New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced his proposal to create a high school named in honor of the late Pulitzer Prize winning author Frank McCourt at a memorial service to celebrate McCourt’s life and work held at Symphony Space in upper Manhattan last week.
When finalized the new school will open on Manhattan’s Brandeis campus located on the Upper West Side in September 2010. Initially it will serve ninth graders, with additional grades being phased in annually until the process is complete during the 2013-14 school year.
McCourt, the Irish American author of the international bestseller Angela’s Ashes, worked as a New York City public school educator for 29 years, including 15 years as a teacher of English and creative writing at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan until his retirement in 1987.
In a statement Klein said, “Frank McCourt was a remarkable writer, but I believe he achieved his greatest impact as a New York City public school teacher for 29 years. I’m pleased to announce our intention to honor his legacy through creation of a new public school that will nurture the academic and creative talents of New York City students for generations to come.”
Congressman Charles Rangel told the press, “I can’t think of a better way to remember the life of Frank McCourt, not just a Pulitzer Prize winner, but a longtime public school teacher and child of immigrant parents, than to create this school in his honor.”
The McCourt School proposal was shaped though input from parents, education advocates, and elected officials. In the coming months a community hearing will be convened to gather additional feedback before the Panel for Educational Policy votes on the final proposal. If approved, the school would meet demand for creation of an additional citywide, selective high school.
Klein’s announcement that a new school would be named in McCourt’s honor amused his brother Malachy, who told the crowd at the memorial service, “Frank always said, whenever they are talking about education, they always have people who are nowhere near a classroom discussing it, so he would be amused at this whole idea of them naming a school after him.”
McCourt passed away on July 19 after a battle with cancer. He was 78.
Malachy, 76, the brother closest to Frank’s age, recalled at the memorial how he had warned his older brother to tell the truth and spare nothing during the writing of Angela’s Ashes.
“There will be no spine in your book unless you tell the truth,” Malachy counseled, adding that its unexpected success had changed his life too. “I’m writing a new work now. It’s called, I Read Your Brother’s Book.”
Irish consul general in New York Niall Burgess told the audience how he had first come to know Frank over 20 years ago in Chicago, and how Frank’s experience as an emigrant has helped shape him.
“Frank was an emigrant. His book reflects the experiences of thousands of other emigrants. Frank described what it felt like to emigrate here in the middle of the last century,” McCourt said.