Tag Archives: Department of Education

P.S./I.S. 87 in Middle Village unveils $20 million extension


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

A new $20 million extension to P.S./I.S. 87 in Middle Village was unveiled in a ribbon cutting grand opening ceremony on Tuesday, October 15.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, officials from the Department of Education and parents were in attendance at the event to celebrate the new addition, which will add 120 seats in four classrooms, a new gym with basketball courts, a new main office, an elevator and various bathrooms.

 

“It was always frustrating having so little space to move around in. This took a toll on all of us,” said 8th grader Julian Kilichowski, the student government chair. “The new generations of Middle Village students will enjoy the beautiful new space that we have been granted.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

College Point principal resigns after protests and allegations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

The so-called “terror-driven reign” of a College Point principal is over.

Jennifer Jones-Rogers resigned as head of P.S. 29 last week, education officials confirmed, after dozens in the community urged the city to fire her earlier this summer.

“I think that this is a step in the right direction, but it’s not everything,” said Gloria Huachamber, who has a 9-year-old son in the school. “Why did this happen in the first place? As much as I am happy, what happens to all the damage that was done? We need to follow the trail.”

Critics said Jones-Rogers wrongfully placed a handful of students in special education classes without notifying parents and created a “hostile environment” that drove away teachers and caused parents to pull their kids from the elementary school.

“The behavior of Principal Jones-Rogers as described by parents and teachers was simply unacceptable, and it became clear that she had lost control of the school,” said State Senator Tony Avella.

Jones-Rogers quit October 8, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education (DOE) said. 

Jill Leaky-Eisenberg, a veteran educator with more than 20 years of experience under her belt, replaces her. She was the assistant principal of P.S. 21 in Flushing before the switch, the DOE said.

“I don’t think this was a resigning. I think this was more avoiding the issue. People don’t just leave overnight,” Huachamber said. 

According to the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), Jones-Rogers recently gave birth and is leaving to support her husband’s new job out of New York.

“We’re very happy that her husband got a great, new job out of state and they’re moving,” said CSA spokesperson Chiara Coletti. “I’m sure she’ll continue to work there.”

About two dozen parents and teachers rallied in front of P.S. 29 in August to call on the city to fire Jones-Rogers and start an investigation into apparent mismanagement of funds.

Educators say she did not provide a copy of the school’s budget to the United Federation of Teachers chapter president for the past two years as required and also got rid of the school’s library and computer lab.

The principal’s bullish tactics were also allegedly used on teachers who complained about her, according to many who said they had their desks taken away as punishment.

“Now there’s peace at the school — for now,” Huachamber said.

According to Avella, the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation probed the administrator’s handlings.

Jones-Rogers could not be reached for comment.

A similar rally held last year to remove an unpopular principal at Martin Van Buren High School yielded the same result.

Marilyn Shevell, who was called an “ineffective leader” by members of the PTA and community, retired from the Queens Village school last July after the protest, according to the DOE.

Van Buren has since improved a full letter grade from a “D” to a “C” under new leadership from Sam Sochet, the latest progress report shows.

P.S. 29 scored a “B” on its most recent report. The school received an “A” in 2010 during Jones-Rogers’ first term.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Parents, pols fight Queens co-locations


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Leroy Comrie

Parents and pols aren’t ready for their schools to squeeze into one building.

Twenty-three co-locations have been proposed within the next four years for schools in Queens, 10 of those in the southeast community.

The Department of Education (DOE) is proposing Q297 join J.H.S 226; and P.S. 233, New Transfer High School join August Martin High School and later add a Success Academy elementary charter school.

Parent Takia Moore said she chose J.H.S. 226 for her daughter because it stood alone without a high school, and was “under the impression that my child would be free from the peer pressure of older high school students,” she said.

“Once again, the administration has proposed a plan without taking into consideration the consequences it will have for Queens’ youth,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie. “The proposed co-locations will force these schools to share even more resources while the standards they are required to meet continue to rise.”

Proposals also exist to truncate P.S. 174 to a kindergarten through fifth grade school; join new middle school Q287 with J.H.S. 008 and York Early College Academy; and co-locate J.H.S. 72 and P.S. 993.

“Forcing more schools into a single building is not the solution,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards. “When more students are squeezed into fewer classrooms, some children get left behind.”

Success Academy Charter School additionally hopes to co-locate with I.S. 59 and P.S. 176, and there are plans to co-locate five magnet high schools in District 29.

“The Bloomberg Administration’s tone-deafness is on full display in Queens,” said Melinda Katz, Borough President candidate. “By starving, co-locating, and closing public schools in low-income neighborhoods just to cozy up to the charter school lobby, this administration is hurting our students and robbing our city of talent we will need in the next generation of workers and leaders.”

For more information on proposed co-locations within the borough, click here. Hearings will be held for all individual proposals. Dates can also be found on the DOE website.

“We need an immediate freeze on co-locations, until a new mayoral administration takes the reins and reevaluates the long-term effectiveness of the policy,” Katz said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Benjamin Cardozo High School students protest cuts to classes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan

Scholars at Benjamin Cardozo High School are up in arms over an apparent $400,000 slash to programs cutting into the school’s Advanced Placement courses.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said senior Student Organization President Tom Dinegar. “We should not have to settle for less.”

Students and local leaders said internal bookkeeping errors by the city’s Department of Education (DOE) caused the deep cuts to gym periods and double-period AP science and math classes.

“DOE made an error, and now thousands of students are left in the lurch in the middle of the school year,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin. “By cutting funds to the school, DOE is unfairly punishing the students for its own mistakes.”

Nearly 300 students packed the athletic field on October 2 to protest the changes. They chanted behind the fence and waved signs that read “Save Our School.”

“These are the classes that make Cardozo what it is,” Dinegar said. “It’s definitely going to affect grades on AP exams, and we’re not a failing school.”

The change in course offerings was due to “an unforeseen decrease in projected student enrollment” of 15 students, according to the DOE and a letter Principal Gerald Martori sent to parents this week.

Martori said second period classes in double periods “will be conducted in a blended learning model” and will be “devoted to student research, problem solving and portfolio development.”

Without a teacher behind the helm, students say that essentially means a free period to study independently. But the rigorous college-level courses, they say, require back-to-back 45 minute instructions from a qualified teacher.

“We’ll have less time to learn review material and have a hard time passing the test,” said junior Hannah Oh. “It’s already hard with two period classes.”

Some gym classes were also decreased to two to three days a week, according to the letter. The changes went into effect this week.

DOE spokesperson Marcus Liem said Cardozo will be able to maintain its AP courses. He also said there were no budget cuts to the 2014 school year and no enrollment error.

“School budgets fluctuate annually based on the number of registered students,” he said. “We are working closely with Principal Martori to make sure that the school’s programming is aligned with their budget and continues to focus on providing rigorous courses to prepare our students for college and careers.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Martin Van Buren High School co-location meeting to be held


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A public hearing to discuss the city’s plans to co-locate Martin Van Buren High School will be held next month, education officials said.

The city’s Department of Education (DOE) has proposed adding a new early college within the struggling Queens Village school.

The two schools would share the 230-17 Hillside Avenue building, including its gym, cafeteria and auditorium.

A time and date was not yet specified, but officials said the hearing will take place in October.

The proposed Early College and Career Technical Education High School would serve grades nine to 14, which education officials say gives students the chance to get an associate degree while in high school. It would focus on computer science and business technology.

The DOE said last month it would open the Queens school and two of its kind in Manhattan by next September.

DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia said the handful of new schools citywide “will be a special new option that will deliver great outcomes for children.” He said the department is “confident it will be in very high demand.”

Early college programs give students “real-world work experience” through internships and focus on career readiness, officials said.

But Queens legislators, who rallied in July against the co-location plans, said the city would undo the progress Van Buren has made since Principal Sam Sochet took over last June.

Van Buren received a C in the DOE’s most recent progress report, which is based on student progress toward graduation, performance on standardized tests, coursework and student attendance. The school improved a full letter grade from the year before.

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

“One of the worst things that could happen to a school like Martin Van Buren is a co-location,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “Principal Sochet should be given every opportunity to restore the school to its former eminence.”

The number of applicants to the ninth to twelfth grade school has dropped by roughly 40 percent since the 2010-2011 school year, education officials said.

Van Buren was one of 22 schools in the city awarded $74.2 million in School Improvement Grants to be used over three years, State Education Commissioner John King Jr. announced in July.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

New state-of-the-art school facility opens in Long Island City


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo By Angy Altamirano

The students of Long Island City’s P.S./I.S. 78 will now have a new place to learn and grow.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott met with local elected officials, parents, students and school leaders on September 12 to cut the ribbon on the new, state-of-the-art building, located at 46-08 5th Street, which will house P.S./I.S. 78 and P.S. 277-The Riverview School. The facility opened for the first day of school on September 9 and will serve a total of 578 students.

“This building offers P.S./I.S. 78 a state-of-the-art facility for the school to grow and prepare students for the older grades and for college and a career,” said Walcott.

P.S./I.S. 78 is expanding from its original site at 48-09 Center Boulevard, only a few blocks. Grades pre-kindergarten through second will remain at the original spot and students in third to sixth grades will move to the new facility, which later will include seventh and eighth grades.
P.S. 277 is a District 75 school serving special education students.

“We are delighted with the new building and know our A school will continue to offer the best education for our students,” said P.S./I.S. 78 Principal Louis Pavone. “We take pride in providing state-of-the-art online learning, and now we have a new building to complement the students’ skills.”

The new five-story building is fully air-conditioned and accessible for students with disabilities. It features 21 standard classrooms, eight special education classrooms, an art room, speech room, music suite, two science labs, a library, gym, auditorium, cafeteria, kitchen and outdoor playground.

“As Long Island City continues the growth that comes with being New York City’s hottest neighborhood, we must ensure that our schools and other infrastructure keep up,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “The opening of the new and improved P.S./I.S. 78 is a landmark event that represents a big step in that direction.”

The new facility was part of an effort by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer to help the School Construction Authority and the Department of Education secure five new school sites within western Queens. All the sites are expected to be fully operational over the next four years.

“Our children deserve the best we can possibly provide for them and this new facility promises to have a positive impact on the education our children will receive for generations to come,” said Van Bramer. “The expansion of P.S./I.S. 78 and creation of P.S. 277 in Long Island City will provide hundreds of students with a state-of-the-art facility right in the heart of a vibrant neighborhood that has become home to thousands of new families.”

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

RECOMMEDNDED STORIES

 

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.

 

 RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

 RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES