Tag Archives: Department of Education

Vote dates set for co-locating Queens schools


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will vote on four proposals to co-locate multiple Queens schools at the end of October.

The PEP — made up of seven mayoral appointees and five representatives from each borough — will meet in Brooklyn on October 30 at 883 Classon Avenue to discuss a series of plans that would squeeze more than one school into a building.

In one proposal, the city’s Department of Education (DOE) wants to temporarily put P.S. 176 Cambria Heights and a new public elementary charter school inside I.S. 59 Springfield Gardens.

The charter school would be part of Success Academy, which operates 18 public city charter schools, and would open next year.

A public hearing before the plan goes to the PEP will be held on October 9 at 6 p.m. at 132-55 Ridgedale Street.

The city also wants to put another new Success Academy Charter School and a new transfer high school inside August Martin High School.

Officials will hear out the public at August Martin on October 3 at 6 p.m.

There are also plans to add another new elementary school inside P.S. 40 Samuel Huntington in Jamaica next year and co-locate Corona Arts and Sciences Academy with Civic Leadership Academy, Pan American International High School, Voyages Preparatory and Queens Transition Center in Elmhurst Educational Campus in 2015.

A public hearing for Samuel Huntington will be held at the 109-20 Union Hall Street school on October 9 at 6 p.m. and one will be held for Corona Arts on October 1 at 6 p.m. at 45-10 94th Street.

The PEP will vote on more than a dozen other co-locations proposed in other boroughs on October 15.

There were no notices scheduled for another city plan to add a new school within Martin Van Buren High School.

 

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New Corona school building to ease overcrowding


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A new school in Corona is set to ease the burden of overcrowded classrooms in the area.

According to the Department of Education (DOE), P.S. 330, currently located within a building at 86-37 53rd Avenue in Elmhurst, will move into a brand new location at 111-08 Northern Boulevard just in time for the beginning of the school year next week.

“This is a fantastic new building, and we’re confident that P.S. 330 will deliver well for its students there,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.

P.S. 330 opened at the initial building in 2010 in order to lighten overcrowding in District 24 elementary schools. The school currently serves 220 students in kindergarten and first grade, but is expected to open more than 400 seats once it makes the move.

The new building will continue to alleviate overcrowding in Corona and is also located in an area closer to where 84 percent of the students currently live, the DOE said.

“Over the past 12 years, we’ve created over 125,000 new school seats,” said Puglia. “As we put up brand new, state-of-the-art buildings around the city, we’re meeting the needs of our schools and communities.”

Once P.S. 330, at its new location, completes its expansion and reaches its full capacity in the 2015-2016 school year, it will serve 570 to 630 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“Because overcrowding is a serious issue in my district, I could not be happier to have P.S. 330 opening its doors this September,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras.

In April, Ferreras established the Educational and Overcrowding Improvement Task Force. The task force was created to help improve the communication between the DOE and parents, as well as ease the overcrowding issues in Community Education Council Districts 24 and 30.

“These efforts, combined with plans for the construction of five additional schools in my district, will undoubtedly improve the overcrowding issues our local schools are currently experiencing,” said Ferreras.

According to the DOE, it will work with the community to figure out the best use for P.S. 330’s original building.

 

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Teachers, parents demand firing of College Point elementary school principal


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Several parents and teachers in College Point want the city to end what they claim is an elementary school principal’s terror-driven reign.

They said Jennifer Jones-Rogers of P.S. 29 has wrongfully placed a handful of students in special education classes without notifying parents.

Critics also say the administrator’s “hostile environment” has driven away droves of teachers and has caused parents to pull their kids from the school.

“It is a shame that one person can do so much harm,” said parent Linda Briones, who has since transferred her child out of the school.

Marisol Chavez said her nine-year-old son Lukas “came crying home” at the start of the school year when he was put into a special education class.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to be in that class. I don’t belong in that class,’” Chavez said.

He spent a week there before Chavez was able to straighten out the mishap.

“I had to fight it. They made me cry,” she said. “She said my son would never perform well in another setting, that he will never succeed. It was horrible.”

The principal’s bullish tactics are also allegedly used on teachers who complain about her. Many said they had their desks taken away as punishment.

“It is clear that the principal has lost control of the school,” said State Senator Tony Avella, who joined about two dozen people at a rally on August 1.

The group called for the city to fire Jones-Rogers and start an investigation into apparent mismanagement of funds.

Educators say she has not provided a copy of the school’s budget to the United Federation of Teachers chapter president for the past two years as required.

Jones-Rogers is also accused of getting rid of the school’s library and computer lab.

“The current administrator at our school has created a learning and working environment that is detrimental to all,” said Stephanie Flunory, a second grade teacher.

P.S. 29 scored a “B” on its most recent city progress report. The school received an “A” in 2010 during the principal’s first term.

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education said the department is “aware of the concerns” and will address them.

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) vouched for Jones-Rogers, saying she is “widely considered to be a fine school leader.”

“This is a typical case of a handful of disgruntled people and a politician who is looking to further his constituent base in an election season,” said CSA Executive Vice President Mark Cannizzaro.

Jones-Rogers could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

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Howard Beach school without fire alarm system since Sandy


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The Howard Beach community and concerned parents are tired of dealing with a hot issue at local school P.S. 207.

When Sandy swept through the region, it took the school’s fire alarm system with it. Since reopening on January 2, the school has operated without any fire alarm.

“First their homes are destroyed, now they don’t even have a safe place to go to school,” said Alison Jasiak, whose six-year-old son attends P.S. 207.

The fire alarm system was located in the basement, unlike surrounding schools that have theirs on the first floor. During the storm, the basement filled with oil and water, destroying P.S. 207’s system.

Moreover, P.S. 207’s fire alarm system used parts that are now obsolete. Other neighborhood schools had newer systems for which replacement parts are available.

Since the school reopened, it has had 12 Fire Watch guards provided by the Department of Education (DOE) to monitor the building for any signs of smoke. A spokesperson said relying on the guards is “an acceptable practice, and the school is safe.”

However, parents such as Jasiak remain unconvinced.

“Who says the fire guards are sufficient?” she said. “Is your child in the school?”

In the event a watchman smells or sees any sort of fire, procedure calls for him or her to go to the main office, which then calls the fire department.

“You’ve just wasted three or four minutes when the kids could have already been on their way out,” Jasiak said.

The School Construction Authority (SCA) and the DOE are waiting for FEMA funds to install a fire system, but there is no timetable for the money.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich sent a letter on Friday, July 19 to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and SCA President Lorraine Grillo describing the issue in detail and requesting that the organizations expedite the installation of a new fire alarm system. He has not yet received a response.

“With all that my constituents have going on while they try to rebuild from Sandy, they should at least have the peace of mind that the school their child attends has a functional fire alarm system,” Ulrich said.

His office has received numerous complaints on the matter from parents.

Once installation begins, completion could take up to a year, Ulrich said. The DOE said FEMA is reviewing the cost of reimbursing a replacement alarm system at P.S. 207 and that more information will be available once the review is complete. The Fire Watch costs roughly $13,000 per week.

Without a fire alarm system, the school has shut down afterschool and night programs.

“There are so many more issues that this one issue has created,” Jasiak said. “The only ones who are suffering are the children and us.”

“You throw your hands up in the air because you don’t know what else to do,” she said.

 

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Martin Van Buren to get $4M in School Improvement Grants


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A struggling Queens Village school will get more than $4 million in federal funds to bounce back this fall.

Martin Van Buren High School and 21 others in the city were awarded $74.2 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG) to be used over three years, State Education Commissioner John King Jr. announced Friday.

The state’s education department doled out a total of $126 million to 34 low-performing schools throughout New York this year. It was the second round of funding in 2013, though no Queens school was awarded earlier, officials said.

The dollars will go toward implementing “intervention models” in the failing schools, education officials said.

“Many English language learners, students with disabilities and low-income students are in schools that need to change,” King said. “SIG grants can help give those students the opportunity to attend schools that are changing what’s happening in the classroom.”

Van Buren received a C in the city Department of Education’s (DOE) most recent progress report, which is based on student progress toward graduation, performance on standardized tests, coursework and student attendance.

Elected officials said morale and grades have been improving under the school’s new principal, Sam Sochet, since he took over last June.

The school was also acknowledged as “developing” during last year’s DOE evaluation, a step above the failing grade “underdeveloped.”

“Our strategy has always been to take action rather than sit idly by,” said city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, “and today’s awards validate our work. [The grants] will support students at schools that are phasing out, provide resources to bolster interventions in schools that are struggling, and help new schools deliver great outcomes.”

Under the designated “transformation model,” Van Buren would have been forced to replace its principal, the state education department said. But since Sochet is new to the helm, that requirement is already satisfied, a city spokesperson said.

However, Van Buren educators, under another condition, will have to follow the state’s approved Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plans.

“Martin Van Buren High School has made huge strides over the year,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin. “This money will go a long way to help put the school in better shape than we are already.”

The DOE recently proposed adding another school inside Van Buren next year, in a move known as co-location, despite protests from Queens lawmakers. They say the move would eliminate 500 existing seats.

“Hopefully, the DOE will realize we can do wonderful things at Martin Van Buren and not worry about co-locating schools in the building,” Weprin said. “It’s already on the way back.”

 

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Walcott addresses overcrowding in Corona school


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Parents and teachers at P.S. 143, the Louis Armstrong School, are overwhelmed by overcrowding and are clamoring for a solution.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott addressed the issue in a tense June 24 meeting in which parents and school officials were fuming over the two-decade-long problem.

The Corona elementary school has a capacity of 900 students, yet 1,780 students are currently enrolled, according to school officials.

In front of the main building on 34th Avenue between 112th and 113th Streets, there are four large, trailer-like classrooms.

“If they build a building outside for us, it will alleviate the overcrowding in here,” said Alma Salgado, president of the P.S. 143 Parent Teacher Association.

However, Walcott was cautious about such an approach.

“As soon as we build, we need to build more in district 24,” he said.

Parents said that the overcrowding has led to classrooms with 30 and sometimes more students. Some students have to eat lunch as early as 9:30 a.m., while others have classes in the cafeteria because of scheduling conflicts.

“It’s a hurdle that we have to jump over,” said first-year principal Jerry Brito. “It is obviously an issue we have to be aware of, because it does make it harder for us to run things.”

To address the overcrowding, the Department of Education leased space owned by a Greek Orthodox church on 38th Avenue. The site, about a dozen blocks away from P.S. 143, has accommodated 250 students.

The agreement was extended through the 2013-2014 school year. However, the property’s owners do not want to renew the lease for the 2014-2015 school year.

Before he left the meeting, Walcott said he will continue to look for a solution. He added that in three weeks, he will send an update to the school administrators to relay to parents.

 

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Audit finds city high school placement flawed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Rosa Kim

The city’s high school placement system denied a handful of youngsters a chance at being admitted to a competitive Queens school, a comptroller’s audit found.

Four middle school students were not ranked last year for possible enrollment at Townsend Harris High School’s Intensive Academic Humanities even though they were eligible, according to City Comptroller John Liu.

“Our audit confirmed what many frustrated parents and students have long suspected — the city’s high school placement process is often unfair and deeply flawed,” Liu said.

Students who apply to Townsend Harris — a screened school which accepts students based on past performance over where they live — must have stellar attendance, at least an overall 90 average and a standardized seventh grade reading and math score in the 90th percentile before they are considered, its website said.

The four students in the audit had met those requirements, Liu’s office said, although their names and scores could not be disclosed.

Students can apply to up to 12 high schools and order their choices by preference before the city’s Department of Education (DOE) enters their picks into an enrollment program.

If applicants meet the high school’s criteria, they are ranked on a list for possible enrollment. The screened institutions then offer seats to top scoring students in the system.

But the DOE’s “arbitrary and unfair” placement process, Liu said, did not rank nearly 2,000 eligible students who applied to five screened city schools last year. It ranked about 300 ineligible applicants instead.

“Applying to high school is an important and stressful enough experience for students and parents,” Liu said, “and it must not be left to a sloppy and random system like the one our audit found.”

DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia said high school admissions transparency has never been greater. More than 75 percent of the 70,000 annual high school applicants land in one of their top three school choices, he added.

“This report goes out of its way to ignore the enormous strides we have made to provide information to families and implement a clear, fair high school choice process,” Puglia said. “As always, we have more work to do and appreciate the recommendations for how to improve high school admissions.”

Townsend Harris officials did not return calls for comment.

Nearly 5,300 students applied for 270 seats at the school’s competitive humanities program last year.

The DOE did not say whether the four students in the audit were notified of the glitch.

 

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Far Rockaway basketball tournament aims to stop violence


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Far Rockaway is fighting its reputation of violence through a program that brings youth together and puts them under one roof.

The Stack Bundles basketball tournament kicked of its second year earlier this month and will continue through the summer. Twelve teams of 10 players each are traveling the peninsula and breaking territorial barriers. All the athletes are age 18 and over.

“We want to spread the word so these kids get it. Right now, they don’t get it,” said tournament founder Manny Fiallo, who is also outreach coordinator for the Police Athletic League (PAL) in Far Rockaway and a parent coordinator at the Department of Education (DOE).

Fiallo said that in Far Rockaway, people get very protective of their respective areas.

“If you’re from Edgemere, why can’t you go to Redfern?” he said. “We want to bring everybody together.”

Last year, Fiallo got the idea of creating something to “represent the neighborhood, something everyone could look forward to,” according to Fiallo’s partner Lakia Echols.

Stack Bundles was a rapper who lived in Redfern and died from gun violence. Fiallo said the Bundles name is well respected around the peninsula, so he called on it for a stop-the-violence effort and created the tournament.

“It’s great competition,” said returning player David Bostick. “It gives us a reason to do something good for the neighborhood.”

“Plus, it’s bragging rights,” he added.

When the second week for the tournament began, over 100 people from the neighborhood came to watch. Community members from toddlers to seniors were in the audience cheering on the players.

“A lot of kids came out and watched us play,” Bostick said. “After school, kids don’t necessarily have something to do. This gets them off the street.”
Bostick added that it is beneficial for younger kids to see older guys from different areas getting along.

At the tournament, youths affected by violence spoke to the audience and opened up about their experiences. People who lost their parents shared their stories and received support from people all over the peninsula.

Echols said once he and Fiallo have participants at the tournament, they can get their attention and show them the PAL program has job and parent training, too.

Deshawna Thompson-Banrey is a coach at this year’s tournament. She works with Fiallo and said Stack Bundles simply gives people something to do and gets them off the street.

“Right now, they’re doing something productive. This is a safe place,” she said.

The games will continue every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through the summer.

 

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Report: Five Queens schools falling apart


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of SEIU Local 32BJ

Some city schools need a major makeover, according to a building inspections report released by the school cleaners’ union.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ issued a report on the 20 schools in the worst condition after tallying scores from the city’s annual school inspections. Out of about 1,500 schools citywide, five Queens schools made the list of top offenders.

In all five schools, SEIU 32BJ found crumbling interiors as well as toxins on tiles and in the air.

“It’s hazardous material that we’re talking about removing from our schools immediately,” said Gene Syzmanski, the union’s schools division director.

I.S. 238 in Hollis climbed the charts to second worst on the list. One school cleaner said the building needs wide-ranging fixes.

“The water valves need to be repaired,” he said. “Every classroom has a stain from leaks. I feel bad when I see the building like this.”

The cleaner, who withheld his name from publication, said he wants to fix everything in a state of disrepair.

But he added that the head custodian will not cooperate.

“When I tell him something is broken, he says leave it,” the cleaner explained. “He said to me, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s not your problem.’”

The man said roughly 2,000 lights throughout the building are not working, many door handles are broken and bathrooms are “falling apart.”

I.S. 72 in Jamaica came in as the seventh worst school. Other Queens schools on the list included the Cynthia Jenkins School in Jamaica, P.S. 86, also in Jamaica, and Richmond Hill High School.

The report also said schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods were in the worst condition.

“I’ve visited many schools,” Syzmanski said. “In the more affluent neighborhoods, the schools were immaculate.”

The Department of Education (DOE) said it spends more than $3 billion in building improvements under its capital plan and any serious maintenance-related complaints are “addressed immediately, as are simple, easy fixes.”

“We consistently provide a clean, safe and healthy learning and working environment in our 1,260 school buildings every day,” a DOE spokesperson said.

Local 32BJ said the priority was to remove everything containing hazardous material, such as asbestos on tiles.

“This stuff needs to be removed as soon as possible for the benefit of the children and everybody who works for the schools,” said Syzmanski.

 

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Community concern over high school sharing building with younger students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

As one of the 15 new schools announced to open in Queens in September, the Department of Education (DOE) is planning to co-locate a new high school in the same building as a middle school — and it has created mixed feelings within the community.

Energy Tech High School is expected to open at I.S. 204, located at 36-41 28th Street in Long Island City, and will be a new career and technical education (CTE) high school in partnership with Con Edison and National Grid.

“Energy tech is a visionary school similar to that of the nationally-recognized P-Tech, which was lauded by the president in the State of the Union,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.

The new high school will serve students from grades 9 through 14, who will be able to earn a high school diploma and Associates Degree through a partnership with CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College.

Although members of District 30 advocated for another CTE high school in Queens, mixing in the much older students with the middle school children is what has the community on the edge.

“There are two sides,” said Jeffrey Guyton, co-president of District 30’s Community Education Council (CEC). “I’m really in favor of that kind of program, but I’m also queasy about it.”

Energy Tech will have two years of college included, and according to Isaac Carmignani, CEC co-president, the college students will spend most of their time at LaGuardia, rather than at the high school.

“Some of the council [CEC] had a problem with that because having young adults mingling with 11- and 12-year-old middle schoolers is something that bothers them even though the population will be kept as separate as possible by the school,” said Carmignani.

I.S. 204 already shares the school building with The Academy for Careers in Television and Film. The high school will be moving next year to a new building in Hunters Point and leaving the space vacant.

The new CTE school will expose students to the energy industry, allowing them to intern with Con Edison and National Grid and be mentored by professionals.

“Schools throughout the city share space, and when adults put children first, most co-locations are very successful,” said Puglia.

Even with disagreements about the co-location, Guyton and Carmignani hope to be able to support the students in both communities and monitor what happens once the school moves in.

“Anytime you make these big changes, you’re rolling the dice. Maybe it’s going to work really well, maybe it’s not,” said Guyton. “If there are problems, we are going to communicate those immediately.”

 

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15 new schools to open in Queens next fall


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

NYC Mayor's Office Flickr/Photo by Edward Reed

Education is expanding throughout the borough with 15 new schools opening this fall, announced Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“With our new schools and school leaders, we’ll continue to provide our children with the opportunities they deserve,” said Bloomberg.

Of the 15, two will be elementary schools, six middle schools, one school housing grades 6 through 12, three high schools, one transfer high school and two career technical and educational (CTE) high schools.

One CTE school opening in Long Island City, CTE Energy Tech High School, is partnering with LaGuardia Community College, Con Edison and National Grid to give students unique internship and apprenticeship opportunities outside of the classroom, as well as a rigorous curriculum, all to prepare them for a future in the booming energy industry.

“We want to give students opportunities [to participate] in hands-on problem solving, getting to know the industry, getting out and seeing what the work feels like,” said Hope Barter, Energy Tech’s principal-to-be.

The new CTE school will share a building with I.S. 204, and despite some opposition from parents on the co-location, Barter thinks the tech students’ undertaking can only benefit the neighborhood and the city.

“Having another engineering program is an incredible opportunity for our teens and for the community,” she said.
Energy Tech and other city CTE schools, all grades 9 through 14, will give students not only high school diplomas but also associates degrees.

“As a product of the New York City public school system, I know firsthand the importance of a solid technical education,” said Ken Daly, president of National Grid New York. “Our partnership with the Energy Tech High School supports National Grid’s ‘Engineering Our Future’ initiative to build a qualified and skilled workforce.”

Mainstream schools are also spreading across the city, including the new Hunters Point Community Middle School, where students will be given the opportunity to participate in interest-based programs as well as work through an accelerated curriculum.

“Everything is going to be very engaging,” said Sarah Goodman, the middle school’s principal. “I think we’re going to provide a combination of things that are really important – a strong set of foundational skills, and a curriculum in classrooms and advisories that’s going to expose kids to ideas, ways of thinking and possible career paths.”

Community leadership and organizational skills will also be one of the school’s focuses under Goodman’s leadership.

“The range of schools that’s opening is going to give students such a range of programs to choose from,” said Barter.“We’re all doing something different, and it’s always exciting to give students choices and options.”

Citywide, 78 new schools will serve nearly 10,000 students. Once the schools reach full capacity, that number will too grow to 32,000 students.

“The schools announced today will help us continue to ensure that all students – no matter their zip code – have access to high-quality education in New York City,” said Walcott.

 

New schools opening in Queens next fall

Elementary Schools:

  • Elm Tree Elementary School
  • East Elmhurst Community School

Middle Schools:

  • Corona Arts and Sciences Academy
  • Hawtree Creek Middle School
  • The Emerson School
  • Queens United Middle School
  • Hunters Point Community Middle School
  • Middle Village Prep Charter School

Middle/High School:

  • The Riverview School (District 75)

High Schools:

  • International High School for Health Sciences
  • Veritas Academy
  • Queens High School for Language Studies

High Schools/ CTE:

  • Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights
  • Energy Tech High School

Transfer High School:

  • Voyages Prep – South Queens

 

 

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Jamaica school wins fight to stay open


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of P.S. 140

The Department of Education (DOE) has taken Jamaica’s Public School 140 off the chopping block.

“There are a lot of good things happening here,” said Principal David Norment.

Since taking over as principal last school year, Norment has made significant changes to the K-5 school, changes that were not evident on the latest DOE progress report.

First, he implemented a system that would hold teachers, students and parents accountable.

Students are now assessed every six weeks, which allows teachers and parents to identify in which area each individual student needs help. The teachers are able to alter their lesson plans, and parents receive information regularly about their child’s progress.

“We really looked at creating a [system to] measure students’ progress and growth aside from city tests,” said Norment.

The DOE threatened the ax last October, and since then, P.S. 140 parents, teachers and students fought actively to stay open. They held meetings, attended rallies and spoke with local elected officials. At a joint public hearing on Friday, February 22, the DOE decided to withdraw its phase-out proposal and leave P.S. 140 open.

“Students, parents and community leaders pointed to promising quantitative and qualitative signs that suggest this school can get on the right track quickly,” said the DOE.

“We’re making school not just testing and testing, but the whole child experience,” Norment said. “You don’t just make sudden changes, it takes time.”

 

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Parents, teachers, students fight to keep new schools out of Flushing HS


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Parents, teachers and students at an embattled Flushing school are fighting to keep the city out of their space.

Scores of supporters gathered at Flushing High School to have their voices heard by the Department of Education (DOE) during an agency-hosted public hearing on February 28.

The city plans to add a small district high school and a Chinese bilingual school inside the storied institution. The two new schools would share the building — including the gym, cafeteria and auditorium — with Flushing High School students.

“Our goal is to create a system of great schools that prepare all students for college,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia. “Designed to meet the needs of individual communities, our new, small schools have delivered resounding results.”

Math teacher Jessica Dimech said the proposal was just another blow to the struggling school after the city unsuccessfully tried closing it less than a year ago.

“You gave us another six months with a stacked deck [and] cut our funding,” said Dimech, also a member of the school’s leadership team. “The DOE time and time again pulls the carpet from underneath us. Please just let me do my job.”

The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) is largely expected to vote in favor of the proposal on March 11, sources said. The panel supported the city’s attempt to shutter dozens of city schools last April before a court order reversed the approval.

But the Queens representative on the panel, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, said he would vote against the plans.
“Enough is enough. Flushing High School doesn’t want to be part of a chance experiment,” he said.

According to Juan Mendez, superintendent of Queens high schools, the change would decrease enrollment by 850 students at the crowded school. Flushing would take in fewer incoming freshman under the plan.

There is also a proposal to place an international school, serving English language learners, inside Newtown High School in Elmhurst. The new institution would prepare recently arrived immigrant students for college.

Newtown improved from a “C” to a “B” on its last DOE progress report. Flushing received a “D” in the last two years, recently failing both student progress and performance.

Flushing High freshman Stephanie Kouboulas vouched for “the best teachers” at the school as she broke down in tears.

“You want us just to fade out into the dust and never be here,” said Kouboulas, 14. “Flushing High School has been here a long time. It shouldn’t go anywhere.”

 

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Maspeth mom looking for answers after kindergartner leaves school unnoticed


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Five-year-old Angelo Geremia pushed open his school doors, walked home in the pouring rain with no coat, and nobody noticed.

“I just don’t understand what happened,” said his mother, Georgina Geremia. “Something upset him to make him leave, and no one was watching him.”

Geremia got a call on Wednesday, February 27, from her neighbor who told her that little Angelo was outside his house, screaming to be let in. She estimates it took him about 20 minutes to walk from his school, P.S. 229, to their home on 62nd Street. An extra ten minutes that he was trying to get inside leaves 30 minutes that the five-year-old was unaccounted for.

Geremia had to call the school and tell the principal herself that her son had walked out.

“I asked what can [the principal] do to guarantee that this won’t happen again. She told me she can’t guarantee it won’t,” she said.

For the roughly 1,400 kids in P.S. 229, there is one security guard and no cameras. How the kindergartner got out of the school is still not clear. He said he went out the front door, but school officials said he went out the back door.

He also said he was upset he got a time-out, but school officials said he left after a trip to the bathroom. However, at any given moment, an aide should be watching the students, Geremia said.

Geremia said the school’s principal, Dr. Sibylle Ajwani, was apologetic. But there has been no answer as to what consequences are coming for the aide who dropped the ball, she said.

“If something would have happened to him, then what?” she asked. “Somebody went to work that day and just didn’t do their job.”

The Department of Education (DOE) and P.S. 229 did not return calls for comment.

 

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Outrage over fewer gifted and talented seats at Queens school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Deborah Alexander

As her son Augustus began kindergarten in the city’s gifted and talented program at Sunnyside’s P.S. 150, Deborah Alexander was excited at the thought he would eventually be enrolling in the prestigious middle school program known as The Academy at P.S.122 in Astoria.

Yet the excitement turned to concern as the Department of Education revealed its plan last week to cut down the number of classes at The Academy in order to expand P.S. 122’s general education population into the eighth grade.

“Tearing down a middle school program that was ranked number two in the state makes no sense,” said Alexander, who also has a two-year-old daughter zoned for P.S. 122.

Other outraged parents met with members of the DOE last Thursday night at P.S. 234 to voice their concerns. Although the parents hoped to get answers that night, they were left with more questions.

“They were treating us not even how we treat our children, it was insulting,” said Alexander who couldn’t hold back tears at the meeting. “I asked for a raise of hands of who was in support and not a single hand was raised.”

This announcement comes a month after the DOE unveiled a new gifted middle school that will open in fall 2013 at Long Island City’s I.S. 126 with seats for 60 students. Yet because of the cuts, students from P.S. 150, P.S. 166 in Long Island City and P.S. 217 in Roosevelt Island will all be competing for the 60 seats.

“They tried to say ‘look at what we gave you,’ but instead of adding the seats we asked for, they reduced them,” said Alexander.

The DOE has responded by telling parents that according to the DOE’s Chancellor’s Regulations, P.S. 122 is supposed to be a K-8 building, and rules have not been followed.

“It’s the department disrespecting the community. They went off and pissed off a community that was really, really happy,” said Isaac Carmignani, co-president of the District 30 Community Education Council.

According to Carmignani, this change will extend to all classes at P.S. 122 through eighth grade starting with this year’s incoming kindergarten. By 2019, there will only be room for one class per grade in The Academy, down from the three to four classes offered now.

Parents are afraid the expansion will overcrowd the school, create more lunch periods starting at 9 a.m., and cut science and math programs. They also worry the remaining classes at The Academy will go down in quality as fewer classes are offered.

“They are taking a school that is a model and destroying it in the process,” said Alexander. “This concern is for the community and the district as a whole, not just one school or population.”

Local politicians joined parents in opposition of cutting down classes at The Academy. “The problem is that they are going to be cutting the overall amount of G&T seats and that’s completely unacceptable,” said Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. “Even with additional classes in other locations the seats in total have been cut down.”

Before any drastic changes take place, the community hopes to be able to work out an agreement with the DOE to keep the gifted and talented seats either at P.S. 122 or at another school.

“We as parents would love to work with the DOE to create a program to allow our students to receive the appropriate education for their personal learning needs,” said Karen Schumacher, whose daughter Magie is a first grader in the program at P.S. 150. “Let’s add, let’s expand, let’s not destroy.”

 

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