Earlier this year, when Boys and Girls High School’s interim principle Michael Wiltshire proposed merging the flailing Boys and Girls High School in Bed-Stuy with the high-achieving Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Crown Heights, he was met with loud protest from parents of students at the college prep, reported Chalkbeat.
The idea was first floated because on the surface, it seemed at best plausible: The college prep is overcrowded and in desperate need of more classrooms and basic facilities, while Boys and Girls— whose 42 percent graduation rate lags 26 points below the city average—has ample classrooms, an expansive auditorium and a state of the art athletic field.
Additionally a marriage between the two schools felt almost impending since, for the past two years, they pretty much have been engaged: Since Wiltshire’s appointment as BGHS’s interim principal, students are taking foreign language and Advanced Placement courses at Medgar Evers, and teachers from the two schools have participated in joint trainings.
Still, parents balked at the arranged marriage, and the idea was abandoned… Sort of.
At a town hall meeting last Saturday, Wiltshire amended the proposal and now—instead of merging— he is proposing the two schools co-locate and share space.
The relocation, which the city education department says it is considering, would provide a high-stakes test of NYC School Chancellor Carmen Farińa’s theory that one way to transform a struggling school is to pair it with a high-performing neighbor, Chalkbeat reported.
Their teachers could collaborate, students could take more advanced classes, and applicants who don’t make it into Medgar Evers might consider enrolling at Boys and Girls. It would also fulfill a basic need for Medgar Evers: better facilities. Additionally, a $1.25 million state grant that Boys and Girls won this year would help ease the collaboration and encourage a more seamless integration of the two schools.
However, many parents at Medgar Evers Prep and at Boys and Girls still are not having it. Some Boys and Girls supporters see it as a back-door attempt at eventually shutting the school down. And Medgar Evers supporters fear for their children’s safety, having to travel to an unfamiliar neighborhood and to a school with metal detectors—something their school does not use.
So the debate continues. Those opposed to any idea of a partnership between the divergent schools may be correct about the dismal prospect… Or, perhaps, they are missing the big picture: Sometimes the best partnerships are not ones that are like-minded but complementary.
“That building can be the Stuyvesant [High School] for our kids,” Wiltshire said Saturday of BGHS.