Brooklyn politicians call for new specialized school at site of shuttered Bishop Kearney

Originally published in NY Daily News on August 21, 2019.

Two Brooklyn lawmakers hope to turn a closing Catholic school into the city’s ninth specialized high school.

City Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Brooklyn) and Democratic State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, who both represent parts of southern Brooklyn, are calling on Mayor de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to turn the soon-to-be-shuttered Bishop Kearney High School into one of the city’s elite schools.

"Nobody wanted to see Bishop Kearney close,” said Brannan. “But this is one way we can turn lemons into lemonade.”

The current eight specialized schools, which include Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech, admit students based on a single test and have been in the spotlight for their stark racial imbalance. Blacks and Latinos made up 10% of students admitted last year, despite being more than 70% of the city school population.

De Blasio and Carranza proposed scrapping the test and admitting the top students at each city middle school to increase the share of black and Latino students, but the plan is stalled in Albany.

Opponents of the plan, including Gounardes and Brannan, say the city should instead focus on better preparing black and Latino students to succeed on the exam, and expand the number of seats.

“We can grow the pie rather than arguing over how to slice it,” Gounardes said.

Bishop Kearney, an all-girls school in Bensonhurst that’s been open for more than 60 years, will close Aug. 31 because of enrollment declines.

The Brooklyn lawmakers said students from Districts 20, 21, and 22 in southern Brooklyn already make up a quarter of students in the elite high schools, and scores of students from the area just missed the test cutoff. They said a new high school would also help relieve school overcrowding in the area.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg added five specialized high schools from 2002-06, but none have been added since.

Isabelle Boundy, an Education Department spokeswoman, said the department will review the lawmakers’ request.