg tapped her to succeed former Chancellor Joe Klein.

Parents, teachers in the Rockaways express outrage over the latest round of school closings

It was a scene that didn’t sit well with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“We’ve gotten into a culture where it’s fair game to take shots,” Bloomberg said. “It’s become a blood sport.”

On Friday, the mayor unloaded a verbal firebomb against the crowd that disrupted Thursday night’s hearing. Others also walked out, convinced the panel was a rubber stamp for what the Bloomberg administration wants when it comes to school closings.

“We’re saying we’re not going to participate in this fake process,” one teacher said.

“They already made their decision,” said another.

The mayor said what happened wasn’t one of the city’s finest moments.

“This is embarrassing for New York City, for New York State, for America,” Bloomberg said.

The hearing was raucous and frustration was running high. Most of the people in attendance were upset that the educational panel was voting to close 12 schools the city describes as failing, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.

“If it takes a revolution in this city, we are going to take back our schools,” State Senator Tony Avella said.

The mayor said it was unfair to attack Schools Chancellor Black, who has been on the job for just a month, or shout down public servants trying to do their best.

“This is not democracy. Letting people yell and scream, that’s not freedom of expression,” Bloomberg said. “That’s just rying to take away somebody else’s rights.”

Students said although Jamaica High suffers from limited resources, its open enrollment policy is more favorable to immigrant students compared to other technical or admissions-based schools in the area.

“It’s not fair to the students. Whatever you do to the school, give us a chance because we’re trying our hardest,” said Syeda Nasim, Jamaica H.S. sophomore.

There are actually four separate schools inside the Jamaica H.S. building. Supporters of the school said it is unique for the opportunity it provides to students who are new to this country.

“This school is taking them in. And they’re learning whatever they have to do,” said Nebir Dey, Jamaica H.S. sophomore.

Those schools set to be closed include:

Brooklyn

  • P.S. 260
  • P.S. 332
  • M.S. 571

Bronx

  • Frederick Douglass Academy III Middle School
  • John F. Kennedy High School
  • Columbus High School
  • Global Enterprise High School
  • P.S. 102
  • Performance Conservatory High School

Manhattan

  • Norman Thomas High School

Queens

  • Beach Channel High School
  • Jamaica High School

Under the existing Bloomberg administration model, all of the schools will likely be replaced with smaller, themed schools within the same buildings.

“Not only smaller, but effective is better, and that’s the bottom line. We want effective schools in place for our children,” said Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott.

Closing schools the city has decided are failing: good idea? Bad idea? Sound off in our comments section.

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