The Julia Richman Complex

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The New York Amsterdam News

Neighborhood rallies to keep Julia Richman

Caption: Rev. Al Sharpton, students and community members rally outside Hunter College. (Bill Moore photo)

By Daa'iya L. Sanusi
Special to the AmNews

Upper East-siders are not generally known for their street demonstrations, but the community that has come to embrace the Julia Richman Educational Complex and its stellar accomplishments descended on East 67th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues to defend something exceptional, one of the most highly praised public schools in the country. And in order to get real attention for their cause, they consulted with the Reverend Al Sharpton and New York City Councilmember Robert Jackson, veteran education advocate and parent activist.

The East Side community residents and parents, staff and students rallied and marched to demand an immediate halt to the land grab slated for this summer, when some of the community residents and parents will be away.

One of the community residents explained why she became involved. "Like many people my first reaction to the Hunter proposal was a simple one. I don't want my neighborhood to change, so i got involved. In getting involved I've learned a lot about the people and the schools in this building. These schools are national models for remaking urban education. They are path-breaking, award-winning schools, and they are successful in providing a quality education in a positive environment. We as a community are proud to have these successful public schools in our neighborhood, and we desperately need public schools in this community, which Hunter College would permanently remove from this neighborhood. Public schools should be at the core of residential neighborhoods.

The Julia Richman Educational Complex is under imminent threat of being taken over by Hunter College in order to be demolished and replaced by a science complex located conveniently for the college. Chairman of the new Education Committee of New York City Council, Robert Jackson revealed, "I didn't learn about these plans from the Department of Education (DOE), but from other individuals. None of the parents or administrators, to my understanding, was consulted about the plans before a handshake between the City of New York and Hunter College established their decision. As parents, community and administrators, who will be dramatically impacted by this plan, you have a right to consult with the DOE before any decision is reached."

The work that went into transforming Julia Richman from a symbol of educational failure to the shining leader of the small school model is an accomplishment the Reverend Sharpton would like to see in every struggling public school. He had this to say to the protesters: "Julia Richman is a symbol of what can happen if young people and teachers and administrators work together. And now the reward for what you have accomplished should not be to evict you. We tell young people to go to school and these young people have done that. We tell them to get together no matter their race, nationality or economic status and they have done that. And the way to respond to that is to exult them, and I am here to tell you that we are with you."

An amazing student from Urban Academy, one of the six highly acclaimed schools in the Julia Richman Educational Complex (JREC), is Kiri Davis, who as a part of a school assignment produced a film called "A Girl Like Me" that uses JREC students to reproduce the legendary Kenneth and Mamie Clark study, including the famous doll test, chronicling how race disparity affects children.

Kiri Davis was the only child at the Tribeca Film Festival, last year, and she won an award at the SilverDocs documentary festival. Ebony Magazine named Kiri Davis one of the 150 most influential African-Americans in the country because of the impact of her film and her work as a young person in film. She also has received a scholarship from the Gates Millennium Award, which will pay her tuition at college through the Ph.D.

The young Ms. Davis was asked if she felt that moving her school, JREC, would negatively impact upon the students. She replied affirmatively, "Definitely, this is our community, this is our home."

To learn how to support JREC, call 1-917-679-8343 or go to and click on "save jrec."

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