Education / News

Banana Kelly principal calls it quits

In class at Banana Kelly


In farewell letter, Laub charges city punishes neediest

In a letter tinged with sadness and bitterness, the embattled principal of Banana Kelly High School has resigned.

Joshua Laub, who headed the school for 12 years, blamed city policies for the declining fortunes of the school, where graduation rates have been falling while enrollment climbed.

Saying the Department of Education favored charter schools and other schools of choice over neighborhood schools, Laub charged the policy “allowed and even encouraged the racial re-segregation of NYC schools and revived, in practice, the failed and illegal doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ struck down decades ago by the US Supreme Court.”

Laub’s resignation came as the Panel on Educational Priorities was about to vote on a plan to restructure the school. It has been a foregone conclusion that he would be replaced as the school’s leader since March, when Bronx Schools Superintendent Elena Papaliberios told a crowd of booing parents that the school had failed to meet state standards.

“Our current educational system is not designed to support” needy children or their teachers, Laub said in his letter.

“In the face of the urgent needs of schools in the city’s poorer communities our educational system chose to create a mix, or portfolio of charter schools, schools for the gifted and talented, exam schools and others that screen out the neediest students, the ones most in need of help.

“That ‘creaming’ strategy created and continues to create a greater number of schools for students who are already doing well. But the ‘portfolio of schools’ strategy fails to provide the additional resources, personnel and commitment, needed for poorer schools in underserved communities, such as ours in the South Bronx.”

That strategy left a disproportionate number of students with special needs for schools like Banana Kelly, Laub and other critics of the Bloomberg administration’s education policy say. From 2006 to 2009, the school grew from 291 to 465 students. As its enrollment climbed, the number of homeless students went from five to 40, and the percentage of students who entered school with poor test scores also rose.

The four-year graduation rate dropped from 62 to 52 percent, triggering a state review that labeled it a “persistently low-achieving school.”

In interviews with The Express, students denounced the state grading system when it began to downgrade the school. Students and parents also defended the school at the March forum where Papaliberios said the school would have to be restructured.

“The past few years have been extremely difficult, filled with new policy mandates in programming and accountability and changes in our student population. These came without the bare bones minimums in the extra resources and faculty that we and so many other schools serving poorer communities clamor for. In spite of this, we did not blame the children, who are some of the neediest in the city. We rolled up our sleeves and did the work that was required – supporting students as best we could,” wrote the principal in his farewell.

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