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No Need for Another Selective High School Downtown, DOE Says

By Julie Shapiro | October 29, 2010 1:47pm
Millennium High School hopes to expand into space at 26 Broadway, the former Standard Oil tower, but the Department of Education plans to put in a less selective school instead.
Millennium High School hopes to expand into space at 26 Broadway, the former Standard Oil tower, but the Department of Education plans to put in a less selective school instead.
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Flickr/warsze

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Lower Manhattan does not need another Millennium High School, city officials said Thursday.

Millennium Principal Robert Rhodes, backed by local parents and politicians, has been pushing the city to open a second Millennium campus in vacant space at 26 Broadway so the popular, highly selective school can serve more students.

But the Department of Education plans to move a high school without specialized admissions requirements from elsewhere in Manhattan into the space instead, said Lenny Speiller, the DOE’s executive director of public affairs.

"We believe the real need in this district is for unscreened high school seats, not selective seats," Speiller said Thursday at a meeting of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s school overcrowding taskforce.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the downtown community does not want an unscreened school in 26 Broadway.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the downtown community does not want an unscreened school in 26 Broadway.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

Parents disagreed, saying Millennium’s 3 percent admissions rate this year shows that the school in high demand. And they said few local students would want to attend an unscreened high school, which chooses its incoming class by lottery.

"It’s important that the [26 Broadway] space be used by a school serving local [students], rather than children from other neighborhoods," said Silver, who has strongly advocated for Millennium to expand.

Speiller said no final decision has been made.

Several parents and Community Education Council members said they heard the DOE is eyeing the unscreened Richard Green High School on the Upper East Side for 26 Broadway next fall. The idea would be to free up Richard Green’s current building to alleviate elementary school overcrowding uptown, the parents said.

Richard Green has no admissions requirements and in 2009 had a 64 percent graduation rate.

Millennium, which offers preference to students who live below Houston Street, admits only those with A averages, good attendance and top test scores. In 2009, the school had a 97 percent graduation rate.

"It is a great success, so why not extend that and let it continue to be an even greater success?" asked Paul Hovitz, a downtown education activist.

As a compromise, the DOE is considering opening another Millennium in Brooklyn, which would open up some seats in the original 75 Broad St. location. Thirty-five percent of Millennium’s ninth grade this year comes from Brooklyn, and the need for selective schools is much greater there, Speiller said.

However, opening a second campus so far away would make it more difficult for the two schools to share resources and cross-register students in AP classes, sports and art programs, which was part of Rhodes’ original idea.

The Department of Education will announce its decision on 26 Broadway by the first week in December, Speiller said, and then the plan will undergo public review.