Tag Archives: Chancellor Dennis Walcott

Two Queens schools awarded Blue Ribbon


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

There is much ado about being blue at two Queens schools.

P.S. 203 in Oakland Gardens and P.S. 191 in Floral Park were named Blue Ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) this year.

The borough’s high performing schools join three others in the city — Brooklyn’s P.S. 34 Oliver H. Perry School, Bronx Charter School for Excellence and Harlem Success Academy I — and 309 more in the country, according to the DOE.

“To be named a Blue Ribbon school is to join a very special, elite group,” said Carole Nussbaum, principal of P.S. 203. “It is a real ‘wow.’ It is the highest award in education that any school can get.”

An ocean of youngsters in blue shirts gathered at the Oakland Gardens school with Chancellor Dennis Walcott and elected officials on November 29 to celebrate earning the coveted honor, which is based on overall school excellence and progress.

They sang blue-themed songs, like “Blue Moon” and “Blue Suede Shoes,” and wowed the audience with comedic plays explaining how they won the Blue Ribbon through hard work.

“You’re role models for your community and all New Yorkers,” Walcott said. “We hope the Blue Ribbons inspire all students to cultivate a lifelong love of learning.”

Comptroller John Liu, the school’s 1979 valedictorian, said it was “no small feat” to gain national recognition.

“This is also a great day for all of our public schools in New York because it shows what our public schools here in New York City are capable of,” he said.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott speaks about Turnaround, special ed reform at forum


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Concerned parents spoke out about special education reform, set to sweep the city this fall, at a recent Community Education Council 27 forum featuring Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

While the hot topic dominated most of the evening’s conversation at M.S. 137 in Ozone Park, parents, teachers and administrators inquired about a gamut of issues, from students’ health to Turnaround.

One attendee asked why children only have physical education for 40 minutes once a week when childhood obesity is a major problem in the United States. Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm mentioned the “Move to Improve” program, an in-class activity teachers can implement with their students right in the classroom, getting them out of their chairs and in motion, without using any equipment. Grimm also discussed the opportunity for schools to develop a “wellness committee” — an in-school organization dedicated to implementing tools for a healthy lifestyle.

Citywide changes to special education programs dominated the evening’s discussion, however. In September, students with Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) – those struggling with a broad spectrum of issues from reading disorders to physical disabilities – will be integrated into classes with general education students.

Parents present during the meeting expressed feelings of discomfort towards this initiative, fearing it could remove seats in already-crowded classes for general education children. One attendee stormed out of the meeting, repeatedly shouting “You’re lying!”

According to DOE officials, several school districts have few to no students with disabilities in attendance, adding that the new program is about “equality and access.” It was noted that students with special needs will not be “force placed” into classes.

“[The DOE] doesn’t want to see schools with zero percent special education population,” officials said.

Walcott believes it is an initiative that will help all children “flourish.”

It was also announced that no new gifted and talented programs will begin this year, due to lack of demand.

Turnaround remained another touchy subject at the May 15 meeting. Schools selected will receive complete overhauls with “new names, new designs and new emphasis,” according to Walcott.

“Schools need to be changed,” said Walcott. “We need to have the guts to do that.”

Parents, students, staff say Closing Flushing High School ‘Not A Solution’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

While graduation rates at Flushing High School have climbed over the years — and education officials praised some of the school’s “areas of strength” — the extra credit points may not be enough to save the embattled institution.

Hundreds of supporters — sporting anti-Mayor Bloomberg pins — packed Flushing’s auditorium to have their voices heard by the Department of Education (DOE) during an agency-hosted public hearing on April 16.

Flushing is one of 26 high schools on the updated list for Turnaround after seven were removed from the original list of 33 on April 2. If the school is turned around, it would close and reopen under a new name. The students at the school would be guaranteed a seat, and half the teachers would be replaced, according to the DOE.

“Closing the school is not a solution,” said Jenny Chen, who teaches Chinese at the school. “If they change 50 percent of the staff, then it’s going to create a disaster. The students know now where to find help, and they know who they can talk to. I feel angry, and I feel sorry for the students and parents. They don’t deserve that.”

DOE Deputy Chancellor David Weiner said closing and replacing Flushing with a new school would “create a school environment that will prepare students for success, college, work and life.”

The statement launched an avalanche of uproar amongst audience members — many of whom told The Courier they felt improvements made along the years have been overlooked or ignored.

Graduation rates at Flushing have risen from 54 percent in 2007 to 60 percent in 2010, according to the DOE’s report. The review also indicated “areas of strength” at the school, including Flushing’s ability to “maintain a culture of mutual trust and positive attitudes toward learning.”

However, the report states these elements do not particularly help keep the school open, but is instead “worth preserving” in the new school.

“With the new supports and restructuring available under the Turnaround model, we expect that the New School will be able to effectively leverage these areas of strength while improving student outcomes for all students,” the report stated.

James Manning, a junior at the school, said Flushing’s major problems stem from an “overwhelming” population of students who cut school every day, do drugs in the hallway and simply “choose not to learn.” He said this is at no fault to the teachers.

“No matter who you put in front of that classroom, they are still the same kids,” Manning, 16, said.

While senior Sun Lin is graduating as possibly Flushing’s last valedictorian, he said the real honor lies in having attended Flushing for four years — a school he now considers a second home.

“Seeing a home be destroyed is not what I want,” Lin said.

Some supporters said the DOE jumped the gun by already introducing the new school’s proposed principal — Magdalen Radovich — before the city’s Panel for Educational Policy even voted on the closure. The DOE Division of Portfolio Planning hosted the meeting on April 25, and the voting took place a day after on April 26. The Courier went to press before both events.

Is Ridgewood set to get a new school?


| jlane@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos

Kids in a crowded Queens neighborhood will have more room to expand their minds when a new school opens in Ridgewood — though they will have to wait three years.
More than 100 parents attended a public hearing on Tuesday, April 10 held by Community Board 5’s education committee at P.S. 305 on Seneca Avenue, across the street from the proposed site for the new school.

The hearing was held to discuss the building of a new 444-seat, state-of-the-art school and the School Construction Authority (SCA) was on hand to answer questions about the proposed structure.

The site – the St. Aloysius school building which closed last year, has not yet been purchased – but the SCA — which handles the planning, designing and construction of new schools — is in talks with the church to buy the property.

After purchase, an environmental analysis must be done before the school is demolished and a new building constructed. The goal — which the SCA labeled “aggressive” — is to have the school opened by September, 2015.

Parents of children at P.S. 305 are hoping that the new school would be an extension of the school which currently only goes up to the third grade. Twice the school has asked to be expanded to fifth grade, but has been denied. Currently, children graduate to P.S. 81 for fourth and fifth grades before going to a third school for sixth through eighth grades.

The Department of Education (DOE) said it will not have any details on what grades the school will house until the purchase is finalized.
A representative from Councilmember Diana Reyna’s office was on hand and applauded the DOE for addressing the issue of overcrowding in Ridgewood.
“The new primary elementary school at the former St. Aloysius site shows that the SCA and DOE have been listening to the community and have heard the need for the creation of more elementary school spots,” said the spokesperson.

The building will be built to accommodate children from any grades, kindergarten through 8th grade, said Pat Grayson, chair of CB5’s education committee.
At CB5’s monthly meeting the next day, board members approved the construction of the school building.

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.”

Watch Mayor Bloomberg dance to Lady Gaga in State of the City intro video


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Bloom

Before Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his way to the podium for his 11th State of the City speech, he was introduced by a short, entertaining video chronicling his “journey” to get to this year’s speech.  Along the way he poked fun at himself — he danced to Lady Gaga who helped him ring in the new year with a kiss — and issues he has fought for over the years, including bike lanes and taxis in the outer boroughs.  Numerous city officials were featured in the video — Chancellor Dennis Walcott, press secretary Stu Loeser, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan all made appearances.  The scene stealer, though, was former Mayor Ed Koch standing at the entrance of the former Queensboro Bridge shouting at drivers welcoming them to “his” bridge.  Watch the full video below.  What do you think of the video?

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 11/21/2011: NYC Man Arrested For Plotting To Kill U.S. Servicemen In Name Of Al-Qaeda


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

NYC Man Arrested For Plotting To Kill U.S. Servicemen In Name Of Al-Qaeda

A Dominican Republic native living in Washington Heights is under arrest for conspiring to build a bomb for terror purposes and possessing a weapon with the intent of waging a campaign of violence in the name of al-Qaeda, New York City authorities announced Sunday night. Jose Pimentel, 27, was arrested by New York City police on Saturday. Investigators say Pimentel had also planned to use a bomb to kill U.S. military personnel returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He had also allegedly expressed a desire to bomb police patrol cars and postal facilities. Read More: NY1

 

Queens Driver Charged With DWI

A Queens driver is facing multiple charges including driving while intoxicated in connection with a Saturday crash on the Long Island Expressway. Police say 37-year-old John Gilette was driving a Jeep Wrangler onto the expressway Saturday morning near the 48th Street ramp in Maspeth when he swerved into a tractor trailer. Gilette’s car hit the right side cabin of the trailer before hitting a wall. Read More: NY1

Brawl chaos at Astoria club

A Queens nightclub was the scene of a bizarre string of violence that left four men injured early yesterday, authorities said. Several thugs first jumped a 23-year-old man at Amnesia on Steinway Street in Astoria, slashing his back, at about 4:15 a.m., cops said. As the thugs ran out of the hot spot, other clubgoers fled, too, authorities said. One of the alleged attackers, Orlando Santos, 18, was running when a car — not believed to be connected to the fight — struck him, dislocating his hip. Read More: New York Post

Former Mayor Giuliani Pushes For More Nuclear Energy Use In Astoria Forum

The Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum in Astoria Friday with experts and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the keynote speaker, to discuss possibilities for clean and sustainable energy use, as the Bloomberg administration estimates the city will have one million more people by 2030. Watch the Video: NY1

Parents rip NYC schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott over ‘chaos’ at Queens high school

 

A Queens high school where the daughter of city schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott teaches gym is so disorganized that many students don’t know where their classes are or when they start. Some kids at Metropolitan High School in Forest Hills have gotten 10 different class schedules in 11 weeks of instruction, angry parents say. But this is all news to Walcott, because he refuses to talk shop with his daughter. Read More: Daily News

Two Queens schools may be targeted for closure


| brennison@queenscourier.com

A month after new Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott put underperforming middle schools on notice, a list of 20 schools targeted for potential closure was released.

Every school but one on the list received a “D” or an “F” on the school progress reports that were released in September.

Two Queens schools find their name on the list – P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott in Woodmere and P.S. 181 Brookfield in Springfield Gardens.

P.S. 215 in Woodmere received an “F” on the most recent progress report. The other Queens school, P.S. 181 in Springfield Gardens, received a “D.”

Minorities comprise over 96 percent of the student body at each school and 90 percent of the students at P.S. 215 qualify for free lunch.

The schools each performed one grade worse than they did on last year’s progress report. P.S. 215 received a “D” on last year’s report, while P.S. 181 received a “C.”

Though the schools received low grades, parents do not agree they should close.

“[It] is a real good school, they learn a lot there and I don’t think they should close it,” said Mira Calbert, mother of three at P.S. 181.

“I hope they keep it open,” added Paul Munroe, father of two at P.S. 181.

The schools on the list are only in the first stage of evaluations. Any decisions on which schools will close will not come until mid-December at the earliest. An additional list with high schools will be released this month following their progress reports.

Each school on the list will be handled differently, depending on the needs of the school.

“The goal of these discussions is to gain a better understanding of where weaknesses in their educational strategy lie and why they are struggling,” Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg said in a statement.

Schools that are targeted for closure will be phased out and replaced, not closed down completely.

Last year’s list included 12 Queens schools – none of which were closed.

– Additional reporting by Ricky Casiano