February 18, 2009

Board of Education Discusses Phasing Out Lehman Middle School

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The Ithaca Board of Education met last week to discuss a three-year plan to phase out the middle school component of Lehman Alternative Community School, which is currently a 6-12 secondary school. Members of the Lehman school community attended the meeting to oppose the plan that would increase the enrollment at Lehman by adding about 50 high school students, according to The Ithaca Journal.
At the meeting, Ithaca City School District Superintendent Judith Pastel presented the proposal, describing it as “one potential scenario with dealing with the fiscal situation.”
The School District’s plan would eventually take 375 to 400 students and 15 full-time positions in core subjects out of Ithaca High School by academic year 2012-2013. Pastel also mentioned at the meeting that the proposal is not just a phasing out of the middle school, but would possibly enhance the capacities of Lehman’s high school.
Among those in opposition, Lehman English and drama teacher Ira Rabois explained the unique learning environment at Lehman and the threat this new proposal poses. Since Lehman’s curriculum does not currently differentiate between middle school and high school, Rabois expressed firm opposition to the proposal that aims to do exactly that.
“You can’t take a school apart and build it up somewhere else,” Rabois said. “This plan is a destruction; there’s no way around it.”
According to the Ithaca Journal, Lehman Principal Joe Greenberg sent an e-mail explaining the Lehman school’s position on the proposal before the meeting with the Board of Education.
“While there is a genuine understanding that the financial realities will most certainly warrant some shared sacrifice and creative approach to doing something more with less, the school’s position is that this proposed scenario is flawed on many levels and cannot be supported or accepted,” Greenberg stated in an e-mail. “We are not two separate schools, one middle and one high school. We are one school — an innovative and nationally recognized 6-12 progressively secondary school.”
Although a few members of the Lehman community were allowed to voice their dissents, a follow-up public hearing March 3.