Tag Archives: Education

Pol touts Ridgewood’s successes and the challenges ahead


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan discussed the many assets and issues facing Ridgewood at Thursday night’s swearing-in ceremony of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA) officials and board of directors held at the Ridgewood Older Adult Center.

“We have something very special here,” Nolan said. “It’s kind of ironic—lately it seems like the whole world is just finding that out. That’s going to present a whole new set of challenges for Ridgewood.”

In her address to the group, Nolan focused on the many positive aspects and improvements made in Ridgewood over the years, including bus and transit hub upgrades, the efforts and achievements of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), and advances in local healthcare.

Nolan also cited improvements in sanitation, such as Ridgewood’s successful composting program and high recycling rates, as a major asset within the community.

“Ridgewood is the cleanest neighborhood in the city because we made that a priority,” she said. “We thought of it as just keeping our homes clean, but now we see the environmental benefit as well.”

Ridgewood’s growth and development as an environmentally friendly, sustainable community was also celebrated. According to Nolan, the availability of mass transit, as well as the ability to walk to stores and venues within the community, lessened dependence on cars, reducing pollution and improving the local environment.

In addition to improvements, Nolan also addressed the many challenges facing Ridgewood, including mass transit, the loss of manufacturing and an increase in domestic violence, which she referred to as a “hidden problem” in the community. Nolan’s office and the 104th Precinct are trying to combat domestic violence through expanded outreach and communication in the wake of last week’s deadly attack on Grove Street.

An issue of particular concern was the challenges facing senior citizen tenants struggling to hold on to their apartments amid rent hikes in the area. Nolan and RPOCA President Charles Ober discussed introducing legislation that would expand the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) to three- and four-family homes. SCRIE is a property tax rebate offered to landlords with the incentive of reducing the rent of a senior tenant residing in their properties.

In 2014, funding to the SCRIE Program was increased from $29,000 to $50,000. Currently, the exemption is only available to dwellings with six or more units. Nolan vowed to form a council in Albany that would draft legislation expanding eligibility to three- and four-family homes.

“It’s long overdue and I think we could try,” Nolan said.

Nolan swore in the 2015 RPOCA officers, including President Charles Ober, First Vice President Joseph Segreti, Second Vice President John Maier, Third Vice President Domingo Santos, Recording Secretary Maryellen Borello, Financial Secretary Helen Kutch and Sergeant-At-Arms Carlos Ortiz.

The RPOCA board of directors sworn in included Henry Cross, Geoffrey Elkind, Gregory Haufe, John Hertling, Voytek Oktawiec, Jamie Taratoot, Simon Orr, Richard Wessley, Louis Rodriguez and Chairperson Patricia Grayson.

Pastor Thomas Goodhart from Trinity Reformed Church in Ridgewood offered a Benediction at the swearing-in ceremony.

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Community leaders urge BP to focus on creating new schools throughout Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Angy Altamirano

It turns out that it’s not just western Queens that has a problem with overcrowded schools.

Community leaders from across the borough urged Borough President Melinda Katz to push for school expansions during a budget meeting on Monday. Katz is in the process of developing the Queens budget for 2016, and she invited the public to comment on what mattered to them and their priorities for 2016.

“We’re experiencing a huge influx of children and we just don’t have the space,” said Karyn Petersen, Community Board 10 district manager. “We could use more schools or expand the schools we have. Both would be preferable.”

Petersen’s wishes were echoed by many others. Across the borough, people are reporting an increase in population and a swelling number of school children. In Woodside and Sunnyside, parents petitioned the city to create a new middle school. In the Jackson Heights area, Giovanna Reid bemoaned the fact that a new high school hadn’t been created in decades.

One hundred and fifty people, many representing hospitals, libraries, colleges and other institutions, signed up to speak at the hearing.

“We need a new high school,” Reid said.  “It’s about time for one.”

Along with a demand for more school seats, community leaders sought out funding to expand libraries, which, like the schools, are overcrowded. Along with a problem of limited space, many libraries are located on streets that are dangerous for pedestrians to cross.

“Kids have to cross the boulevard of death just to get to the library,” said Frank Gulluscio, the district manager for Community Board 6. “I mean I’m not trying to be dramatic but it’s a very dangerous place for kids to be even though many have to be there.”

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Ridgewood pol to state: Stop shortchanging public schools


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan of Ridgewood, along with fellow lawmakers, educators, parents and students, rallied on the steps of City Hall Thursday morning demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers pay $2.5 billion owed to New York City public schools.

Of that $2.5 billion, according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equality (CFE), every state Senate and Assembly district is owed tens of millions of dollars in funding for their schools. State Sen. Joseph Addabbo’s district is owed nearly $137 million, the most of any Senate district.

Historically, advocates stated, NYC public schools have been woefully underfunded, as the NYS Court of Appeals determined in the CFE ruling. The CFE lawsuit was brought by parents in 1993 against the State of New York claiming that children were not getting an adequate education.

In 2006, the NYS Court of Appeals found that New York State violated students’ constitutional rights to a “sound and basic education” by underfunding public schools.

According to the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), a 2015 longitudinal study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that when spending increases by 10 percent each year during low-income students’ tenure in school (K-12), those students earn 9.5 percent more as adults. Furthermore, graduation rates jump 4 percent, to 26 percent, and the likelihood of adult poverty is reduced.

“It’s very important that we’re here today to keep the focus on fulfilling the promise of CFE,” said Nolan, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee. “The court decision … said we have to provide our young people with a meaningful education that equips them for the future.”

“The economy has turned around, the funds are there. It’s time to keep our promises to the children and families of New York and for us, as state Legislatures, to continue to push for full funding for our wonderful young people,” Nolan added.

Currently, there is no proposed increase for school funding in Cuomo’s 2015-16 budget plan, unless the Legislature agrees to a series of new laws put forth by the governor.

The CFE launched a website which breaks down how much each public school is allegedly shortchanged, www.howmuchnysrobbed.nyc.

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Obama’s call to make community college tuition free gets an A from Queens students


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Students at Queensborough Community College are hopeful about a proposal that President Obama made to make community colleges free.

Samuel Yun, who goes to school full time and has to work a part-time job to help cover his costs, including tuition, was happy to hear the government may be picking up his college tab.

“That would totally help me,”  Yun, 20, said as he left his class at the Bayside campus. “It’s difficult for me because I’m taking six classes so it [holding down a job] gets in the way of me getting school things done on time.”

Obama unveiled the plan on Friday. It will need the approval of the Republican-controlled Congress to go into effect, but White House officials say they expect some bipartisan support.

If the whole country participates, Obama’s idea could help about 9 million students per year and save them around $3,800 in tuition, according to the White House. In Queens there are two community colleges — Queensborough Community College and LaGuardia Community College. Combined, the two schools have more than 30,000 students that would benefit from free tuition.

In Queensborough Community College, there are more than 16,000 students, according to the school’s records, enrolled in associate degree programs and another 10,000 students attend continuing education programs at Queensborough Community College, all of whom would be eligible for free tuition.

LaGuardia has a student body of more than 50,000 students from more than 150 countries.

“At LaGuardia we see the impact that a college education has on our students and their families,” said Gail Mellow, the school’s president. “Each year thousands of our students get the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in today’s economy.”

For Yun, he would be saving around $3,200, and the proposal would allow him to also quit his job as a waiter to focus on his dream of becoming a computer engineer.

Nearby, Isaac Masty, who just started his first semester, waited for his friends to finish class.

“If it gets passed, it would be a real boost for people coming from other countries,” the 18-year-old said. “Foreign students have such a hard time when they come here and if they were able to get a free start to their education, it would really go a long way for them.”

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg launches campaign fighting chronic absenteeism


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Billy Rennison

Missing just two days of school per month may not seem serious, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today that it presents a major obstacle to a high school diploma.

Seventy five percent of chronically absent sixth graders — defined as missing 20 or more days of school, or two per month —fail to graduate high school, the mayor said at a press conference at P.S. 91 in Glendale where he launched a new ad campaign fighting truancy.

“Chronic absenteeism also is often a child’s first step down the wrong path in life,” Bloomberg said.

The $9 million campaign updates the well-known ad questioning parents where their children are at night, instead asking, “It’s 9 a.m., do you know where your kids are?”

P.S. 91 is one of 50 pilot schools throughout the city partaking in the program “Every Student, Every Day,” which helps reduce chronic absenteeism by assigning students mentors.

In its first year in the program, P.S. 91 has reduced chronically absent students by 26 percent.

Stupendous student scores scholarship


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

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Stellar scholar Sarah Gafur snagged an award from the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing competition – the country’s longest-running and most prestigious academic scholarship program for those who excel in the visual and literary arts.

Gafur, an eighth grader at P.S. 232 in Howard Beach, won a $6,000 scholarship to attend a three-week program at Wellesley College this summer, specialized for gifted students seeking a collegiate experience early in their academic careers. She is one of eight students throughout New York City who was chosen for this educational honor.

Since the program’s start in 1923, over nine million students have received recognition for their artistic achievements, sharing in more than $25 million in scholarships. Many distinguished members of the creative world were recipients of this award including Andy Warhol, Robert Redford, Richard Avedon, Zac Posen, Sylvia Plath and John Lithgow.

$1 Trillion in Student Debt


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Billy Rennison

Here is what you can buy with $1 trillion: 5 million Lamborghinis, 15,000 private jets, 140 private islands and every team in baseball 16 times. Simply put, it is a lot of money.

The number — which is much more jarring when written out, 1,000,000,000,000 — is also the amount of debt students in this country collectively hold from their college loans. It is a backbreaking number, and an amount many feel is devastating their future.
A degree has become a prerequisite for employment, and rising tuitions means, for many, that debt is a precondition for entry into the workforce, so students have decided to fight back.

A rally was held on April 25 in Union Square to coincide with 1T Day — the day student loan debt hit $1 trillion — to raise awareness about the crisis and to begin a movement toward free college education.

Hundreds of protesters wore placards around their neck declaring the size of their debt, from relatively small amounts, like Jessica K.’s $13,000, to immense amounts, like Francis Rogers’ $108,000.

“Trillion dollar day is a reminder that private banks are still very much in the predatory lending business; this time it’s students not homeowners,” said Professor Andrew Ross, an organizer with the Occupy Student Debt 1TDay campaign.
The histrionics of the event — there were super heroes and choruses and even “Sallie May” showed up — did not overshadow the frustration of the hundreds of thousands of students drowning in debt.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college,” said Annie Spencer, a CUNY graduate student. “I’m now $80,000 in debt and don’t see a day when I won’t struggle to make ends meet. Those of us who took on this trillion dollar debt were sold the promise of a better life in exchange for carrying the burden, but the deck was stacked against us from the start.”

More than two-thirds of graduates leave college with student loan debt, according to a 2008 study. The average debt for these 1.4 million students is more than $27,000.
The students at the Union Square protest — and many other groups that have taken up similar fights — do not believe all college should be free or that, as a rule, loans should not be repaid. Their tenets are that public college should be free — as it had been in New York until the 1970s — and that student loans should be repaid interest free.
“The goal of these protests isn’t to renege on our responsibilities, it is to make the institutions making billions of dollars on the backs of students take some responsibility,” said Stephanie, a New York University graduate with $90,000 in debt. “They want us to default.”

More than 40 percent of students from the class of 2005 have faced default and/or delinquency, according to the Occupy Student Debt Campaign.
The demonstrations eventually made their way toward Wall Street, though not before parking itself in front of a bastion for tuition-free — for now — education, Cooper Union, where one dissenter, who identified himself as Jesse, stood atop the Peter Cooper Memorial.

For students that dream of a tuition-free college education, Copper Union is their Shangri-la — well, it was. From 1902 until today the college charged no tuition, instead relying on a generous endowment providing each student a scholarship — furthering the school’s founder Peter Cooper’s belief that education should be free, and for more than a century his ideal held true at the school bearing his name.

But, in April, the school announced that it would begin charging tuition for select graduate programs. This flew in the face of what many students felt the school stood for.
So, Jesse stood atop the school’s founder’s memorial with a sign reading, “No tuition, it’s our mission,” leading to a two hour standoff with police before he was taken down in a cherry picker and arrested.

Cooper Union’s shift toward tuition mirrors the nation-wide trend of exploding college costs. In the past five years tuition at public universities has increased 24 percent, and 17 percent at private colleges.

This has led — obviously — to a steep incline in the amount of debt students leave college with. Thirty years ago the number was $2,000, a full $25,000 below today’s amount. Inflation makes up only a small amount of the difference; $2,000 in today’s value is just under $5,000.
“I’m pretty much carrying a mortgage, I guess the American dream of owning your own home is out the window for me,” said Valerie Young, a 23-year-old with more than $100,000 in loans. “I can’t live in my degree.”

Indebted student’s plight has reached Capitol Hill where politicians are debating bills that would prevent student’s interest rates from doubling in July, an issue President Barack Obama has been speaking out against.

“When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. “Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.”

Burning Mad

“My future is going up in flames with each loan bill I’m getting and can’t repay because I don’t have a job, and the interest just keeps pushing the bill higher,” said Frederick Iman after he lit his student loan bill on fire. “So I might as well burn my bill, too.”
Iman was not the only protestor to turn their bills to ashes, others joined in sending smoke signals that they are here to end predatory loan practices.
Though the economy shows signs of recovery, college graduates unemployment rate is still well above the average and a recent Rutgers University study found that only half of graduates between 2006 and 2010 graduates have found full-time jobs.
“[Lenders] are making money off every graduate and even more money when we can’t find jobs,” said Mark, an unemployed graduate of Miami (Ohio) University who lit his loan bill. “Someone has to stand up for us, it might as well be us.”
It is not only the Occupy Student Debt Campaign and its supporters that are attempting to reform lending practices for students.
Student Loan Justice (www.studentloanjustice.org) is another organization that is dedicated to returning standard consumer protections to student loans. The group has created a Student Borrower Bill of Rights that aims to bring these standard protections back. Currently, student loans are not forgiven in bankruptcy proceedings — the only type of loan that applies to.

The EDU Debtors Union (www.edudebtorsunion.org) believes that students in debt are akin to factory workers.
“Factory workers go to work every day and transform capital into profit by making products,” EDU says. “Students transform capital into profit when interest and penalties are added to a principle loan.”

This method becomes unacceptable, they say, “when there are abuses to the many for the benefit of the few without a method of recourse.”
So EDU has started a union. They believe debtors can benefit from union representation. Large numbers, they believe, represents a better chance for students to negotiate better repayment methods with lenders.

This is a tactic that the Occupy Student Debt Campaign also believes holds power.
The campaign is circulating a petition that students pledge to stop making loan payments in hopes of restoring free public college education if 1 million students sign the pledge.

No End in Sight

Marches, protests and refusals to pay aid in shining a light on student’s plight, but the bills will continue to come. Without government intervention, change will be difficult. There are bills in Congress that aim to help students, but according to govtrack.us, they have little hope of passing.

“Because there are so many student loan lenders and types of loans, a general debt strike will not necessarily hit the heart of the beast,” EDU wrote in a blog entry. “To organize a debt strike effectively, you have to start with specific lenders otherwise the impact of the strike will not be felt.”

Only a few thousand have signed the Occupy campaign’s petition, well short of the million they need before the debt strike, and some are concerned about ruined credit.
I don’t want to pay back these loans — and honestly I can’t — but I’m worried that not paying anything will just ruin my credit for life,” said Michelle Condon. “[Lenders] practices must change and I will continue to fight, but unless we all band together and refuse to pay, what difference will be made?”

These campaigns are lighting the fire, but if the flame is suffocated with default notices and compounding interest, what is the next step?

“We just need to get the word out,” said Ryan Lindner, a graduate of Cortland University. “My credit is already crap, they can’t make it worse. I refuse to recognize them until they recognize my basic rights. I will not pay.”

Grover Cleveland spared: Now the work begins, say teachers


| brennison@queenscourier.com

DSC_0008

As dozens of students, faculty, supporters and alumni stepped to the microphone during Grover Cleveland High School’s public hearing last month — determined to have their voices heard — many were resigned to the fact that their shouts would fall on deaf ears.

But their raucous rallies were heard loud and clear.

Hours before the Panel for Educational Policy meeting to decide the fate of 26 city schools, Grover

Cleveland was removed from the list of Turnaround.

“I’m just glad the DOE listened to us for once,” said Nicole, a junior at the school. “We were devastated when we heard the news we might close; now, we can go back to being students.”

Under the Turnaround model the Ridgewood school would have closed and reopened under a new name with up to half the teachers being replaced.

In a statement, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that the school’s performance and quality of instruction have shown positive signs and an ability to continue these improvements.

In recent years, the school has shown signs of betterment, increasing its graduation rate and being rated as proficient on a quality review.

“We always had hope and we knew what the city wanted for us and we were doing it right,” said Mirit Jakab, an English teacher at the school. “We were worried the DOE was just following protocol, but through all the turmoil, we never gave up.”

The four-hour long public hearing and the passion and comments received that night played a role in the DOE’s decision to save the school.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” Jakab said. “They went above and beyond; they really fought for their school.”

Grover Cleveland, which was in the three-year restart program, lost out on the federal funds from the program when the DOE and teachers’ union failed to come to an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system. The school would have received additional School Improvement Grant funds if it entered the Turnaround program.

Though Cleveland has been removed from the list, its work is not done, said Jakab, who has been there for 10 years.

“Now, we have to roll up our sleeves and even go beyond what we were doing. I’m excited and ready to work.”

Parents, students, staff say Closing Flushing High School ‘Not A Solution’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

While graduation rates at Flushing High School have climbed over the years — and education officials praised some of the school’s “areas of strength” — the extra credit points may not be enough to save the embattled institution.

Hundreds of supporters — sporting anti-Mayor Bloomberg pins — packed Flushing’s auditorium to have their voices heard by the Department of Education (DOE) during an agency-hosted public hearing on April 16.

Flushing is one of 26 high schools on the updated list for Turnaround after seven were removed from the original list of 33 on April 2. If the school is turned around, it would close and reopen under a new name. The students at the school would be guaranteed a seat, and half the teachers would be replaced, according to the DOE.

“Closing the school is not a solution,” said Jenny Chen, who teaches Chinese at the school. “If they change 50 percent of the staff, then it’s going to create a disaster. The students know now where to find help, and they know who they can talk to. I feel angry, and I feel sorry for the students and parents. They don’t deserve that.”

DOE Deputy Chancellor David Weiner said closing and replacing Flushing with a new school would “create a school environment that will prepare students for success, college, work and life.”

The statement launched an avalanche of uproar amongst audience members — many of whom told The Courier they felt improvements made along the years have been overlooked or ignored.

Graduation rates at Flushing have risen from 54 percent in 2007 to 60 percent in 2010, according to the DOE’s report. The review also indicated “areas of strength” at the school, including Flushing’s ability to “maintain a culture of mutual trust and positive attitudes toward learning.”

However, the report states these elements do not particularly help keep the school open, but is instead “worth preserving” in the new school.

“With the new supports and restructuring available under the Turnaround model, we expect that the New School will be able to effectively leverage these areas of strength while improving student outcomes for all students,” the report stated.

James Manning, a junior at the school, said Flushing’s major problems stem from an “overwhelming” population of students who cut school every day, do drugs in the hallway and simply “choose not to learn.” He said this is at no fault to the teachers.

“No matter who you put in front of that classroom, they are still the same kids,” Manning, 16, said.

While senior Sun Lin is graduating as possibly Flushing’s last valedictorian, he said the real honor lies in having attended Flushing for four years — a school he now considers a second home.

“Seeing a home be destroyed is not what I want,” Lin said.

Some supporters said the DOE jumped the gun by already introducing the new school’s proposed principal — Magdalen Radovich — before the city’s Panel for Educational Policy even voted on the closure. The DOE Division of Portfolio Planning hosted the meeting on April 25, and the voting took place a day after on April 26. The Courier went to press before both events.

Debate League comes to Queens


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy Simon Cousins

Around 300 students, parents and teachers from across the city gathered at the Garden School in Jackson Heights this past weekend to watch lively middle school students debate a range of topics during the Metropolitan Debate League’s most recent competition.

The debate league, which draws participating teams from all types of schools in the Metropolitan area, had not previously held a competition in Queens.
“We aim to give students the tools to analyze their own world, engage with peers they might not otherwise meet, and, through friendly competition, allow them to survey and level their own playing field,” said Rhiannon Bettivia, president and co-founder of the Metropolitan Debate League.

Garden School coaches Kevin Burgoyne and Rich Kruczek said that the goal of hosting the event was to show appreciation for the Metropolitan Debate League and the opportunities it has given their students. The school provided refreshments throughout the day, sandwiches for lunch, and coffee, tea, and Wi-Fi access for all. “Even though we are only in our first year with the Metropolitan Debate League, we wanted to respond to the warm welcome that we had received by providing a host site for the group,” said the Garden School’s Headmaster, Richard Marotta, Ph.D. “It was very exciting for us to host, since it allowed more of our own families and teachers to attend and get a flavor of what debate is and what it means to the students.”

The students spent the day debating five topics, including financial literacy classes in public schools, organ donations, state primary election participation, debate league gender quotas, and United States trade regulations. The teams were given 15 minutes to prepare speeches on the topics before each debate. The day culminated in an awards ceremony honoring the top 30 speakers and the top 10 teams.

Among those awards, Garden School won two Top 10 Individual Speaker awards out of about 100 debaters, one Top 10 Team Award out of about 30 teams, and two Top 30 Individual Speaker Awards.

“We don’t just argue in a room. When we debate, we are learning valuable life skills,” said Garden School debate team member Daphne Davis.

 

Best of the Boro Voting is Live: Don’t delay, vote today!


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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Cast your vote for the best in Queens’ Family, Education & Recreation.

Hundreds of nominations have poured in to the Best of the Boro’s fourth and final round and now residents can select who stands out above the competition.

With seemingly endless entertainment options, this category allows residents to choose the borough’s best places to relax and enjoy time with your family.
The eclectic category features dozens of subcategories in a wide range of topics including: best batting cage, best pool hall, best shopping center and best movie theater among a host of others.

Also, the scores of elementary, middle and high schools throughout the borough have the opportunity to show off their school spirit as they vie to be named the top school in Queens. Best teacher, public school, private school, high school spirit and university are among the categories to be won.

Voting for your favorites is easy. Simply visit www.queenscourier.com and click on the Best of the Boro logo. There you can choose the best in any or all of the categories.
Voting will remain open until May 18. Hundreds of votes have already been tabulated, so if you want your favorites to have a chance to win, make sure to vote early and often. Residents can vote for their favorites once per day.

The first three rounds have garnered more than 175,000 votes. Keep an eye out around Queens for the Best of the Boro stickers in stores and eateries window — indicating that the borough’s residents chose it as second to none.

To stay up-to-the-minute on the competition like the Best of the Boro page on Facebook and follow @BestOfTheBoro on Twitter.

CLICK HERE to Start Voting

Is Ridgewood set to get a new school?


| jlane@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos

Kids in a crowded Queens neighborhood will have more room to expand their minds when a new school opens in Ridgewood — though they will have to wait three years.
More than 100 parents attended a public hearing on Tuesday, April 10 held by Community Board 5’s education committee at P.S. 305 on Seneca Avenue, across the street from the proposed site for the new school.

The hearing was held to discuss the building of a new 444-seat, state-of-the-art school and the School Construction Authority (SCA) was on hand to answer questions about the proposed structure.

The site – the St. Aloysius school building which closed last year, has not yet been purchased – but the SCA — which handles the planning, designing and construction of new schools — is in talks with the church to buy the property.

After purchase, an environmental analysis must be done before the school is demolished and a new building constructed. The goal — which the SCA labeled “aggressive” — is to have the school opened by September, 2015.

Parents of children at P.S. 305 are hoping that the new school would be an extension of the school which currently only goes up to the third grade. Twice the school has asked to be expanded to fifth grade, but has been denied. Currently, children graduate to P.S. 81 for fourth and fifth grades before going to a third school for sixth through eighth grades.

The Department of Education (DOE) said it will not have any details on what grades the school will house until the purchase is finalized.
A representative from Councilmember Diana Reyna’s office was on hand and applauded the DOE for addressing the issue of overcrowding in Ridgewood.
“The new primary elementary school at the former St. Aloysius site shows that the SCA and DOE have been listening to the community and have heard the need for the creation of more elementary school spots,” said the spokesperson.

The building will be built to accommodate children from any grades, kindergarten through 8th grade, said Pat Grayson, chair of CB5’s education committee.
At CB5’s monthly meeting the next day, board members approved the construction of the school building.

Final Chapter For Flushing?


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Melissa Chan

Local leaders rallied to save Flushing High School before the city closes the book on the storied 137-year-old institution.

Elected officials and education advocates gathered in front of the school to protest a possible Turnaround — which would mean replacing half of the teachers and reopening the school under a new name.

“Closing Flushing High School seems to me to be one of the most short-sighted decisions that the city has ever made because graduation rates are improving,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky at the protest on April 16. “Over the last six years, they’ve come up. It’s starting to work. Flushing High School has been slowly reversing the trend.”
Stavisky, who worked as a substitute teacher at the school before her election to the State Senate, said Flushing High School is home to many students who do not speak English as their first language, which she said may be attributed to the school’s low success rate.

“If a child comes into this building speaking no English and, instead of graduating in four years, he graduates in five years — that child should be commended. [He should] not have a finger pointed at him like he’s bringing the school down,” said Dermot Smyth, a United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative.

DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas said Flushing High School received a “D” on its most recent progress report, with an “F” on the student performance section. He also said graduation rates at schools serving similar populations are significantly higher than at Flushing.

According to Thomas, the DOE cannot afford to let underperforming schools linger while a teacher evaluation deal is hammered out and implemented. He said the

Turnaround plan keeps the best parts of the existing school, including its highest quality faculty, while creating a new program, new school culture and a different and better environment for students.

Flushing High School’s first public hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, April 18 at 6 p.m. after The Courier went to press. A meeting to introduce next year’s new school principal — Magdalen Radovich — will be held on Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m.

 

Class in session: City to get 54 new schools, two in Queens


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Spring may signify new beginnings, but schools will be “bloom”ing this fall.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on April 17 to announce the opening of 54 new schools across the city for the 2012-2013 school year. The new schools – 30 of which will be run by the district, along with 24 charters – will serve more than 7,000 students from kindergarten through high school next year, and over 21,000 kids when they grow to full size.

Of the 54 schools, two will be in Queens – Wave Preparatory School, an elementary school in District 27, will replace P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott, located at 535 Briar Place in Far Rockaway, and Central Queens Academy Charter School will open in District 24.

Including those slated to open this fall, 589 new schools have now been created in the five boroughs since 2002.

“Our children deserve great schools, our parents deserve great options, and our administration is committed to delivering them to families in every neighborhood in the five boroughs,” Bloomberg said. “The 54 new schools that will open next year reflect our commitment to children and parents, and they will build on the successful records established by the hundreds of new small schools we have already created. These new schools, including our new Academy for Software Engineering, which will train students not just in the language of computers but also in the language of innovation, will help prepare our students to succeed in the new global economy.”

According to the mayor’s office, evidence has indicated that new schools rank higher on parent satisfaction surveys than other schools across the city and perform better on state math and reading exams and graduate students at considerably higher rates than schools they replace. New schools also serve similar percentages of black and Latino students, English language learners and students with disabilities compared to the schools they replace.

Many of the new schools opened during the Bloomberg administration have followed the model of smaller schools – a strategy MDRC, a nonpartisan education and social policy research group, says “markedly improves graduation rates for a large population of low-income, disadvantaged students of color.”

“As we’ve seen over the past decade, new schools have changed thousands of lives in New York City for the better, helping more students graduate and prepare for college and careers,” Walcott said. “I want to thank all 54 new school principals, who have taken the bold step of building a new school community and offering families high quality options. Every child and every neighborhood deserve a great school, and we are proud to continue a strategy that has delivered just that for the past 10 years.”

Fighting to keep L.I.C. HS open


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Long Island City High School students are teaching a lesson in devotion by refusing to “turn” their backs on their school and allow their educators to be dismissed.
L.I.C., located at 14-30 Broadway, is among 26 schools across the city the Department of Education (DOE) has designated for Turnaround – which involves closing the school at the end of the academic year, reopening under a different name in the fall and replacing up to 50 percent of the teachers.

More than 100 students, teachers and elected officials rallied on the steps of L.I.C. on April 16 – a day before a DOE public hearing at the school – to protest the city’s plan.
Amira, the L.I.C. senior class vice president and an organizer of the rally, said students “are not going to go down without a fight.”
Teachers have also expressed outrage over the DOE’s intentions, and are requesting aid from the city rather than attacks.

Senator Michael Gianaris, an alumnus of L.I.C., believes the city is playing political games with kids’ education.

L.I.C. was included on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools during both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. The school – which was initially designated for the less severe Transformation plan – was receiving Race to the Top funding before negotiations broke down between the city and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) on an evaluation system. By instituting the Turnaround model – a program which does not require teacher evaluations – the city will be eligible to apply for up to $60 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from the state. L.I.C. would be eligible for $1.55 million in supplemental federal funding.
According to DOE records, L.I.C. ranks in the bottom 18 percent among city high schools in attendance with 81 percent and was given an overall progress report grade of C in both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.

The school, given a Quality Review score of “Proficient” on its most recent evaluation, has shown significant improvement in graduating students over the last three years, with graduation rates increasing from 56 percent in 2008-2009 to 66 percent in 2010-2011.

L.I.C. currently serves 3,386 kids, and despite the overhaul, all current students and incoming ninth graders who have applied and been matched to L.I.C. will have a seat in the new school.

As part of its plans for the replacement school, the DOE intends to modify the structure of the school day schedule, strengthen small learning communities, modify curricula and add an advisory program.

“The proposal to close L.I.C. and re-open a new school in its place will allow the best teachers to stay, improve the school’s structure and quality of teaching, and potentially allow us to access millions of dollars in funding to help the school improve,” said DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas.

The DOE’s proposal will be voted on by the Panel for Education Policy (PEP), a committee composed of 13 members assigned by the five borough presidents and Mayor Bloomberg, on April 26.

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis
Hundreds rallied outside Long Island City High School to protest the potential Turnaround of the school.