Banana Kelly High School
BRONX NY 10459 Map
Banana Kelly High School
Founded in the 1990s by the community organization from which it takes its name, Banana Kelly High School has long tried to provide a warm and nurturing environment for students in a neighborhood known for gang violence. The building has a new health and dental clinic. A popular music program includes a drumline and an a cappella group.
Despite its reputation as a place where children get lots of help for social and emotional problems, the school has long suffered from poor attendance and low graduation rates.
In 2012, the Department of Education attempted to change the name of the school as part of what is called a “turnaround” program—which would have allowed the DOE to remove half the staff and collect a significant amount of federal money. A judge blocked that plan, ordering the DOE to retain staff and keep the school open under its current name.
However, many of the best teachers, assuming that they would be forced to reapply for their jobs under the turnaround plan, had already left by the time the court order came down, school officials said.
In December 2012, there was a shift in leadership with Principal Antonio Arocho resigning after only a year on the job and Charlotte Pope, assistant principal at the Holcombe L. Rucker High School of Community Research, which shares the building, named interim acting principal. According to GothamSchools, Pope "oversaw safety and security at the school and helped institute a system for observing teachers." Arocho had replaced long-time principal Joshua Laub in 2011. Laub retired after the DOE first threatened to close the school. Supporters said the school’s graduation rate was poor because Laub had willingly taken in needy students whom other school rejected, according to an article in the Hunt’s Point Express. [See photo by Hunt’s Point Express on this page.] The school’s unusual curriculum was the subject of a piece on the PBS News Hour.
The Banana Kelly community organization, which builds affordable housing, is named for a banana-shaped block in the South Bronx. The high school shares a building with Holcombe L. Rucker High School of Community Research.
Admissions: students are admitted according to the educational option formula designed to ensure a mix of students of different levels of skills. (Clara Hemphill, interviews, July 2012; updated after principal change in December 2012)