Tag Archives: Department of Education

Ridgewood high school improving but still faces state takeover

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Although Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood has seen improving graduation rates and student performance over the last few years, it remains vulnerable to a possible state takeover, educators said during a public hearing at the school Saturday.

Parents, students and teachers filled the Grover Cleveland auditorium on Saturday morning to talk about the performance of the struggling school and the possibility of the school’s receivership, while providing recommendations on how to improve the high school.

Earlier this year Grover Cleveland High School, along with 61 other New York City schools, was identified as struggling or persistently struggling by the New York State Education Department (DOE). If the school does not improve student performance and graduation rates, Grover Cleveland may fall into receivership, meaning that the school will be taken over by an outside entity and divided into several smaller schools.

At the public hearing, Grover Cleveland High School’s principal, Denise Vittor, acknowledged the school’s troubles, but pointed to recent improvements in graduation rates and attendance as signs of hope.

The four-year graduation rate for Grover Cleveland High School for June graduation was at 53 percent in the 2012-13 school year, and 51 percent in the 2013-14 school year. By the August graduation for those students who did not graduate in June, those numbers increased to 60.2 percent in 2012-13 and 58 percent in 2013-14.

“As you see, in June we did not reach 60 percent [graduation rate], which is the benchmark for all New York State schools,” Vittor said. “But by August, we were at 60.2 graduation rate. In 2013-14 we missed a lot. But I am proud to say, this year we had 60.7 graduation rate in June and 62.5 by August.”

Grover Cleveland’s goals for graduation rates for the 2015-16 school year are 63 percent for the June graduation and 65 percent in August, above the required 60 percent.

“As you saw when Principal Vittor presented the data, Grover Cleveland is on the fast-track for coming off of the struggling list,” said Elaine Lindsey, DOE high school superintendent. “So we are believing that by the end of this school year, that Grover Cleveland should not be considered a struggling school based on the data that we saw presented today.”

To keep these numbers rising, Vittor explained her school’s use of “six elements of the framework for great schools”: rigorous instruction, a supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family and community ties, and trust.

One area of concern for parents was the amount of funding the school receives for electronic resources. Vittor explained that the school receives approximately $20,000.

“We are a smartboard school, which means we have smartboards in every classroom, that’s the goal,” Vittor said. “Each smartboard is $6,500, so $20,000 doesn’t go very far … we will ask our elected officials to assist us again.”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo made it clear that he intends to continually support Grover Cleveland and help it get off the struggling list.

“I am ready and willing to work with the entire Grover Cleveland High School community to help protect this school from receivership, improve its graduation rates and increase parental participation,” Addabbo said in a statement. “Engaging more parents in the education of their children is key to improving outcomes for students, as well as creating stronger families and communities. I look forward to working towards protecting Grover Cleveland for generations of students to come.”

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, a graduate of Grover Cleveland, vowed to lend her support for her former school.

“As the elected representative of the 37th Assembly district and a 1976 graduate of Grover Cleveland High school, I want to voice my support for the school,” Nolan said in a statement. “Cleveland has struggled, but under the leadership of Principal Vittor it is getting back on track and has a lot to offer. With the right support and resources, I believe the school can be the best version of itself … I will continue to support and advocate for Cleveland, a Ridgewood institution that is so incredibly important to us.”

During the public comment period, some parents suggested that the school send home a syllabus so parents can become more involved with their children’s work. Others suggested increasing the number of guidance counselors at the school to better prepare college-bound students, and several students suggested creating more sports teams and afterschool clubs so students will become more interested in their school.

To provide input on improving Grover Cleveland High School, send an email to receivership@schools.nyc.gov.


Public hearing to be held in Ridgewood for struggling Grover Cleveland HS

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

COURIER/File photo

The future of the struggling Grover Cleveland High School will be the focus of a special public hearing next Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Ridgewood institution.

The school, located at 21-27 Himrod St., has been listed as one of 62 New York City schools that have been identified by the state Department of Education (DOE) as either struggling or persistently struggling. These schools are in danger of being placed under receivership by the state without quick improvement in academic performance in the next year.

The purpose of the public hearings is for the DOE to solicit input through public engagement regarding recommendations for improving the school.

The public is encouraged to sign up to speak at the hearing to voice their concerns and ideas for the school. Written comments will also be collected on the day of the hearing and can be submitted via the online feedback form as well.

The hearing will take place on Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For those who cannot attend the hearing, they may submit comments by mail to the NYC Department of Education, State/Federal Education Policy and School Improvement Programs, 52 Chambers St., Room 320, New York, NY 10007, or through email to Receivership@schools.nyc.gov.


Star of Queens: Montell Moseley, paraprofessional, DOE

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Montell Moseley

PERSONAL BACKGROUND: Montell Moseley attended the St. Pascal’s Catholic elementary school in Hollis, Queens, where she met members of the rap group Run DMC. She graduated from Bayside High School in 1986, received a bachelor’s degree from Empire State College and finished her education with a master’s degree in New York Institute of Technology. She is the 10th of 12 children.

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND AND CAREER: Moseley has worked for Department of Education as paraprofessional for more than 20 years with developmentally disabled and autistic elementary school children. Before that, she spent five years working for state group homes housing developmentally disabled people, and is currently in the process of creating a nonprofit youth agency for at-risk children and juvenile first offenders.

MOTIVATION TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE COMMUNITY: She said she enjoys caring for other human beings who don’t have a job or the talents to help themselves, and wants to listen to and hear them.

“I had a passion to give back, it makes me feel happy,” Moseley said.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Jump-starting her grassroots effort to run for City Council. Moseley needs 2,600 signatures to fulfill her dream of running for the City Council seat in the 24th District, and is meeting the community and knocking on doors to get the support she would need as a political contender.

“They may say no, or they may say yes,” Moseley said.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS: Being a single parent. Her son, 23, overcame cancer and is blind in one eye. Moseley said her daughter, 20, had a lot of trouble dealing with the emotional effects of their situation, but as the girl got older she began to understand how hard it was for her family to cope.


LIC organization provides free supplies to educators

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

One Long Island City group is changing the lives of educators throughout the city and teaching them that every object — whether it is a poster or an outdated cellphone case — has a second life.

The organizers behind Materials for the Arts (MFTA), located at 33-00 Northern Blvd., want to spread the word about their mission to as many teachers and other educators throughout the five boroughs as possible.

Operated by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, with support from the Department of Sanitation and Department of Education, MFTA offers a warehouse filled with donations from businesses big and small including Bloomingdale’s, World Vision, Saks Fifth Avenue and the Van Gogh Museum.

The site is open to educators in the New York City school system to come in, grab a shopping cart and shop — for free.

“If you can get it out the door, you can have it,” said Kwame Belle, communications coordinator for MFTA.

The 25,000-square-foot warehouse has everything from paper of all sizes to trims and fabrics, arts and crafts, toys, small props, household and small appliances, computer chairs, tables, chalkboards, computers, printers, binders, books and magazines and much more.

At the entrance of every aisle, teachers are met with displays showing ideas on how to turn items, such as a poster, into bigger projects.

Belle says that teachers can stock up for an entire school year or even come back on a “week-to-week basis.”

Along with being open weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays for teachers to raid the aisles, MFTA holds an annual Back-to-School “Shopping” Spree. On Thursday, Aug. 27, shopping will be reserved for more than 60 underperforming schools from all around the city that have been invited to come and shop for free. During the sprees, three teachers will hit the warehouse floor at time, with music in the background, and look for items. There will also be booths and workshops set up to give teachers direction and expand on what can be made with certain items.

However, MFTA doesn’t just stop at providing free stuff. The group has taken it a step further with providing professional development classes for teachers where they learn how to turn items they can find in the warehouse into engaging projects for all subjects.

“We feel the access for teachers is really important. It helps the bottom line and it helps them be more resourceful in their classroom,” said Harriet Taub, MFTA executive director. “But having the knowledge, taking our classes, that really makes them become much more confident and self-assured in how they can utilize their materials.”

Along with field trips, in-school residencies and public programs such as exhibitions and workshops open to the public, MFTA also offers DOE staff members seasonal P-Credit courses during six Saturdays throughout the year.

The next course, which will begin Sept. 19, will teach educators how to use recycled items to create musical instruments that can be used not just in art, but in math, science and literary courses.

“We connect the dots for teachers in terms of how these materials are actually essential for them to fill the Common Core requirements,” said John Kaiser, director of education at MFTA. “These are supplies not just for art, but for the art of learning, for project-based learning.”

Both Kaiser and Taub believe that the experience teachers and students have through MFTA goes beyond the warehouse and allows students, who often deal with financial hardships, to actually get a taste of the art world and access their creativity.

They added that learning to reuse common day items, which might not seem like much at first, will prepare children for the real world as they learn to be resourceful.

“By having teachers come here and taking readily available materials and bring them to their classrooms, it allows students to think about their own resources,” Taub said. “It gives you the opportunity to say, ‘I am the power behind my creativity.’”

For more information, visit materialsforthearts.org or call 718-729-3001.


City announces latest procedure for ensuring pre-K sites meet health and safety standards

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



City officials announced the latest steps to ensure that every “Pre-K for All” site meets the highest health and safety standards. As of Aug. 13, there are zero unresolved health violations in the most serious category at any Pre-K for All site.

All new pre-K sites have been subject to a rigorous approval process and inspection by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Buildings and Fire Department. Returning sites receive annual inspections, with follow-up inspections if violations are discovered. The Department of Education also conducts walk-through inspections of pre-K sites in the lead up to the first day of school to check for education preparedness as well as health and safety concerns.

In order to allow for such rigorous inspection, safety and quality control were dedicated in this year’s adopted budget.  The Health Department, Fire Department, Department of Design and Construction, the Department of Buildings and the Department of Education were collectively able to bolster their pre-K-dedicated staff to over 400 inspectors.

“The safety and security of our students is always our top priority and we’ve left no stone unturned in ensuring that every pre-K site is ready for the first day of school – both in its ability to give our 4-year-olds the high-quality educational foundation they need to thrive in kindergarten and beyond, and in meeting our high safety and health standards,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.


DOE leasing former Astoria Catholic school building for pre-K center

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

The site of the former Most Precious Blood Catholic School, which closed its doors in June after 58 years of serving the Astoria community, will now be used as a pre-K center, according to the Department of Education.

Students and parents at the school located at 35-32 37th St. found out in January that the school would be closing at the end of the school year due to drops in enrollment and the need for costly structural repairs. Even though parents and students rallied to keep the school open, the institution shut down.

However, according to the DOE, which has since leased the building, the site will still be used for educational purposes and there are no plans to change the use of the building.

In a letter to the Most Precious Blood community in January, Reverend William Krlis, pastor at Most Precious Blood Church, said that an estimated $5.5 million in structural repairs were needed for both the school and church. The school building needed about $2.55 million in repairs and work could not be done at the site while being used full time.

Although it is not clear what work has or will be done to the site, The Courier did notice scaffolding had been set up around the school building during a visit Wednesday morning.

The DOE said the school will be safe once students arrive in September.

The Diocese of Brooklyn declined to comment.


Parents, students call for support to save LIC middle school

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Parents and students in Long Island City are asking for their community to speak up to keep a beloved middle school in a neighborhood growing every day.

During Saturday’s groundbreaking of the Queens Library at Hunters Point, parents and students of P.S./I.S. 78 handed out flyers asking local residents to help speak out about the school crisis the neighborhood is going through.

According to parents, the Department of Education is considering truncating the sixth through eighth grades at the school in order to accommodate the incoming elementary aged students, after a decision was made to add two kindergarten classes to the school.

“We’re trying to get all the parents out to push it and get it in front of other people’s faces so that we can make a difference because I think, just like for the library, if we really get together and make our presence known [we can] show everyone that without schools this is really not a community,” said Nancy Mendez-Shiu, who has a daughter and son at P.S./I.S. 78. “If we don’t have enough space for children, then people are going to move away from our community.”

On the flyers, “LIC neighbors” are asked to write, call or visit any or all of their city and state elected officials and leaders such as Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, District 30 leaders and local Community Board 2.

Mendez-Shiu also added that for about 10 years, parents fought for the middle school to be brought into community and in 2013 a new state-of-the-art facility at 46-08 Fifth St. was erected and became the home of P.S./I.S. 78’s third- through eighth-graders.

The school’s pre-K through second-grade classes remained at the original building located only a few blocks away at 48-09 Center Blvd.

In a meeting two weeks ago, parents were told that if all the seats are filled in the new two additional kindergarten classes then there is a possibility that grades six through eight would be truncated started in the fall of 2016.

The school would then only serve kindergarten through fifth grade, leaving older students to find another alternative.

“Our children deserve a space in our community here. They deserve to be able to go to school here,” Mendez-Shiu said. “We should make room for everyone. This is a community.”

Fellow parent Sabina Omerhodzic also said that the area is being overdeveloped with more buildings being constructed, yet there are no schools to meet the growing population of young children.

“More buildings bring more families, more children. We need to build more schools, not less. Don’t truncate, build more. That’s it. It’s very easy,” Omerhodzic said. “It’s basic math. One plus one is two. One plus one is not zero.”

The parents said the idea of middle school potentially being truncated has left students “depressed” and also wanting to protest to have their voices being heard.

Fourth graders at P.S./I.S. 78 created this Lego model to show the idea of a new building (in red) being constructed to alleviate overcrowding.

Fourth-graders at P.S./I.S. 78 created this Lego model to show the idea of a new building (in red) being constructed to alleviate overcrowding.

In one instance, a group of fourth-graders constructed a Lego model of the school and added a new building that could be constructed to help alleviate the overcrowding and also accommodate middle-schoolers. The model also included an organic garden on the rooftop of the new building.

“I feel bad because we love P.S./I.S. 78, that’s why we are protesting and helping it, and just making us move to another school isn’t fair for us,” said fifth-grader Monica Malas, who after spending two days being sad over the news got together with classmates to protest. “I hope we can actually succeed and let the small ones go to the sixth through eighth grade.”

The DOE did not immediately respond to request for comment.


BP secures $250K for new pre-K program at Queens Library in Ravenswood Houses

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of BP Melinda Katz's office

More than 30 seats are being added to School District 30, as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz secured funding for a new pre-K program at a Queens Library branch at one Astoria housing development.

Katz announced Tuesday she will be allocating discretionary capital funding to create a new, free, full-day pre-K program at the Ravenswood library located within the NYCHA Ravenswood Houses at 35-32 21st St.

This new program will add 36 seats to District 30, which is known for being overcrowded and having one of the largest pre-K seat shortages in the borough for the upcoming school year. The Ravenswood site was approved last year by the Department of Buildings to operate a pre-K program.

“Addressing the pre-K seat shortage for the upcoming school year has been a priority, especially in Districts 30 and 24,” Katz said. “The Queens Library has taken one of the more creative initiatives we’ve seen to launch pre-K programs at our beloved libraries throughout the borough. Our libraries are treasured, safe community hubs for enrichment and lifelong learning, and starting the educational pathway from pre-K here is a natural fit.”

The cost to modify the Ravenswood library into the new pre-K program is estimated at $572,000, according to the Department of Design and Construction. An initial $250,000 was committed by the Shoolman Foundation, as well as $72,000 from the Department of Education.

Katz will be securing the remaining $250,000 allowing the program to become a reality.

“This funding is great news for the Ravenswood community and for the children of western Queens,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris. “We know that pre-K makes a huge difference in the lives of our young students and I am glad that we are adding space in an area that so desperately needs more school seats.”

The Ravenswood library’s entire space will be used to run the pre-K program from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. During non-school hours, the library will be used as a Family Literacy Learning Center, offering ESL courses and other classes for adults.

“The Ravenswood library is a prime location to house and expand our city’s already successful universal pre-kindergarten program,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “With the addition of two UPK classes we can provide more children a head start in getting the education they rightfully deserve.”


Bayside Jewish Center to be converted to high school

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

The School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to purchase the Bayside Jewish Center and transform it into a new public high school, according to Councilman Paul Vallone.

The new school will go a long way toward solving the issue of overcrowding in District 26 schools, which are at 130 percent capacity and currently short more than 3,400 seats. The new school is set to alleviate around 25 percent of that gap.

Vallone said that he is going to work with residents to lessen the impact that a new school would have on their everyday lives, including potential effects on parking availability and local traffic concerns.

“What is critical now is making sure that the community and community board are involved in every step of the way and that we work closely with the SCA to minimize the impact to the surrounding neighborhood,” Vallone said.

The SCA has stated that an Environmental Impact Study will soon begin at the site. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an Environmental Impact Study is done to assess significant environmental impacts and reasonable alternatives which would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment.

A public review process will be conducted after the study is completed, and then it will come to a vote before the entire City Council.

The Bayside Jewish Center has been at its current location at 32nd Avenue since 1960 and has seen the number of members in its congregation sharply drop in recent years. The center had an estimated congregation of 150 people in 2012 from 250 families a little over a decade before.

The proportion of Jewish households in northeast Queens plummeted by half from 1991 to 2001, from 44 percent of the population down to 22 percent a decade later, according to the UJA-Federation of New York’s Jewish Community Study.


Controversial Bayside elementary school to start construction this summer

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy the Department of Education 

The School Construction Authority is collecting bids to find a company to construct a controversial four-story, 468-seat elementary school in Bayside on the former Keil Brothers Garden Center and Nursery site.

The school, P.S. 332, will cost between $46.2 to $48.6 million and should be open for students from pre-K through fifth grade in September 2017, according to a Department of Education representative. Although a specific time wasn’t given, construction on the nearly 80,500-square-foot facility is expected to start in the late summer, the spokesperson said.

Dozens of residents held a rally two years ago in front of the site at 210-07 48th Ave. to protest the new school. Homeowners nearby said it would impact parking and present dangerous traffic problems for students.

The City Council gave the green light for the project in November 2013 after a vote. Councilmen Mark Weprin and Peter Vallone Jr. were the only legislators who voted against it. However, state Sen. Tony Avella, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Community Board 11 also opposed the project.

Supporters of the plan said it would relieve congestion from the district’s schools, which, like schools in many other parts of the borough, are suffering from overcrowding.

That could be the reason why the size of the proposed school inflated over the years. Original plans were for a 456-student institution.

Construction companies have until May 22 to submit their bids.


Parents call for permanent annex at Corona’s P.S. 143 to alleviate overcrowding

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Parents at one Corona school are saying enough is enough and are calling on officials to give their children more room to succeed.

Over a hundred parents and children gathered on Tuesday morning with state Senator Jose Peralta outside of P.S. 143, The Louis Armstrong Elementary School, located at 34-74 113th St., to propose the building of a permanent addition to the school to help alleviate the chronic overcrowding.

According to Peralta, the Corona elementary school was originally built to accommodate 900 students, yet currently there are about 1,800 students enrolled at the site. This causes some children to have lunch at 9:50 a.m. and a large number of students have to take their classes outside of the school’s building.

The new annex would replace a mini building and six temporary classroom units, also known as trailers, which are found on the side of the school’s original building. Some students have also been moved to an annex located at 98th Street and 38th Avenue. 

“We need to have real classrooms for our children. A trailer is no place for a kid to be learning and that’s something that we’ve been saying time and time again to the administration,” Peralta said. “No kid should have to learn in a trailer. Forget about the state-of-the-art classrooms, state-of-the-art technology, we just want every student to sit and get an education in a real classroom.

Peralta first proposed the idea of the annex to the Department of Education two years ago, and was told that the agency agreed with the need for a solution to alleviate the overcrowding at P.S. 143. However issues arose because the property where the building would go is owned by the Parks Department. 

Yet the senator said that the building of a new annex would not affect the recreational areas because it would only take up the space already being used by the mini building and trailers. 

“Enough of the talk – we need the walk, we need actions. It is time to act now,” Peralta said. “This is the 21st century. We need to treat our kids like we are in the 21st century,”

Parents said they are concerned because their young children, mostly first-graders, have to go from one location to another during bad weather conditions and are also learning in classrooms with over 30 students. 

The parents added that they call on representatives of the Department of Education, Parks Department and School Construction Authority to believe that it was their children being made to learn in these conditions. 

“We are fighting and no one listens to us and we are tired of this situation,” said Juana de los Santos, who has two children attending P.S. 143. “I believe our children deserve a good education because they are the future of this country. We want an answer and soon, we don’t want them to tell us ‘Here, in five years it will happen.’ We are tired and our children are suffering.”

According to DOE spokesman Jason Fink, the agency is “working with the Parks Department to explore ways to add capacity at this school.”


Hoping for Lunar New Year holiday, lawmakers move to end Brooklyn-Queens Day

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com


State lawmakers introduced on Tuesday a bill that would eliminate Brooklyn-Queens Day from the New York City public school calendar.

The measure sponsored by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky aims to clear a day on the calendar to permit public schools to close for the Asian Lunar New Year in the winter. Brooklyn-Queens Day, which falls on the first Thursday of June, marks the foundation of the first Sunday schools in both boroughs during the 19th century.

For decades, local Protestant churches celebrated Brooklyn-Queens Day with parades through their communities, but the parades stopped in recent years as Protestant congregations plummeted. The last major Brooklyn-Queens Day parade took place in Ridgewood in 2009, ending a century-long tradition.

Nevertheless, schools in Brooklyn and Queens remain closed the first Thursday of June, but many of them use the day for staff development.

The bill states that “there is no reason to continue this anachronistic holiday in state statutes when there is pressure to increase the time students spend in school.” However, Stavisky noted, the elimination of Brooklyn-Queens Day gives the city Department of Education (DOE) flexibility in adding another holiday such as Asian Lunar New Year.

“As a former teacher, I understand the mayor and the Department of Education have a mandate to make sure students are receiving as much classroom instructional time as possible,” Stavisky said. “But educating our students and allowing them to observe important cultural holidays should not be opposing goals. I believe that removing the now defunct Brooklyn-Queens Day and replacing it with the Lunar New Year is a pragmatic solution that the mayor and the Department of Education must consider.”

Among those who joined Stavisky at a Tuesday press conference in Flushing in support of the bill were state Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymen Ron Kim and Edward Braunstein, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and City Councilman Peter Koo.

“The history of Brooklyn-Queens Day demonstrates how observance of this day on the public school calendar has changed over the years to meet the changing demographics of our city,” Koo said. “Today, approximately 15 percent of our New York City public school students identify as Asian-American, and we must take this into consideration as we prepare the school calendar for future years.”

According to Stavisky’s office, city public schools in Asian-majority neighborhoods report absentee rates as high as 80 percent on Lunar New Year, which is “the most important cultural celebration on the Asian calendar.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation declaring two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as school holidays beginning this September. Koo criticized the mayor in March for failing to grant the same holiday status for the Asian Lunar New Year.

Last December, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation granting the DOE greater flexibility to close schools on cultural and religious holidays. By law, all New York City public schools are required to hold at least 180 school days every year.


Award-winning Queens author Paul Volponi teaches Cardozo students, releases new book

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Freshman students in a Benjamin Cardozo High School English class got a special visit from an author who they may not be able to write off from their memories.

Award-winning Queens author Paul Volponi, who is known for his novel “Black and White” about the racial disparities of the city’s justice system, taught the class for three sessions on March 9, 11 and 13.

The appearances coincided with the release of Volponi’s newest novel this week, called “Game Seven,” which is based on the story of a young Cuban baseball player’s dream to play in the MLB.

In his three-day residency at Cardozo, Volponi taught students writing skills through fun activities, such as using popular names like Peter Parker and Fred Flintstone to show how alliteration makes names more memorable. He also showed the youngsters how to add color and characterization to make dialogue more exciting.

“He is the first author that I have met, and I like him,” said freshman Mustak Azad. “He seemed pretty interesting and he made a really great impression on me.”

Volponi 3

Volponi’s novel “Black and White” was the International Reading Association’s 2006 Young Adult Novel of the Year. He grew up in Queens and is a product of the public school system as a graduate of Aviation High School in Long Island City.

He has taught students for years, but mostly outside of New York, because the Department of Education (DOE) doesn’t “prioritize” bringing authors to teach kids in its budget as much as other states do, he said.

“I connect with kids all over the country and unfortunately I do more kids in Missouri, Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio than I do in New York City,” Volponi said.

The program to have Volponi teach was funded through a grant that classroom veteran teacher Nancy Orens wrote and received from the DOE.

Volponi 2

Besides writing tips, Volponi also taught the children how to go about starting their first books and writing letters to publishers to pitch their ideas. Volponi also signed and gave away copies of some of his old books, as well as a copy of “Game Seven.”

Orens believes overall the experience will be a good memory for the students.

“Getting feedback from a professional author, and participating in a workshop, which they know their other friends didn’t have an opportunity to do, they now have a memory that they can carry with them through high school,” Orens said.


DOE plans to re-site Corona schools

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

THE COURIER/Angy Altamirano

The Department of Education (DOE) has proposed a plan to temporarily move a grade from an overcrowded Corona school to a new campus slated to open in September.

If the plan is approved, some students at P.S. 330, located at 110-08 Northern Blvd., would be shifted to Q315, which is currently under construction at 43-18 97th Pl. for the 2015-2016 school year.

Students from two other schools have already been approved to be moved to the same location for the coming school year. In November, the Panel for Educational Policy approved a proposal to re-site P.S. 110 to building Q315, where it will be co-located with a new site of existing District 75 school P.S. 227.

If the DOE’s proposal is approved, students from P.S. 330, P.S. 110 and P.S. 227 would be co-located at the Q315 building, meaning that they may share common spaces such as auditoriums, gyms, libraries and cafeterias in that building.

In February, it was determined that P.S. 330 could not accommodate kindergarten students in its building for the 2015-2016 school year. The re-siting and co-location of P.S. 330’s kindergarten class is necessary to enroll kindergarten students at P.S. 330, DOE claims. This will provide a sufficient number of kindergarten seats in District 24, a historically overcrowded district, according to the DOE.

P.S. 110 currently has students in kindergarten through second grade at their building at 48-25 37th St. and will move to building Q315 before the 2015-2016 school year. With the move to Q315, P.S. 110 is planning on phasing in to serving students from kindergarten to grade five.

P.S. 110 is an existing non-zoned elementary school that serves students who are overflowed from their zoned schools in Corona and Elmhurst. In May, the District 24 Community Education Council approved a plan to create an elementary school zone for Q315. P.S. 110 will operate as a zoned elementary school starting in September 2015.

P.S. 330 is a zoned elementary school that serves students from kindergarten to fourth grade, and plans to phase in to cater to fifth-graders as well for the 2015-2016 school year.

According to the School Construction Authority, building Q315 will have a 1,110-student capacity and includes a designed space for a District 75 school. With this proposal, P.S. 110 is projected to serve 350 to 390 kindergarten through third-grade students, and P.S. is set to serve approximately 50 to 60 kindergarten students in Q315.

Opportunities for the public to speak on the subject will include two joint public hearings at 110-08 Northern Blvd. and 48-25 37th St. There are dedicated phone and email lines at 212-347-7621 and D24Proposals@schools.nyc.gov.



Northern Queens parents gain no traction during meeting with BP Katz over school program

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Whitestone and Flushing parents were sent back to the drawing board after meeting with Borough President Melinda Katz to discuss their desire to create a gifted and talented program for middle schools in the northern and central Queens area.

Lisa Fusco and a growing number of parents are building a case for the creation of gifted and talented programs for middle schools in their district. During a meeting with Katz and education officials on Wednesday, the parents were told that the district’s superintendent was the only one with the power to extend the program from its limited elementary school reach to middle school.

“They’re giving us the run around,” Fusco said. “We’ve spoken to [Superintendent Danielle Di Mango] before and that hasn’t gotten us anywhere. We’ve tried everything else.”

Mango declined a request for comment.

Fusco’s fourth-grade daughter is enrolled in the gifted and talented program in P.S. 79 and — unlike in many other school districts — the program does not continue into middle school within District 25, which covers most of central and northern Queens. Neighboring districts 26 and 30 provide the program to students in middle school. More than 150 parents have signed a petition to bring the program into their middle schools in places like Flushing and Whitestone.

The gifted and talented programs are meant to provide extra services for students who show academic promise and get bored easily in a traditional classroom setting. Parents must sign up their children for tests to get into the program by November, and children are tested in January and February.

“We have made some real strides engaging community leaders,” Fusco said. “And we will continue to push for the program in our communities.”