(Bed of street noise ambi under whole piece, faded in and out between narrations and actualities)
Teacher Ellie Weiss, her colleagues and students have been bracing for the worse since the pending closure was announced in January. But, on Thursday morning, they were able to take a deep breath.
Weiss: We all cried, we were crying off and on all morning.
Weiss says when the principal made the announcement over the loudspeaker, cheers filled the classrooms and hallways.
Teacher Tabari Bomani was overcome as well.
Bomani: It was really a spiritual, emotional, beautiful moment.
Bushwick Community is a transfer high school of about 350 students, which means it’s for those who are behind or have dropped out.
It’s also on what the state calls it persistently lowest achieving schools list.
In a statement, New York City’s Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Bushwick Community and Queen’s Grover Cleveland high schools were spared because they have done well on their progress reports and look to be showing continued improvement.
Bushwick Community teachers agree and argue that the metrics that gauge performance are unfair to the school … because it specifically caters to some of the city’s most vulnerable and struggling students.
Martir: I was throwing away my high school career.
That’s Andrew Martir, who came to Bushwick in 1995. He only had nine credits toward graduation, even though he had been in high school for three years.
He graduated a year later and went on to SUNY Purchase.
His life has come full circle. He’s now a guidance counselor at Bushwick, along with his wife, who he met when they were both students here.
Martir: Seventeen years later, we now have a beautiful family, three kids, we are working with colleagues who saved our lives, in a building that saved our lives and we helping change the lives of students in this community … the community we were born in raised in.
Outside the school’s entrance, Martir stops to talk to 20-year-old student Allen Lloyd, who Martir describes as modest and hardworking. Lloyd says he can always depend on Martir.
Lloyd: I appreciate him and I don’t think there is any words or anything I could do for him to show my appreciation
Martir: No, You can, you can get a degree (laughing)
Lloyd: That’s better, that’s good, that’s priceless …
Lloyd is graduating in June and plans to go to college … he wants to study entertainment law or politics. And, he says he’s relieved to be moving on.
Allen: It makes like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I have been in high school for a long time, I should have made a career out of it. (Laughing)
Teacher Tabari Bomani knows there is still work to be done. He says after the closure announcement, some students stopped showing up to school.
Bomani: Over the next couple of weeks we are going to jump in our cars, we are going to go to the houses of students who have been missing and tell them:I don’t know if you heard the news, we are still here, we love you, this is about you.”
Bomani has worked at the school for 23 years and says he’ll do whatever he can to keep the school open.
Mackenzie Issler, Columbia Radio News.