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Saving MS 80’s Spirit

A group of students and at least one parent gathered outside of MS 80 to show their opposition to a DOE plan that would close the school. (Photo by Destiny DeJesus)

Editor’s note: A version of this story appears in this week’s print edition of the Norwood News. The MS 80 rally scheduled for this afternoon didn’t quite go off as planned, leaving many people puzzled. Organizers said the school’s administration told them to leave before the rally was even scheduled to start. In any case, this is the story in it’s larger context. We’ll continue our MS 80 coverage up until the DOE hearing at the school on April 16th.

Since the Department of Education announced plans to close Middle School 80 at the beginning of March, a group of concerned parents and local activists have been attempting to advocate for keeping the spirit of the school, as well as its most valuable programs, intact.

The Friends of MS 80 has made the rounds of community meetings and staged a short-lived rally in front of the school on Tuesday afternoon in the run-up to a DOE hearing at the school scheduled for Monday, April 16 at 6 p.m. inside the school auditorium. They want to change the name to MS 80/Isabel Rooney, which is its unofficial name already (JHS 80 is its official title), as well as some of its key programs, including its bilingual program and a program designed to prepare students for taking entrance exams for specialized high schools, such as Bronx High School of Science.

The DOE has designated MS 80, a 650-seat school on Mosholu Parkway that opened in 1924, for the federal “turnaround” program. The designation would allow the school to again receive extra state funding that was being withheld because the city and the United Federation of Teachers, have not been able to come to an agreement over teacher evaluations.

The Panel for Education Policy still needs to approve the re-organization, but the panel rarely rejects a DOE-recommended plan. The hearing on April 16 is an opportunity for the school community to have their input heard before the next PEP meeting.

If the overhaul plan is approved, MS 80, and 26 other city public schools, will undergo a dramatic re-organization that will include replacing at least 50 percent of its current staff and undergoing a name change.

The DOE has already moved to replace Lovey Mazique-Rivera, MS 80’s principal since 2004. A new acting principal, Lauren Reiss, was introduced two weeks ago.

Last week, the DOE took seven schools off of the turnaround list, citing visits to the schools by Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s leadership team. MS 80 remains on the list.

Cecilia Donovan, the head of the MS 80 parents association, said she still has not received a response from Walcott’s office after sending him a letter opposing the school’s closure three weeks ago.

After much hype, the rally on Tuesday fizzled, leaving several parents, teachers and members of the media puzzled. Longtime Norwood resident Anthony Rivieccio, one of the chief organizers from Friends of MS 80, said he and a group of students abandoned the planned rally before its scheduled start time when school officials told them to leave.

“We left promptly because administration did not want us there,” said Rivieccio.

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One thought on “Saving MS 80’s Spirit

  1. Former teacher

    The school itself is not “bad”, but the administration, particularly Ms. Rivera, was horrendous. I only worked there for a year- but my 11th year. I could not endure the abuse & standard humiliation I got as a teacher & the lack of support. I was threatened by a student & I got reprimanded for telling the principal that I’d call the police. She always examined things from the angle of teacher wrong doing, & she had no support for teacher instituted discipline. It was an awful plac to work. Many teachers there are good, many students are good, but the school is a haven for students who thrive on misbehavior. Because nothing is done or reinforced to ensure decorum, they rule the roost. The quiet, good,studious kids are not catered to- its a heart-break. I also tried to take the kids on 2 field trips, but clearly due to Rivera’s distaste for me I was not allowed to take them. Again, it broke my heart that Bronx kids had never been to the Met, & I was willing to take them on an easy & FREE field trip! The kids were conditioned to this though, & promises of field trips never taken. I could write a book on my experience there but I can just say that it’s not the school that is bad, even though I was very unhappy. It was just Ms. Rivera. The APs themselves weren’t good, but they were not allowed to be for fear of her. They weren’t going to throw themselves under the bus, naturally, and I know they had no choice, unfortunately, but to obey her wackiness. I am sure with new leadership & some legitimate & consistent policies & overhaul, the school would be great. I truly respected the staff I worked with, and I adored many students. Those that tested the boundaries needed boundaries in the first place, which Rivera didn’t enforce. People like her shouldn’t be principals, they are the ones driving schools into the ground with their disorganization, disinterest & fear of new ideas, & supporting teachers & supporting students by holding them to a kegitimately high standard of behavior & academics.

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