The Fight over Julia Richman
November 15th, 2006

Given the Department of Educations zeal to create small schools, one would expect they would love the Julia Richman Educational Complex, a once failing big high school that is now home to six small schools. Think again. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is considering a proposal from Hunter College to take over and demolish the Julia Richman site on Manhattans East Side so the college can build a new science center and public health school. Hunter has offered the Department of Education a site on its auxiliary campus where the Julai Richman school could get a new facility.

But parents, staff and others object to the scheme. Earlier this year, the New York Times reported, “Teachers and parents at the small schools have mobilized against [the move], saying it would destroy a delicate educational ecosystem and a potent, phoenixlike symbol of possibility.”

And the objections continue. Yesterday students and others held a protest to save Julia Richman and, this morning, Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News weighs in on their behalf. Calling Julia Richman “”a shining example of how to turn around failing public schools,” Gonzalez reports that “school officials, in typical Bloomberg-administration style,” never asked staff and parents for their opinion “on the sale and demolition of their schools.” The News columnist concludes, “Someone needs to teach Klein some basics of education: You don’t break things you’ve already fixed.”

Many students at Julia Richman had previously “been seriously underserved by the system,” writes Cathy Tomaszewki Bruce, of the Julia Richman leadership team. “Were these schools comprised of mostly white and upper middle class families, we have little doubt that the city would be celebrating their success and using the building as a model for other schools across the city. Instead, Hunters proposed destruction reveals a gross disregard for our citys low-income and families of color.”

The James Betelle, Where Are You? blog, while also objecting to the plan, takes a different approach: “The not-so-subtle insinuation here is that [the buildings] age makes it a bad school facility worthy of demolition, while a new structure is inherently better,” But, the writer continues, “School construction from the 1920-30s is often more solid, more insulated, more efficient than modern structuresIts hardly surprising that most schools built in this period are still functioning.”

By on November 15, 2006, 9:51 am
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