Blast from the past: Recchia, a Dewey graduate, says his alma mater and its principal must go

Brooklyn Daily
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Talk about a blast from the past!

John Dewey High School alum and Councilman Domenic Recchia wants the city to gut his struggling Gravesend alma mater by axing half of its staff and cutting off the school’s head, longtime Principal Barry Fried — the man the lawmaker says killed the Avenue X school’s alumni association.

Recchia — who graduated in 1977 — says Fried is responsible for Dewey’s decline because he has been unwilling to reign in unruly students.

“Principal Fried sits in his office all day and can’t control the students,” Recchia (D–Coney Island) said during a recent Community Board 13 meeting at Coney Island Hospital. “This principal should have been gone years ago. The school could prosper but it needs new leadership.”

Recchia also blasted Fried for shutting down the school’s alumni association after members began complaining about the school’s poor performance.

“No principal who freezes out his alumni association deserves to be a principal,” Recchia said.

Yet Fried says Recchia is completely off base: graduation rates at John Dewey High School have increased by 10 percent since 2009 and the school just received an influx of sports teams — examples that it is improving.

Recchia’s comments came as a complete surprise, Fried said.

“I thought Dominic and I had a good working relationsh­ip,” he said. “I’m hurt by this. The school has had its ups and downs but I’m proud of the strides we’ve made.”

School staffers want to give Recchia an F for wanting to unload Fried.

“Dewey has a lot of good things going on, but I’m worried for the staff and I’m worried for the students,” said a longtime worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Dewey, which was formed in the 1960s as “The New School” after a group of high school reformers pushed for a new education model, is on the state’s list of chronically low-achieving schools and has received Cs on its last three city-issued report cards.

The Department of Education wants to shut Dewey down and resurrect it as a “turnaround school” — putting it in a program where federal money is used to stabilize a school, but only after the principal and 50 percent of the school’s staff are given their walking papers. Sheepshead Bay High School and William E. Grady High School are also being considered for the program.

The state’s Panel for Education Policy will vote on the Department of Education’s plans for Dewey this spring.

According to Department of Education spokesman Frank Thomas, Dewey — whose other famous alums include Spike Lee, actor Geoffrey Owens, and scientist Robert Sapolsky — can only benefit from the overhaul.

“This is an opportunity to assess and keep what is working, and also bring in a new wave of talent,” he said.

But Fried won’t benefit at all: if he’s booted from Dewey, his days with the Department of Education could be numbered, explained Thomas, who said that it was unclear if principals removed by the turnaround program would be assigned to other public schools.

“Those decisions will be made on a case by case basis,” Thomas said.

Updated 5:06 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reader feedback

deweyite from coney island says:
not just Fried....staff is a mess , the kids more than unruly...a lot of good in here but a lot of crap too
Feb. 3, 2012, 8:06 am
John Dewey Teacher from Gravesend says:
Dewey does not deserve to be shut down. The legacy of Dewey's progressive educational philosophy should be nurtured and replicated. Dewey's data speaks for itself. College readiness among Dewey graduates is 8.5% higher than the city average. Our freshmen who receive the required 10 credits has gone up 20% in three years to 78.2%. Our graduation rates are steadily rising and are slightly higher than the city average. I am wondering, why does Bloomberg really want to close our steadily improving school? Save our school.
Feb. 3, 2012, 9:07 am
Maria from coneyisland says:
Sits in his office? How about that he teaches a class? The kids and parents know him and he helps them how about those things? Dewey is not the Dewey it was 20 years ago the school is making many improvements. No one wants to see the good things and that many of these kids feel like this is their home. This school has some of the most caring staff you will ever see.
Feb. 3, 2012, 10:06 am
Wanda from CI says:
Instead of helping Dewey at the town hall meeting last year he talked about Murrow HS. Parents were outraged. What is realy going on here. He is an alumni you say real dewey people stand by the school and support it. Where will our children go to school? so disgusted with all this what about the parents who can't afford private school what happens to our kids.
Feb. 3, 2012, 11:26 am
unknown from Coney Island says:
I see Mr. Recchia is standing outside the school this picture has to be recent see the date stand outside the school for a photo op but do not come in and help what is supposed to be the people you represent not nice
Feb. 3, 2012, 1:52 pm
Jennifer from Bay Ridge says:
Mr. Recchia is trying to rally constituents by finger-pointing? How about taking a stand behind Dewey, celebrating its accomplishments and assisting the staff in accomplishing its goals? Probably too courageous. It might help to accomplish his REAL motive, though, which is to get votes...
Feb. 3, 2012, 6:55 pm
gip from Bensonhurst says:
Most of the teachers at Dewey are GREAT! They sacrifice so much of their personal time to help their students and are wonderful in the classroom. This is outrageous to do this to the careers of talented educators who have dedicated so much of their lives to their profession and their students.
Feb. 3, 2012, 9:09 pm
Steve from Midwood says:
I am an alumni. It is distressing to hear what is happening. From an outsiders view, it seems the people who work at Dewey are trying to defended it but it is not where it needs to be. If this were a corporation, the ceo would be fired and heads would roll. Make the change.
Feb. 4, 2012, 12:02 pm
Moustafa from Kensington says:
This story is nonsensical. Fried and Recchia are far from being at odds with one another, personally or philosophically. They have both received their orders from the mayor and the DOE to bring John Dewey High School to the point where large numbers of "overpriced" staff can be effortlessly dismissed. The loss of veteran teachers will only further under erode Dewey's academic viability leading eventually to its closure, becoming easy fodder for Eva Moskowitz's charter school machine. Daniel Bush understands nothing about the twisted and malevolent machinations of the Bloomberg minions.
Feb. 9, 2012, 6:14 pm
Rest In Peace (1969 - 2012) from Bensonhurst says:
Im a former student. I attended Dewey during the 80s when there were no metal detectors and the locker bays were still in use. If Bloomberg indeed succeeds in turning it into a charter school he shouldn't bother. Just shut it down completely. Sell the land its on and turn it into a mall or something. If Dewey cant be what it was originally attended be then let it die.
Feb. 9, 2012, 10:04 pm
John from K says:
With 75% minorities, what do you expect?
March 13, 2012, 11:56 pm
Joey from Brooklyn says:
About that kindest thing that you could say about Domenic is that he was far from the brightest kid in the class of '77. Finding that he is now champion of the Blame Fried brigade is no surprise. Where was Domenic for the last 10 years? Where was he when the City closed Lafayette and dumped hundreds of kids on Dewey who didn't belong there? Oh, never mind, I forgot, he was kissing the Mayor's butt and working against his constituents interests by voting in vavor of putting tolls on the East River bridges.
March 21, 2012, 11:25 pm
student from brooklyn says:
@john thats pretty mean.when kids dont have standards what do you expect, this is not a race matter. all teens can be rude and un manerly. some parents dont bring they child up with respect. its not fair to say because of minorities.
May 12, 2012, 3:59 pm
k from bklyn says:
when i was at dewey so-called minorities were not a problem. most students who did not behave in the way their racist parents taught them made it better.
Jan. 22, 6:18 pm

Comments closed.

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