Tag Archives: DOE

Queens’ Morning


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Partly cloudy in the morning, then clear. High of 43. Winds from the NNW at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the West in the afternoon. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 37. Winds from the SW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Much Ado About Nothing

On opening night of Much Ado About Nothing at The Secret Theatre in LIC, patrons receive chocolates, a rose and two glasses of pink bubbly in a two-for-$30 deal. Show runs from February 14 to March 2. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Bloomberg to propose more electric  car parking, Styrofoam ban

On the eve of his State of the City address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a new ban in store, as well as a parking proposal that might drive some New Yorkers crazy. Read more: CBS New York

NYS audit finds MTA is sitting on $90M

A New York State audit finds that the MTA overlooked over $90 million sitting in various bank accounts. Read more: Fox New York

Queens officials request meeting with FAA to discuss noise created by new flight patterns

Queens elected officials are urging the FAA to redesign flight patterns to curb aircraft noise around its two airports. Read more: New York Daily News

Rebuilt Rockaway beaches need more than a big dose of sand, locals say

There’s a whole lot of sand coming to storm-ravaged Rockaway Beach this year, but locals are worried it’s not enough to stave off another attack from Mother Nature. Read more: New York Daily News

DOE to allow students to transfer out of public schools getting phased out

Department Of Education officials announced Wednesday that they will allow families to transfer their children out of 61 public schools deemed by city officials to be failing. Read more: NY1

American Airlines, US Airways announce $11 billion merger

American Airlines and US Airways say they’re merging in a deal they value at $11 billion, creating the world’s biggest airline. Read more: ABC New York

 

Bus companies bid for routes as drivers continue to strike


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

File photo

The first major bid for bus routes in more than 33 years garnered 67 requests from bus companies, clamoring for over 1,100 routes, according to the Department of Education (DOE).

Bidding for the contracts ended on Monday, February 11, almost a month into the citywide bus strike. The bids are worth approximately $1 billion over the next five years, according to the DOE.

The bidding process, implemented in 2011, resulted in projected savings of $95 million.

In December, the DOE issued a Request for Bid (RFB) for 1,110 special education bus route contracts, set to expire on June 30. The new contracts are expected to be in place by the start of the 2013 school year.

Drivers from Local 1181 began striking on January 16, fighting to ensure contracts have Employee Protection Provisions (EPP) that state drivers will retain runs, regardless of what company oversees the route.

According to published reports, several school bus companies are suing the city to remove EPP for senior workers from existing private bus contracts. The names of the companies have not been released.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Find out which school bus routes will be affected by the strike


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Screenshot from NYC DOE website

In anticipation of a bus strike that is set to begin Wednesday, January 16 , the New York City Department of Education has set up an online tool on its website that will tell students if they’re bus routes will be impacted by the strike.

Information is refreshed daily beginning at 7:00 a.m. and throughout the day as needed.

Click here to use the search tool.

 

Parents oppose P.S. 140 phase out


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

The Department of Education (DOE) has issued a proposal to phase out a Jamaica elementary school – but the community will not go quietly.

“My daughter is heartbroken,” said Lashawna Colliard, whose daughter, Alexis, is in the fourth grade at P.S. 140.

The school, due to consistently bad grades on its yearly progress reports, has been on the looming chopping block since last October, and administrators and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) have been working feverishly to improve conditions. A final decision whether to phase out the school or not will be made in March.

“It’s extremely disheartening,” said Wydia Gavin, PTA vice president. “The principal has done a lot of revamping and placing people strategically where they would be effective; this proposal hasn’t allowed him to prove that there have been significant changes made.”

Principal David Norment joined the P.S. 140 staff in February 2012, becoming the school’s fourth principal within just one year. According to PTA members, Norment came into a “messy situation.”

“Since he came in, he’s been working diligently with his staff to produce the proper scores that they need to see changes and improvement,” said Gavin. “You won’t get to see the progress because [the DOE] deadline doesn’t factor in his changes.”

This school year, P.S. 140 credits itself with a 50 percent reduction in suspensions, a 93.8 percent attendance rate – the highest in 12 years – building improvements and multiple new school sports and art programs.

The school’s superintendent, Beverly Ffolkes-Bryant, held an assembly Tuesday, January 8 with the students and explained the situation, along with the phasing out process.

“[Alexis] called me as soon as the assembly was over,” said Colliard. “She said, ‘Mommy, they’re closing my school!’ [The DOE] shouldn’t do it, not yet.”

A new administration would take over the P.S. 140 building this September, if the DOE approves the plan, and take charge of Pre-K through second grade. Third through fifth grade would still be a part of P.S. 140. The new administration would gradually phase out P.S. 140 by taking over a grade a year, so that all grades are incorporated by September 2016.
Bryant also held a parent information session, and there will be a public hearing in February. The DOE will consider all parent testimonies, and will hold a final vote in March.

The PTA has rallied parents and encourages them to call or email the DOE, voicing their concerns. They will continue to hold workshops, put out phone blasts, and keep the community informed.

Other Queens schools set to possibly be phased out include the Law, Government and Community Service High School as well as Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School; P.S. 156 faces a truncation of its middle school.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

 

 

 

Impending school-bus strike could leave students stranded


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

File photo

A city-wide school-bus strike, leaving 152,000 children stranded, is likely to begin on Wednesday.

According to the New York Post, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 has begun printing strike posters, assigning members to picket line locations at various bus yards and handed out a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for conduct during a strike. The strike could be announced as early as today.

Last week, School’s Chancellor Dennis Walcott released a statement, addressing parents concerns about getting their children to school should there be a strike. According to the statement, the Department of Education (DOE) will implement measures including robo-calling affected families and providing MetroCards and reimbursements for those who must drive or use a car service.

Nearly 54,000 of the students left without bus service have disabilities and require special transportation services.

“The union is asking for something we cannot legally deliver and are putting a central and necessary service at risk,” Walcott said. “A strike would be irresponsible and would adversely impact our students and their families who rely on bus service to get to and from school. As the City continues to take all possible precautions in advance of a potential strike, we are asking parents to make a plan in the event that busing is disrupted.”

Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union threatened to strike due to contract bid specifications excluding job guarantees for certain current drivers. According to the DOE, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that such a guarantee, known as the Employee Protection Provision, could not be included under the circumstances of the bids for pre-kindergarten bus contracts last year.

Queens schools may be phased out


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

For months, the Department of Education (DOE) had been evaluating city schools’ progress reports, noting those that were in danger of closing. The process is continuing, and now several Queens schools could possibly be phased out.

This process, which eliminates one grade at a time from the troubled schools, will be finalized after a vote this coming March. Public School 140 in Jamaica; Law, Government and Community Service High School in Jamaica; and the Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School in St. Albans are all on the chopping block. P.S. 156 in Laurelton faces a possible truncation, which will eliminate its middle school.

“We expect success,” said DOE Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg. “Ultimately, we know we can better serve our students and families with new options and a new start.”

However, the community is not taking the news lying down.

“I will continue to press the administration to keep these schools open,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie. “Many people at these schools work extremely hard to give their students the best education possible, but the city makes their jobs much harder by not allocating the proper resources and ignoring community input.”

Sternberg countered this claim, saying that the DOE has listened to the community and provided support services to the low-performing schools based on their needs, but it is time to take action.

However, Comrie said the city standards used to measure schools are “confusing, arbitrary, and hindering, rather than helping, to improve the education system.”

The Law, Government and Community Service High School in particular was one school with a good reputation, and according to Comrie, was asked by the DOE to take in more students. However, while they took in the additional students, they were not given the extra resources needed to accommodate them.

Citywide, 22 schools are facing phase-outs, two are looking at possible closure, and two more could be truncated.

Previously, J.H.S. 008, I.S. 059 and Flushing High School faced closure, but have since passed the DOE standards and will remain open.

“We expect every school to deliver for our students, and are working hard to offer families more high performing choices,” said Sternberg.
RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

School bus drivers threaten to strike after holiday break


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

After the new year, kids may be looking for a new way to get to school.

Yellow school bus drivers have threatened to strike when children are scheduled to return to school after the holidays. The city’s contract with Amalgamated Transit Union’s Local 1181 is set to expire in June and a bid, open to all suitors, was issued to secure a new contract.

“Going through with the strike now would be unfair to our kids and absolutely unacceptable,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The union is upset that the bid does not include language that will guarantee current drivers a job in the next contract, something Bloomberg said was deemed illegal.

“The union is protesting a job guarantee the DOE is not allowed to provide,” the mayor said.

The strike would affect 152,000 students and 7,700 school bus routes citywide.

The DOE has taken efforts to provide transportation if the strike does occur and sent parents a letter on the step that will be taken.

Metrocards will be provided to students who receive yellow bus service and to the parents of children in grades kindergarten to second grade and parents of children with special needs.

Those in areas where public transportation is not readily available will be reimbursed by the DOE for any transportation costs.

Field trips that required a yellow bus will be cancelled in the event of a strike and after-school programs will remain open.

The union also threatened to strike in November of 2011 over similar circumstances, but the work stoppage was averted.

Calls to the union for comment were not immediately returned.

Queens music teacher accused of sleeping with 16-year-old


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

IS 59 (2)w

A music teacher at a school in Springfield Gardens was arrested for allegedly maintaining a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

Vaughn McKinney, 58, is accused of starting a relationship with the female student when she was 16 after the two met through a Brooklyn church choir group, led by McKinney’s wife, according to a report from the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI). The student attends school in Brooklyn, and McKinney has been the music teacher at I.S. 59 in Springfield Gardens since 2002.

The investigation began in March of 2012, when the girl’s mother went to the SCI office to report an inappropriate relationship between her daughter and McKinney. He was arrested on Thursday, December 20.

“I can’t believe he was at this school,” said Ryan Hilton, whose nephew attends I.S. 59. “I’m glad they finally got him.”

The girl’s mother alleged that after meeting, her daughter spoke with McKinney about needing a job, and the Springfield teacher said he would give her money in exchange for sex. This allegedly continued, and McKinney also provided her with a cell phone, on which the two communicated, gave her an iPod and money to buy clothes, according to the report.

The student’s mother also met with McKinney’s wife, Patricia, on numerous occasions after Patricia found a telephone invoice in her husband’s belongings with the young girl’s name on it. Patricia reached out to the mother, and the two met and discussed suspicions of a sexual relationship between McKinney and the minor.

The minor’s mother claims to have known about the relationship since November 2011, but did not report it immediately out of fear. The father, divorced from the mother, brought the girl to their local police station, but she refused to cooperate with police because she was afraid, according to the report.

Officials at the Brooklyn church attempted to get involved and stop the inappropriate relationship, but to no avail. The student confided in Pastor Brian Pettrey about the gifts that McKinney was giving her in exchange for sex, and he responded by taking her cell phone in attempts to put an end to the affair, and by holding conferences with her mother.

When interviewed by the SCI, McKinney confirmed that he bought the student an iPod and a cell phone, but only because he “felt sorry for [her and she] complained about not having things that other kids her age had.”

He also confirmed to having multiple sexual encounters with her when she was 17, but did not report to having done so past January 2012. In June 2012, the minor was still using a cell phone given to her by McKinney.

The matter will now be prosecuted by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Education is currently seeking McKinney’s termination.

DOE reviews safety for its students


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Now, Bristy Roy is afraid that tragedy can strike her daughter’s school too.

In the days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Roy, whose six year old is in kindergarten at P.S. 31, told The Courier, “Now, I’m so scared.”

In the wake of the shooting, which took the lives of 20 children and six adults in sleepy Newtown, Connecticut, city parents, school administrators and the Department of Education (DOE) are responding accordingly, and making sure that students stay safe.

“The fathers and mothers in that situation . . . I’m still crying every time I watch it on the news,” Roy said.

Schools in the area have responded to the tragedy by reviewing safety procedures with teachers, that include having teachers sign up for text alerts and executing a mandatory procedure in which any adult entering the school must show photo identification.

DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott issued a letter to schools citywide, assuring them that safety is of the utmost concern.

“We have been in constant communication with the NYPD and their School Safety Division,” said Walcott. “I encourage you to guide your staff and students in maintaining your school’s regular schedule and continuing to be sensitive to the needs of your students as they learn more about this loss.”

Roy’s daughter has been one of the students learning more about the shooting, and innocently asked her mother what had happened.

“Five years old, six years old, that’s a baby,” said Roy, grabbing her heart. “I felt like something happened to me, because I have a child the same age.”

When Roy picked her daughter up from school Friday afternoon, she said she just hugged her as tight as she could, thankful that she was safe.

“Anyone can just walk into that school,” she said, pointing to the P.S. 31 doors. “They need to really check every single person that walks in.”

Walcott said that administrators should provide a safe place to discuss what happened for any students that wish to talk, and that guidance counselors and school psychologists should make themselves available. Resources on how to deal with the situation have also been posted on the Principals’ Portal and the Guidance and Teacher pages of the DOE website.

The DOE also requests that every school community review their visitor control procedures as well as the general response protocols, covering shelter-in, lockdowns and evacuations.

“While this tragedy occurred outside the bounds of our city, I know you share my sorrow for the students, families and colleagues affected,” said Walcott.

Sunnyside will get new school to assist growing population


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

RENDERINGS COURTESY OF MACRAE-GIBSON ARCHITECTS

A Queens neighborhood desperately in need of class space for its booming student population is getting a state-of-the-art $57.3 million facility.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education (DOE) said the agency is in the early stages of developing plans for a new school to be located at 45-46 42nd Street in Sunnyside, between Queens Boulevard and 47th Avenue. The 75,000-square-foot structure, called P.S. 313, will seat roughly 430 students in grades kindergarten through five and is expected to be completed in June 2014.

“It’s going to be a fantastic addition to the area,” said Gavin Macrae-Gibson, whose company Macrae-Gibson Architects is designing the school. “The site has been empty for a while. Overcrowding in Queens is quite dramatic. It’s hard to find these sites.”

The building will include a gym, cafeteria, kitchen, administrative and medical suites, 20 classrooms, specialty art and science rooms and a library. It will also have a rooftop play space and a separate early childhood play area.

The site is located in a densely-packed urban block, surrounded by seven- and five-story brick residential buildings and some smaller single-family residences. According to Macrae-Gibson, the architects used a contextual approach to designing the school’s layout and look, integrating it seamlessly into the neighborhood.

“It’s a pretty urban and dense neighborhood, well-defined,” said Macrae-Gibson. “A school has to fit in to its neighborhood. It wants to look like it’s part of the context but stand out.”

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Overcast with a chance of rain in the morning, then partly cloudy. Fog early. High of 54. Breezy. Winds from the NW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 34F with a windchill as low as 27. Breezy. Winds from the NNW at 10 to 20 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Jillian Peña – The Guiding Light

The Guiding Light is a sci-fi religious ballet. It explores religiosity in the balletic body, the desire to believe in something, and the complex relationship of the individual within the group. This sci-fi religious ballet trio explores the uncanny through the multiplication and duplication of the dancers both metaphorically and actually. Starts at 8 p.m. at the Chocolate Factory in Long Island City. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Queens man Ahmed Ferhani pleads guilty to plotting to blow up a string of Manhattan synagogues

A Queens man admitted Tuesday he wanted to “create chaos” by plotting to blow up a string of Manhattan synagogues — giving Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance the first state-level terror conviction under laws passed after the 9/11 attacks. Read more: New York Daily News

Teachers’ union joins chorus of concern about formerly flooded Queens school

The teachers’ union has joined parents in raising concerns about the safety of a Queens school flooded by Sandy. Read more: NY1

Police: Man implicates himself in deadly midtown subway push

Police said Tuesday night that a suspect implicated himself in a shocking subway pushing incident in Manhattan a day earlier that cost a man his life. Read more: CBS New York

New Far Rockaway playground hit by vandal and then again by Superstorm Sandy

This little playground in Far Rockaway has had a tough first year. Before it was even open to the public, the much-needed play space near Beach 29th St. was ravaged by a heartless vandal in March. The city rebuilt it only to see it battered by Superstorm Sandy months later. Read more: New York Daily News

New York City hits Sandy victims with ‘failure to maintain’ property citation

Residents in one Queens neighborhood are crying foul after they were written up for failing to clean up the city’s own mess. It is yet another new complication in life after Superstorm Sandy. Read more: CBS New York

Fiscal cliff offers hint at more defense cuts

House Republicans’ “fiscal cliff” counteroffer to President Barack Obama hints at billions of dollars in military cuts on top of the nearly $500 billion that the White House and Congress backed last year, and even the fiercest defense hawks acknowledge that the Pentagon faces another financial hit. Read more: AP

30 NYC schools looted after Sandy


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of schools.nyc.gov

In addition to homes and businesses, 30 schools have reported looting in some of the most Sandy-damaged areas, the New York City Department of Education told NY1.

Looters took $100,000 worth of equipment from Scholars’ Academy in Rockaway Beach. According to NY1, the stolen goods included approximately 90 iPads, six to 10 iMacs and two automated external defibrillators.

Scholars’ Academy is still closed because of storm-related damage, and a recovery and relief fund has been set up to help the institution.

At other schools thieves have taken cameras, calculators and a projector.

The lifted goods are reportedly not covered by insurance.

The NYPD recently reported that most of the 226 Sandy-related arrests were burglaries, and has assigned extra police on extended tours of duty to the Rockaways, Breezy Point, Coney Island and Staten Island. Authorities also brought in light towers, police cars and helicopters to help illuminate those areas.

 

Three Queens high schools face closure


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco

Three low-performing Queens high schools find themselves on the chopping block, including one school that was voted to close last year.

Twenty-four struggling schools are currently being considered for closure by the Department of Education (DOE) after poor performances and low grades on city progress reports. Borough institutions Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School, Law, Government and Community Service High School and Flushing High School, which narrowly avoided closing last year, were included on the shortlist.

Earlier this year the city released a list of 36 elementary and middle schools that also face closure.

“These are difficult but important conversations to have to ensure that we are holding our schools to the highest of standards,” said Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg.

This is the second time in the past year Flushing faces the ax. In April, the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close 24 schools – seven in Queens – through a process called turnaround. The closures were later overruled when the United Federation of Teachers won a court challenge saving Flushing and the 23 other schools.

The current list of two dozen high schools may be whittled down as the DOE continues their evaluations.

“We’ll take the feedback that we receive from the school and community into consideration as we explore options to improve performance and support student success, and we will continue to work with all of our schools to ensure that students have access to high quality options,” Sternberg said.

Inclusion on this year’s list was based on past performance, quality reviews and progress reports, which the DOE released Monday.

Overall, Queens schools fared better on the reports this year earning nine more A’s and B’s than last year. No schools received an F and only five received D’s, including the three schools that may be forced to close their doors.

Grades on the sixth annual progress reports were based on standardized test performance, students attendance, progress toward graduation and parent, teacher and student surveys.

“By measuring how well our schools prepare students for college and careers, the Progress Reports shine a light on the importance of increased rigor as a bridge to future success,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

 

*Schools without grades are closing or did not have enough data to receive them.

 

Students affected by Sandy can now takes classes online


| brennison@queenscourier.com

With several schools still closed scattering students throughout the city, the Department of Education announced a plan permitting kids to go to school without leaving home.

Enrollment for online courses opened yesterday allowing students displaced from their homes or forced to travel to a new school after Sandy to return to class. Core subjects and electives will be offered for students in grades six through 12.

Though 96 percent of school buildings have reopened since the storm, many students still face difficulties returning to class.

“Some of our families have not been able to return to their homes, and the impact on students demands more resources to ensure they get the education they need. These online courses will help keep our students on track for their academic success,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

Those without internet in their homes can visit a local library for access to the online classes.

Teachers experienced in online learning will teach the courses, the DOE said, which will be an extension of the department’s iZone program.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Tuesday: Mostly cloudy in the morning, then overcast. High of 50. Winds from the NE at 5 to 10 mph. Tuesday night: Overcast. Low of 41. Winds from the NE at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT of the DAY:  KT Magumbo 

Come to Resorts World Casino for the the bluesy pop rock sounds of KT Magumbo. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

DOE announces Sandy school makeup days

After missing a full week of school because of Superstorm Sandy, the city’s public school students will make up those days from February 20-22 and on June 4, the Department of Education (DOE), announced Monday evening. Read more: Queens Courier

Most Hurricane Sandy looting cases tossed out

At least half the post-Sandy looting busts have been tossed out, despite much grandstanding on the part of Brooklyn and Queens DAs, the Daily News has learned. Read more: New York Daily News

Belle Harbor family brought together after being devastated by Sandy

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, we keep hearing the refrain, “We’re all in this together.” Read more: CBS New York 

Mayor: Owners of Sandy-damaged homes to have a say in demolition process

One home in the Belle Harbor section of Queens looked like it was hanging on by a thread Monday. Others nearby were missing walls and one seemed to be sinking into the sand. Read more: NY1

Man busted at La Guardia after making threats to fellow passenger

A Spirit Airlines passenger was hauled into police custody at LaGuardia Airport in Queens today after making threatening comments to a fellow passenger as their plane was about to take off for Florida, authorities said. Read more: New York Post

FBI now involved in search for Brooklyn serial killer

The FBI is now involved in the search for a serial killer targeting Middle Eastern shopkeepers in Brooklyn. In all, three men have been killed, and investigators say their deaths are linked. Read more: ABC New York

Clinton to visit Middle East in move to defuse Gaza conflict

President Obama sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Middle East on Tuesday to try to defuse the conflict in Gaza, the White House announced. Read more: New York Times