Community Fights Closing of Strawberry Mansion High

strawberry mansion

by Lynda Rubin
April 9, 2018

 Several APPS members, in response to requests from community members, attended a meeting at Strawberry Mansion High School  (SMHS) on Wednesday, March 28. About fifty people—including parents, educators and alumni—attended the meeting, facilitated by Eric Becoats, Assistant Superintendent in charge of the district’s Turnaround Network. Like many of those in attendance, APPS members found out about the meeting from a notice posted on social media two days before. The district posted no banner about the meeting on its website, nor was there was any mention of possible change at SMHS at recent SRC meetings. Rumors had spread, in the absence of definitive information from the school district, that Strawberry Mansion, as a comprehensive high school, would be closing at the end of this school year. Some had heard that other programs, possibly twilight school or alternative education programs for students with academic and/or behavioral issues, would be housed in the building.

Using barely readable power-points, Becoats read through some possible changes and the reasons the district is “phasing out” the existing educational program at SMHS. There will be no 9thgraders admitted in September 2018. The remaining students will complete their years and graduate from Mansion.  Starting in September 2018, Becoats said, neighborhood students could attend a newly added accelerated school in the building, but he gave no details about the program or who would oversee it. An evening program for overage students and adults may be added later. In September 2019, 9thgraders could then be admitted to a new “skills-based” high school in the building.  Becoats said that was only “under consideration”, to which a community member responded, “So new students will evict existing students.” Becoats claimed that there would be full staffing until the last class graduates, and that the remaining students would complete their years and graduate from Mansion, but did not specify how the school could maintain sufficient staff for a variety of programs with declining enrollment. Nor did he seem to have any idea how the students in the remaining grades would deal with decreases in student body and staff.  Becoats continued to deny that Strawberry Mansion High School is being closed, as if the existence of the building constitutes the essence of the actual high school.

Parents, community and neighborhood leaders expressed their frustration at both Becoats’ dismissive attitude and the district’s lack of community outreach prior to making their decision.  One community member asked: Are we in the planning stage or the implementation stage? Becoats admitted that the district is now in the implementation stage.

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