At a meeting before the winter vacation, teacher Stacy Lyles says, DOE officials, including Sloves, weren't able to answer students' most basic questions, such as whether they would be permitted to apply late to special programs that had already held auditions. "They just didn't seem to be prepared," Lyles says.

As time goes on, Sloves believes, issues are sure to resolve at Agnes Humphrey, as they usually do at other schools. Sloves recalls a visit to Brooklyn's Lafayette High School earlier this year. When the DOE announced in 2007 that it would close Lafayette, teachers and students went to the press with their protests. So when a teacher identified Sloves as a DOE emissary earlier this year, saying, "You're from Tweed, aren't you? I have something to tell you!", Sloves says he wasn't prepared for what came next.

The teacher, Rick Mangone, wanted to tell Sloves that the DOE's decision to close Lafayette had brought about major improvements at the school. Those efforts, he says, include a special program for students who need only a few credits to graduate, something that Sloves encourages as schools near their final closing day. Mangone, the head of Lafayette's teachers' union, was initially one of the most vocal opponents of the school's closure, but now says, "I think this was a winner for the DOE.

Sam Sloves at a soon-to-be-"transformed"city school
Jeremy Bales
Sam Sloves at a soon-to-be-"transformed"city school

"I didn't agree with it initially, and I was hurt, but now I truly understand why they wanted to do something," he says. "It's a healthy environment, even though it's a sad one."

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