Tag Archives: Community Education Council District 30

Schools Chancellor discusses District 30 issues, ‘renewal schools’ plan

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Parents and educators made their voices heard during a town hall meeting for District 30 where topics such as school overcrowding, testing and the start of a renewal program for schools were discussed.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña joined parents and members of the Community District Education Council 30 on Thursday night in Long Island City for a town hall meeting discussing issues and concerns arising in District 30.

Among the topics brought up by audience members — who were asked to write out questions on postcards that CEC 30 members read — included recent school testing, more parent engagement, overcrowding at local schools and the need for mandatory recess.

When answering questions on concerns over recent testing, which has been under criticism for being used mostly to evaluate teachers, Fariña said that the DOE is working to run things more smoothly. She believes that the tests should make up only 30 percent of the teachers’ evaluation, and the rest of the evaluation should be left to the school principals.

However, Fariña added that she does not believe opting out of the state tests is the answer.

“I want to be clear that I do believe in testing. I believe our kids are challenged every day of their lives in different ways,” she said. “As long as I have been with testing, no matter what you call the test, there’s always some stress, there’s always some fear.”

Fariña also brought up the idea of creating diagnostic tests, where students would take one test at the start of the school year and then another at the end of the year in order to evaluate progression.

In regards to parent engagement, Fariña said she wants to increase involvement of parents and guardians. She said she would like more days for parent-teacher conferences, workshops for parents, and even recommended parents start book clubs to not only create relationships but also get an idea of what books their children are assigned to read.

She also added that one of the priorities is to create more programs aimed to parents and children whose first language is not English.

“We’re working on many different levels and we’re trying to make it better for all parents to access all our schools,” Fariña said.

Among other topics discussed during the meeting was the plan to create what the chancellor called “renewal schools.”

Through this model, schools that are struggling, such as Long Island City’s P.S. 111, would become “renewed.” This means that the school day would be extended to at least 5 p.m., the school would offer extra programs with after-school programs also open to parents, health services, academic support, and some form of enrichment activities such as an arts program or physical education.

“Our job is to help struggling schools. Our job is not to close them. Our job is not assume that they have to struggle forever or be failing schools forever, and we’ve gone into the renewal school model with that fully in place,” the schools chancellor said.

At these schools there will also be renewal directors, who will work with principals to provide more support and guidance. The directors will also observe and evaluate teachers at these specific schools to make sure they are a right fit for the site.

“We need to do a wraparound service around these schools so that all the needs are met,” Fariña said. “You can say a school is only about education, but the reality is that it’s a lot more than that. They need to be community hubs. They need to be places where, to the most degree possible, we do everything we can and bar no efforts to get this done.”


DOE adding 6,000 seats in Queens

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

With school congestion having hit the ceiling, the Department of Education (DOE) recently took a step towards giving students supplemental space to let their minds grow.

The DOE recently announced that roughly 6,000 new school seats will be created in Queens, easing overcrowding throughout the borough.

“Over the next two years we plan to add an additional 6,000 seats in Queens, recognizing the growing needs of students and families in the borough,” said DOE spokesperson Matt Mittenthal.

Four new schools will be opened in September 2012 – P.S./I.S. 277 in Jamaica, with 665 seats; Eagle Academy in Jamaica, with an undetermined number of seats; H.S. 585 in Elmhurst, which will house Maspeth High School and contain 1,119 seats; and Middle College High School in Long Island City, with 820 seats. An addition will also be built on P.S. 29 in College Point, accounting for 232 new seats.

“Obviously this is a step in the right direction,” said Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council (CEC) District 24, which covers mid-western Queens. “We need a lot of help in District 24. We are the most overcrowded district in the entire city of New York. We usually have 400 kindergartners that we don’t have seats for – who we try and find seats for all over the district and disperse them everywhere. Even with new seats allocated to us now we are still at the maximum, and as the class sizes are higher, it makes it harder for kids to learn.”

The DOE plans to add seats in the fall of 2013 as well, with four new schools opening – an elementary school in both Corona and East Elmhurst and an elementary school and joint intermediate and high school in Long Island City, accounting for a total of 2,448 seats – and two additions being constructed at Richmond Hill High School and P.S. 87 in Middle Village.

CEC 30 is scheduled to meet on March 15 to discuss the construction of I.S./H.S. 404 – slated to open in L.I.C. in 2013 with 1,071 seats.

“Any new schools that go up, we are excited,” said Isaac Carmignani, co-president of CEC 30. “We need them desperately. We can’t get enough seats in District 30, District 24 and in the entire western Queens area.”

Carmignani says his district is the second most crowded in the city, and with housing booming in L.I.C., there is no way to measure how many additional seats schools will soon require.

“There are high rises and housing developments constantly going up in Hunters Point,” he said. “We are building so much that we never know if we are getting enough seats for students.”

Leonie Haimson, executive director of the education advocacy group Class Size Matters, believes the DOE has grossly underestimated the degree of overcrowding in Queens schools.

“This is still not enough. What is interesting is that the DOE has admitted in the capital plan that they have severely underfunded the need in terms of how many seats should be built for Queens to accommodate enrollment growth,” said Haimson, who believes overcrowding can lead to academic failure and disciplinary issues. “They are underestimating the number of seats necessary to deal with overcrowding, huge class sizes and trailers that have outlived their usefulness. Our sense is that this is getting worse and not better.”