From the NY Times,
When the school now known as the Willie L. Brown Jr. College Preparatory Academy opened in San Francisco’s predominantly black Bayview neighborhood some 18 years ago, it was at the forefront of an ambitious effort to address school performance and segregation without busing children out of the neighborhood. It was once even part of a Dream Schools program that brought millions of dollars in special aid, along with school uniforms, longer school days and Saturday classes.
But those dreams have been thoroughly dashed, and the 160-student school is set to close May 27, largely as a result of chronic student underachievement and high truancy. And for those unfortunate enough to be a part of its final months, conditions have gone from bad to worse.
Parents, teachers and some officials acknowledge a breakdown in teaching and discipline. Students roam the hallways during class time. One teacher has often shown movies rather than press ahead with science lessons. A pack of students looted the school store, with impunity.
Jonathan Woahn, a seventh-grade math teacher, noted that few top district leaders had set foot in the school after announcing last year that it would close.
“The kids rule the school,” Mr. Woahn said. “I think administrators just want us to hold on through the rest of the school year; there are no expectations beyond that.”
Marylin Taylor, whose son Romeo Reeves is an eighth grader at Willie Brown, agreed. Ms. Taylor said staff members took an indifferent approach not only to students, letting them run through the hallways and “holler,” but also sometimes to parents. She said she had left two messages recently with the principal’s office to discuss her son’s academic progress but had not received a return call.
“My son was unable to live up to his highest potential at this school,” said Ms. Taylor, a nursing staffing coordinator. “I am so happy that he won’t be attending that school anymore.”
Patricia Gray, an assistant superintendent in the San Francisco Unified School District, said administrators had persevered.
“It is not ideal,” Ms. Gray said, “but the alternative to doing what we are doing now was to close the school in December, which would have displaced the kids midyear.
“Learning is the main focus. Now, how much of it is happening? It’s difficult at this time. But we have not given up.”
Jill Wynns, a school board member, said the district had tried mightily to raise student achievement. But the school has languished in recent years and been judged harshly under the rules of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
When the federal government granted the district $45 million last year to improve its worst-performing schools, the district moved to close Willie Brown — in part because its facilities were crumbling. Officials hope to build a new school in its place.
“Do I think we have done the best job we could at that school in recent years?” Ms. Wynns asked. “No. That’s why I think it’s time to go on to the next opportunity. In this case, the next opportunity we have is closing the school.”