In 1990, students in Bushwick had a 22% chance of graduating from Bushwick High School. Many schools in the area were unsafe, one even lacked basic facilities like functioning bathrooms, and nearly all were resistant to change.
Schools like these could be found across eastern Brooklyn. Parents and students had spent several years organizing to reform Bushwick schools but change was too incremental and slow. After a long campaign to hold the then Board of Education accountable and the tragic murder of two students at Thomas Jeffereson High School, Chancellor Joseph Fernandez asked EBC leaders to help open one of the first small schools in New York City.
EBC High School opened in 1992. EBC HS now serves approximately 600 students and became so successful that it helped form the model for the 350 small schools that have been opened in the past 15 years. One of those schools, Bushwick Leaders HS, was also founded by EBC leaders.
EBC High School Bushwick Leaders High School
In 1993, leaders at South Bronx Churches formed Bronx Leadership Academy and a few years later, BLA II was formed. Like in East Brooklyn, the creation of so many new small schools in the South Bronx provided new quality educational opportunities but sometimes led to unnecessary competition for space in buildings where schools were co-located. In 2005, SBC leaders met with Chancellor Joel Klein who challenged us to help him find space to build new schools. We did, and we even hired the award-winning architect Alexander Gorlin to design a campus.
In 2010, the $240 million Mott Have Educational Campus opened with three public and one charter school that serves 2,200 students. The campus includes a regulation-sized football field, gymnasiums, a performing arts center, technology labs and new computers in every classroom. It is the largest campus in the New York City.
SBC, EBC and EQUAL now work with schools across the City to organize parents, students, teachers and staff to take action around some of their concerns, like providing more police patrols in the mornings and afternoons and improving local bus service. In one action, students at EBC HS successfully pressured the City to raze an abandoned building next door that was being used for drug activity.
In September 2012, more than 500 leaders gathered to celebrate the opening of the new Spring Creek Educational Campus, which is home to two new small schools, grades 6-12, and a District 75 school. The new $73 million campus will serve 1200 students and includes a full gymnasium, an outdoor playground area, an exercise room, a college-level research library, two fully stocked music rooms, an art studio, two science demonstration rooms, a large auditorium, and smart boards in every classroom. It sits in the middle of the Spring Creek Nehemiah development.
For the past twenty years, Metro IAF New York leaders have helped to successfully push for a range of reforms within the Department of Education, including the dismantling of the ineffective and often corrupt local school boards, changes to principal tenure, the creation of new small schools, and Mayoral control. These changes have given parents and students access to quality schools, sometimes for the first time.