Over 150 Frederick Douglass Academy IV (FDA IV) and P.S. 26 parents, alumni, current students, and teachers came out last Monday night in opposition to a Department of Education proposal that would phase out FDA IV’s middle school grades. The proposed plan would graduate the current students in grades 6-8, but would eliminate future classes by not admitting any new students. FDA IV’s high school grades would continue to accept new students. FDA IV is located on Lafayette Avenue, between Stuyvesant and Malcolm X in Bedford-Stuyvesant and is currently a grades 6 through 12 school.
DOE cited declined enrollment and poor performances for reasons to close the middle school. FDA IV has received failing grades for the past two school years and is ranked in the bottom 1% citywide in terms of student performance. DOE said they believe the best way to improve the high school is to close the middle school, allowing school administrators to focus more energy on the upper grades.
Parents and community activists, however, told a different story. Ronald Robertson, a teacher at FDA IV, said teachers created an action plan to increase student achievement levels in the middle school and did not receive any support from DOE. School leadership has changed three times in recent years, and there has been little continuity on academic improvement plans.
The proposed FDA IV phase out will also affect the P.S. 26 school community. DOE plans to bring in a third yet-to-be-identified school, which parents said would further impact the use of shared spaces such as the cafeteria and the gymnasium. Marta Torres, a member of the P.S. 26 PTA, recounted the parent body’s opposition to FDA IV’s presence in the building in 2002. The co-location of FDA IV and P.S. 26 places kindergarteners and teenagers in the same learning environment, a dynamic which Torres said is unwanted by elementary school parents.
The resounding message of Monday night’s hearing was that the FDA IV/P.S. 26 school community does not want DOE to go through with this proposal to close FDA IV and they want help from DOE to improve the existing middle school. The question is, how much of the community’s concerns will fall on deaf ears when it is time for the PEP to vote on the proposal?
The proposal to truncate Frederick Douglass Academy’s middle school grades will be voted on at the PEP’s February meeting, which will take place on February 9, 2012 at 6pm at Brooklyn Technical High School (29 Fort Greene Place, Brooklyn, NY).