They posted a photo of the massive brick school on Facebook with the comment: “Not sure if Bergtraum or jail.”
“HELL AWAITS,” blares another photo, one of many mocking their alma mater, Murry Bergtraum HS for Business Careers.
Once the pride of downtown, Bergtraum is now the shame of the city education system — a school and a student body all but abandoned by City Hall, which sits just two blocks away.
The worst part, teachers say: It’s been done on purpose.
“We think they’re consciously destroying it, so Bloomberg can close it down,” one said.
Bergtraum is a “warehouse” school, a last resort for students who have been shut out elsewhere or don’t care where they go.
Mayor Bloomberg has concentrated on opening smaller, more manageable schools, often at the expense of places like Bergtraum, critics say. Meanwhile, 1,800 teens are in a turbulent limbo, epitomized by a 2010 melee, captured in a YouTube video, in which students tussled with safety officers, and one punched a cop in the face. The fight erupted over then-Principal Andrea Lewis’ restriction on restroom visits.
“Bergtraum used to stand for high-quality education, a sought-after name on a young person’s résumé,” said John Elfrank-Dana, a teacher for 23 years. “No more. Now the Bergtraum name conjures up riots.”
It's the fault of the teachers, right?
Undercutting the large schools, making them into dumping grounds when they close all the other large high schools around it, placing high needs kids into the schools without adding the services and personnel needed to handle the influx, putting a couple of incompetent and/or unqualified principals in charge of the school - that's Bloomberg's record not only at Murry Begrtraum but at many of the large schools across the city.
Inside Schools' Clara Hemphill says in the article that she doesn't think Bloomberg purposely went after the large schools to destroy them but rather has nurtured the small schools at the large schools' expense.
I respect Ms. Hemphill greatly, but I think that's a naive statement she's made.
Bloomberg and Gates began destroying the large schools with their Small Schools Movement from the time Bloomberg first got autocratic control of the school system and the method is always the same:
Declare a large school "failing," close it, reopen it as half a dozen new smaller schools.
The students from the large "failing" school then get sent to other large schools around the area, bringing many of the challenges from the old large "failing" school to the new not-yet failing school.
After a couple of years of this process, the new not-yet failing school suddenly gets declared "failing" and the process is repeated again and again.
You can say that Bloomberg's destruction of the large schools hasn't been deliberate, but the evidence doesn't support that.
It's been quite deliberate and Murry Bergtraum, which was still one of those not-yet failing large schools when I first started teaching in 2001 is now the latest emblem of the Bloomberg/Gates policy.
Bloomberg's supporters will say that the new small schools are improving education outcomes for students, so in the end the process is necessary.
But that's not true.
As Juan Gonzalez has pointed in the NY Daily News, Bloomberg's new small schools do not perform any better than the older schools around them and sometimes do a lot worse.
Some of the schools on the closure list this year are small schools opened under the Bloomberg administration.
The point of these policies has been destabilization - plain and simple.
Destabilize the system, destabilize the schools, destabilize the workforce, destabilize the "status quo."
Klein and Bloomberg came to power with little idea of what they wanted to do in the school system other than destroy what existed.
That's why there were four reorganizations, so many curriculum changes (remember RAMP UP?), so many closures and openings and the like.
They haven't been successful at much - the achievement gap between white and Asian students and black and Latino students was as large at the end of Klein's tenure as it was before Klein and Bloomberg took power.
The graduation rates are up, but the rates are as phony as the test scores were a few years ago, inflated by "credit recovery" and other efforts to game the stats.
Most New Yorkers think the school system is either the same or worse off since Bloomberg took it over. 49% say the school system has gotten worse in the last 20 years, another 16% say the quality has remained the same. Just 23% say it has gotten better.
And teachers have never been more demoralized about their professions and the future of the system than they are now, although to be fair, that's not just Bloomberg's fault. Bush, Paige, Spellings, Obama, Duncan, Gates, Broad, King, Tisch, Cuomo and a whole host of hedge fundies have contributed to that as well.
But Bloomberg and his former chancellor were very successful at one thing - they have destabilized the system and set it on the road to privatization.
They've made it very profitable for their buddies in the for-profit education industry, lucrative enough that Klein is now heading up Rupert Murdoch's for profit education division and former councilwoman/Klein buddy Eva Moskowitz declined to run for mayor this year because she's raking in the bucks as a charter entrepreneur.
Again, Murry Begtraum is just another symbol in this cynical game of destabilization, vulture capitalism, and privatization.