I stayed up late following the action on GothamSchool's excellent play-by-play post of the decision to close 20 schools in NYC. When a meeting drags on for 9 hours because the speaker list climbs into the hundreds, you know that there are some raw emotions involved, and I'd encourage everybody to at least skim through the post to get a feel for what was being done and said.
But I'm left with very mixed feelings regarding the closures. On the one hand, the process is certainly undemocratic -- the majority of the school board is appointed by Bloomberg, and it doesn't seem like a coincidence that 4 out of 5 of the other appointees voted against school closures while all 9 of his appointees voted for them. The crowd greeted every yea vote by yelling "puppet!" and every nay vote by yelling "leader!" It's pretty clear that a large number of people feel disenfranchised by the way that Bloomberg and Klein are managing the NYC school system.
On the other hand, I have little doubt that at least a few of those 20 schools were horribly mismanaged and had little chance of turnaround in the future. When they decided to phase out the school where I taught, I firmly believed that they were doing the community a favor. After all, it's possible for a decision to be both undemocratic and correct. Maybe the lack of a traditional school board was actually a good thing this time, because traditional school boards have an awfully hard time voting to close schools. And sometimes schools need to be closed.
I don't like the way that the decisions were made -- they might have been the right decisions. The biggest question now is whether the new schools that are put in place will be any better than the old ones.