Tag Archives: August Martin

Turnaround schools get new names


| brennison@queenscourier.com


When the seven Queens Turnaround high schools reopen their doors, it will be under a new name.

The names were chosen through a process of engagement with students, staff, community members, alumni and elected officials.

“I want to congratulate all 24 schools on a thorough process to propose school names that honor their histories, their neighborhoods and their new visions for success,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The schools new names are as follows:

August Martin- School of Opportunities at the August Martin Campus

Bryant- Academy of Humanities and Applied Science at the William Cullen Bryant Campus

Flushing- Rupert B. Thomas Academy at the Flushing Campus

John Adams- Future Leaders High School at the John Adams Campus

Long Island City- Global Scholars Academies of Long Island City

Newtown- College and Career Academies High School at Newtown Campus

Richmond Hill- 21st Century School of Richmond Hill

Seven Queens high schools close their doors for good


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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The final bell rang for the seven Queens Turnaround high schools as the last students passed through the doors of what the city graded as failing institutions.

Wednesday, June 27, marked the final day of class for August Martin, Flushing, John Adams, Long Island City, Newtown, Richmond Hill and William C. Bryant after the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close the schools in April. Seventeen other high schools around the city have also closed.

Under the Turnaround model, the schools will reopen in the fall under a new name with half the staff possibly replaced.

“I guess I’m happy that I’m the last graduating class of this high school but at the same time it’s disappointing because we’re not coming back and half of these teachers are not coming back at all,” said Newtown senior Adianes Dalle, fighting back tears. “I tried my best to keep it open… There’s no point in coming to visit because [the teachers] are not going to be here.”

The state’s Education Department approved the closings on Friday, June 22, saying they met New York’s requirements.

“I’m disappointed that I’m not going to finish my career here,” said Bryant teacher Mike Sherwood, who has been at the school for 20 years.

The Queens schools shutting their doors were all on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools, and were receiving federal Race to the Top funding before negotiations broke down between the city and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) on an evaluation system.

Flushing teacher Robert Pomeranz called the Turnaround “a trick by renaming and renumbering.”

“Next year, the new school won’t have statistics that will count for another three years. It is a trick by the mayor and his flunkies.”

By instituting the Turnaround model — a program which does not require teacher evaluations — the city was eligible to apply for up to $60 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from the state.

That funding has been provisionally approved by the state pending the outcome of arbitration.

“My conditional approval of these plans is contingent on the NYC DOE’s ability to meet the relevant staff replacement requirements, ongoing consultation and collaboration with stakeholders,” state Education Commissioner John King wrote in a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The UFT filed a lawsuit in May saying the method of replacing teachers at the turnaround schools violated their contracts.

An arbitrator will determine if the DOE has properly staffed the turnaround schools.

If the arbitrator decides against the DOE — which says it is properly following the guidelines in the teachers’ contract — the department may revisit and consider additional staff from the closed school in order to receive SIG funds. The DOE said that the fact that the state education commissioner approved the closures will be brought the arbiter’s attention.

Though the federal funding is important to supporting the new institutions, the spokesperson said, the main mission of the turnaround plan was developing a strategy to improve student achievement.

Committees composed of representatives from the UFT and DOE will make the decision on whether former teachers meet the qualifications at the new school.

The final decisions on hirings cannot be made until after the arbitrator’s decision, the UFT said, which the union expects soon.

“No final personnel decisions involving these schools can be made until the arbitrator rules on the UFT’s contention that these are not really new schools,” a UFT spokesperson said.

— Additional reporting by Chris Brito

UFT sues to prevent school closings


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators (CSA) are hoping to “turnaround” the city’s decision to close 24 schools in court.

The organizations filed suit today in State Supreme Court, seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction until issues surrounding the Department of Education’s (DOE) Turnaround plan can be resolved through arbitration, UFT officials said.

Under Turnaround, 24 city schools — including seven in Queens — will close at the end of the semester and reopen under a new name in the fall. While non-graduating students at each school will be guaranteed a seat, teachers will have to reapply for their jobs, according to the DOE. If 50 percent of the former teachers reapply, at least that amount will have to be rehired.

“These ‘sham closings’ are an attempt by the DOE to evade its duty to help these struggling schools succeed,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew and CSA President Ernest Logan in a joint statement.

The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) — made up of five representatives chosen by the borough presidents and seven others who are selected by Mayor Michael Bloomberg — voted 8-4 to close the schools on April 26.

The mayor’s appointees and the representative from Staten Island — which had no schools on the list — voted for the Turnaround plan, while the other four voted against the measure, according to published reports.

“We are asking the court to ensure that no final decisions are made on the staffing of these schools, pending an independent review by an arbitrator on the issue of whether the DOE is trying to get around its labor agreements,” the statement said.

According to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, preparations have already been made to open the new schools in September, including training leadership teams and holding meetings with the UFT to begin the process of staffing the new schools. He said the lawsuit “could have damaging consequences for that process, jeopardizing the creation of exciting new schools with new programs, teachers and leadership structures.”

“The UFT and CSA have shown that they would rather leave our students’ futures to the courts than do the difficult work of turning around failing schools and giving students the education they deserve,” Walcott said in a statement. “Our strategy of replacing failing schools has led to major gains in achievement and graduation rates, and we pledge to extend that progress no matter what special interest groups try to obstruct it.”

The seven closing Queens schools are August Martin, Bryant, Flushing, John Adams, Long Island City, Newtown and Richmond Hill High School. They were all on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools, and were receiving federal Race to the Top funding before negotiations broke down between the city and the UFT on an evaluation system.

By instituting the Turnaround model — a program which does not require teacher evaluations — the city will be eligible to apply for up to $60 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from the state.

According to UFT and CSA officials, unless the DOE agrees that it has improperly identified the 24 schools, the issue will go before an independent arbitrator.

 

Seven Queens high schools to close


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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Seven Queens high schools had their fates sealed and doors closed by a Panel of Educational Policy (PEP) vote last night in Brooklyn.

The schools — August Martin, Bryant, Flushing, John Adams, Long Island City, Newtown and Richmond Hill — will close at the end of this semester and reopen in the fall under a new name with up to 50 percent new teachers.  A total of 24 schools throughout the city will be closed.

Yesterday, Grover Cleveland was one of two schools removed from the list of schools slated to close prior to the vote.

“Over the past several weeks, during public hearings and visits from my senior leadership, we looked closely at schools whose performance and quality of instruction have shown positive signs in the last two years. We have come to believe that two of those schools – Grover Cleveland High School and Bushwick Community High School – have demonstrated an ability to continue their improvements without the more comprehensive actions that are clearly needed at 24 other schools,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

The PEP is made up of five representatives chosen by the borough presidents and seven selected by the mayor.

The mayors appointees and the representative from Staten Island — which had no schools on the list — voted for the turnaround plan, the other four voted against the measure, according to published reports.

 

Community comes out for August Martin


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The Courier / Photos

In the past year, August Martin High School has been entered into the city’s restart program, lost a principal and twice been placed on the list of schools to close, which had many community leaders asking why their high school was being targeted.

“This is not about the progress of August Martin; this is political,” said Rona Freiser, a Queens United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative and teacher at the school for 28 years, at a rally. “[Mayor Michael Bloomberg] is vengeful.”
August Martin is one of 26 high schools on the list for Turnaround. The Department of Education (DOE) held a public hearing at the school on Monday, April 16 to allow for community input on the proposed closure.

“The DOE does not listen. This [hearing] is just to make it legal,” said State Senator Shirley Huntley. “It is part of the process, the process to destroy our children.”
If the Jamaica school is turned around, it would close and reopen under a new name. The students at the school would be guaranteed a spot and half the teachers would possibly be replaced.

“Schools always need to be made better, but you need resources,” said Huntley. “When you close a school and reopen it, you spend more money than if you just give the schools the resources and let it function.”

The high school was entered into the restart program in September, which qualified it for School Improvement Grants (SIG), but because the UFT and DOE failed to come to an agreement on teacher evaluations, the money dried up and put August Martin in line for Turnaround.
The restart model is meant for schools to receive support to improve and not be closed.

Had the two sides reached an agreement, the school would have continued its course in the restart program, a DOE spokesperson said.
“There is no educational justification for closing down this school. And it’s not just that the school has a graduation rate better than the average in the city,” said Leo Casey, the UFT vice president for high schools.

The school’s graduation rate has improved from 49 percent in 2009 to 67 percent last year; the city-wide average was 65 percent. The school received a “D” on its most recent progress report.

“It takes a community to raise a child and one bad mayor to destroy that same child,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills.

Anthony Cromer, August Martin’s former principal, resigned on Thursday, April 5, though many involved in the school say he was forced out.
“[Cromer] should have had the chance to leave the school with dignity, instead he was led out,” said Assemblymember Vivian Cook, who said she was told by Cromer that he did not want to step down.

Gillian Smith was installed as the school’s principal and DOE Deputy Chancellor March Steinberg said she would be the proposed leader of the new school.
“How do you expect the school to grow when you do that to a principal and expect the kids to care anymore?” asked Cleavon Evans, president of the August Martin Alumni Association.

Many students broke down at the sight of their principal being led away, said the school’s parent-teacher-student association president, Jose Ferruzola.
“It was traumatic to see their principal taken out like a criminal.”

The final vote on the school’s future is scheduled for April 26.

 

Community says changing the name of August Martin HS destroys legacy


| brennison@queenscourier.com


For students and graduates of August Martin High School, the name’s significance far surpasses letters emblazoned on the front of a school building. It exemplifies legacy, tradition and achievement. It represents a man that everyone that walks through the doors can look to as an example of triumph.

In 1971, the school’s named was changed from Woodrow Wilson to August Martin, honoring the country’s first black commercial pilot.

The Jamaica high school currently finds itself is on the list of schools planning to be turned around, meaning the school may close and reopen under a new name.

“If we allow August Martin to be taken off this building, what it does is simply does away with history,” said Ricky Davis, a commercial pilot and teacher of aviation at the school. “It does away with the struggle of our ancestors.”

The predominantly black school is just three miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport and the only school that allows students the opportunity to man an aircraft. Approximately 300 students are enrolled in the aviation program. Every Thursday, Davis takes his class to fly, sometimes solo, allowing students to obtain hours towards a pilot license.

“I would never be in favor of getting rid of the name August Martin,” said Councilmember James Sanders. “I would be very much in favor of keeping tradition; keeping a legacy going.”

Martin, a Tuskegee Airman, was killed in 1968 while delivering goods to Biafra during the Nigerian civil war.

“That name means something, because if it wasn’t for a man like that, guess what, [Chancellor Dennis Walcott] wouldn’t have his job,” said Cleavon Evans August Martin’s Alumni Association president. “You want to take that name and destroy it? How disrespectful to this community.”

A handful of students attended Monday, April 16’s public hearing on the school’s potential closure proudly displaying their pilot stripes earned at the school.

“[The DOE] doesn’t understand that this school is rooted in the community. They don’t understand that [Martin] learned to fly in Tuskegee, they don’t understand that he died bringing goods to children in Biafra,” said Leo Casey, the UFT vice president for high schools. “They think that a name is like a number, that you can just change it. Well, this school has history and this school cannot die.”