Tag Archives: High School

Ridgewood high school improving but still faces state takeover

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Local pol brings together community, school officials on proposed Bayside high school

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Gregg Sullivan

Councilman Paul Vallone held a community engagement meeting at his district office on Tuesday regarding the proposed high school to be built at the Bayside Jewish Center.

Representatives from the School Construction Authority (SCA) and Department of Education (DOE) attended the meeting along with community board members and interested residents. This is the second conference the councilman has held on the subject.

Discussion revolved around plans for the future of the new school, with the SCA made several commitments to increase community input and encourage civic participation in the school’s installation.

Although the contract between the SCA and the Bayside Jewish Center has already been signed, the SCA vowed that the community will be able to determine what type of programs the school will provide. This could include specialized programs and areas of study otherwise uncommon in northeast Queens.

The SCA and Vallone’s office will build a group of community stakeholders to gather input on which specialized programs the school will host.

The SCA also committed to take the context of the neighborhood into consideration with regards to the immediate area’s residential character. This had led to concessions on the size and scale of school to minimize the impact on the community of mostly single-family homes.

Additionally, an environmental impact study slated to start during the summer was pushed back after concerns that it would be more accurate if conducted during the school year.

Vallone said that although the school site selection process has historically lacked transparency, the commitments the SCA and DOE have made to date are significant steps toward improving community engagement.

“I don’t think anyone supports the SCA’s site selection process, a process that clearly needs to be changed,” said Vallone. “However, our continuing community engagement forums will ensure that our community’s voices are heard and that we play an integral role in our children’s educational future.”

DOE spokesman Jason Fink said that the SCA is fully cooperating with residents and everyone else who might be affected by the incoming school.

“As we continue our effort to reduce school overcrowding in Queens and throughout our city, we are fully engaging our partners to ensure ongoing dialogue on all aspects of this project as we move forward.”

State Senator Tony Avella has also been involved in recent inquiries surrounding the school’s installation in Bayside.

According to the senator, Attorney General Karin Goldman has declared that proper regulations were not observed in the sale of the Bayside Jewish Center because the organization did not give his office the opportunity to review whether or not the deal was compliant with existing statutes.

Bayside Jewish Center President Joshua Sussman was unable to be reached as of press time.


Students remember Christ the King teacher Richard Hartman

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy Christ the King High School

Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village lost a family member last week when faculty member Richard Hartman died on Aug. 13 at the age of 75.

Hartman worked at Christ the King for 10 years and coached the high school’s math team to a number one ranking statewide during the 2012-13 school year, among other achievements. His knowledge was only surpassed by his dedication to his students.

Two of his former students, Joe Pennolino, who will be a senior at Christ the King in September, and Alex Singh, a Christ the King graduate, were with Hartman during his final days and remember him for the unyielding support he gave to everyone who knew him.

“Mr. Richard Hartman was a man of pure brilliance with an unlimited passion for teaching,” Pennolino said. “He was always willing to help and was never too busy to [help] the next student in need of assistance. Though he was taken from us too soon, his love for teaching will never be forgotten.”

Over the years, Pennolino and Singh formed a strong bond with Hartman during the math tutoring lessons he would hold every day at the high school. That bond quickly transformed from one of student-and-teacher to a deep friendship.

“We developed a father-son relationship just because we were always together and anything that I needed or he needed we helped each other out, so we were always there for each other,” Singh said. “We always watched movies together. He would come over on the weekends…he loved game shows.”

Hartman cared for his students so much that he would hold tutoring sessions outside of the school and for students from other high schools in the area. He would be there for anybody who needed his help, the students said.

“His job as a teacher and his dedication to students never stopped…if a student called him and asked him a question he would stop whatever he was doing, wherever he was and make sure he found the answer,” Singh said. “He would always try to be there for the students.”

The dedication and care Hartman had for his students was returned as Pennolino and Singh visited the teacher while he was in the hospital battling cancer.

“The nights Alex and I were at the hospital were very difficult because we watched Mr. Hartman struggle to get better, but we knew how happy he was to see us there,” Pennolino said.

When they learned of Hartman’s death, his former students couldn’t believe the news.

“It was a shock because the day before I saw him and he was walking around the room. He was doing well. I couldn’t believe it,” Singh said. “It was a shock. Everything stopped for two days. I didn’t know what to do.”

“I didn’t understand it until the second or third day that he wasn’t going to be in school anymore,” Pennolino added.

Hartman’s legacy will live on in the students that he cared so much for and all of the people who knew him.


Seven Queens students accepted to the US service academies

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of Congresswoman Grace Meng's office

Seven recent high school graduates from Queens will be all they can be in their college years after being accepted into various U.S. military service academies with the assistance of Congresswoman Grace Meng.

The academies consist of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland; U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado; U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point; and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut.

Kate Gerodias from Middle Village graduated from Forest Hills High School and will be attending the Naval Academy; Zachary Kurre from Glendale graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School and will attend West Point this summer; Selah Cho of Fresh Meadows finished school at Marion Military Institute in Alabama and will attend West Point; Kevin Guo from Rego Park graduated from Hunter College High School and will be continuing his education at the Naval Academy; Julia Hsu from Flushing graduated from West Point Prep School and will go on to West Point this summer; John Makiling of Flushing graduated from Naval Academy Prep School and will continue on to the Naval Academy; and Daniel Zakrevski from Richmond Hill graduated from Bronx High School of Science and will be attending the Merchant Marine Academy.

“I am honored to congratulate these seven exceptional students,” Meng said. “All are outstanding individuals who will be future military leaders of our country. I have no doubt that they’ll make Queens and the nation proud.”

Students looking to attend the service academies are required to be nominated by their Congress member. The institutions then evaluate the nominations from across the nation and decide which nominees to accept.

The students nominated by Meng compete against students from across the country and must meet the highly competitive educational, physical and extracurricular standards set by the institutions. Meng’s Academy Review Board, which is a panel of local community leaders, assists Meng in the nomination process for students looking to attend the academies.

This year, a total of 33 students applied to be nominated by Meng. Of those 33 students, 20 were nominated by the Congresswoman.

To congratulate the students for being accepted to the service academies, Meng hosted a reception for them and their families at her office in Flushing. She also presented each student with a certificate of Congressional recognition.

Meng plans to continue her “U.S. Service Academy Information Night” for Queens students who are interested in applying to the U.S. Service Academies. The day and location will be announced in the near future.


Queens students know the meaning of sportsmanship

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy Aaron Finkel

Three students from Queens were among the winners of New York Sports Connection’s first annual New York City student sportsmanship essay contest, “What Sportsmanship Means to Me.”

The students were tasked with writing original 400- to 500-word essays on the topic of what sportsmanship means to them. The submissions were anonymously judged on originality, emotional appeal, use of the theme, grammar, spelling and writing skills. Entries were received from all five boroughs, and the finalists were selected from 10 different NYC public and private schools.

“We were overwhelmed by the response and impressed by the wonderful quality of the many essays we received,” said Aaron Finkel, New York Sports Connection founder.

Sifan Lu, 17, a Forest Hills resident and student at Stuyvesant High School, won the 11th- and 12th-grade category. Xavier High School student, Connor Mulvena, 16, a resident of Glendale, was named a finalist in that category.

Forest Hills resident Jennifer Yu, 15, was a finalist among the ninth- and 10th-graders. She is a ninth-grader at Stuyvesant Tech in Manhattan.

As a category winner, Lu will receive a $500 prize. Mulvena and Yu will each receive $100 for being finalists in their categories.

The essays were judged by a celebrity panel of judges, including WFAN radio sports talk personality Craig Carton; former New York Mets relief pitcher and team captain John Franco; Mike Puma, a sportswriter with the New York Post; and Luis Fernando Llosa, former Sports Illustrated associate editor.

“It was an honor to help judge New York Sports Connection’s First Annual Youth Essay Contest,” Franco said. “The essays submitted by the finalists showed a level of maturity way beyond their years, and were a testament to the amazing work done by parents, coaches and volunteers to ensure that our kids’ youth sports experience teaches real life lessons.”


Residents rally against high school planned for Bayside Jewish Center

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Residents living near the Bayside Jewish Center rallied with state Sen. Tony Avella on Thursday against a proposed high school planned for their neighborhood.

Around 75 people showed up at the intersection of 32nd Avenue and 204th Street and largely complained of overcrowded traffic and buses due to the existence of several other schools in the nearby vicinity, including a number of elementary schools and Bayside High School, which serves a student body of more than 3,000 only four blocks away.

While the protesters agreed that new schools should be built for local students, they did not think that their community could accommodate a school with a planned capacity of between 800 and 1,000 students.

Avella said the School Construction Authority (SCA) has systematically chosen school sites without the support of residents and elected officials, citing an unsuccessful 2013 outcry against an elementary school being built on 48th Avenue. He is introducing legislation which would amend education law to require detailed analyses to be made available upon the proposed construction of a new school in a city of over a million in population.

“Too many times, SCA has been allowed to barge into a neighborhood and construct a monstrous school wherever they choose,” said Avella. “We cannot allow this to keep happening.”

Henry Euler, first vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said that he and many others were frustrated with the lack of participation afforded to the community in the decision-making process for a new development.

“Above all, what they should be doing is consulting us, and asking the residents, what do they want, what should we put here, what do you need,” Euler said.

Members of Community Board 11 spoke before the crowd to offer their objections at not being consulted on the location of a new school.

“Come to the community and ask,” said board member Paul DiBenedetto. “They don’t know, they just look on a map.”

Some attending the rally even placed blame on the owners of the Jewish center for selling the property to the SCA, asserting that the building’s owners did not take enough care to choose an appropriate buyer to fill their place.

“They shouldn’t turn their backs on their neighbors, and impose on them an outsize school that would completely demolish the quality of life,” said Lance Premezzi, a resident of 32nd Avenue since 1950.

Councilman Paul Vallone, however, indicated that while compromises with the community will have to be made in the process leading up to the school’s construction, he looks forward to seeing a new school in his district, whether it is installed at the former Jewish center or at an alternative site.

“Any project of this size will always have opposition but in the end, we must weigh the merits of the site against the overwhelming demand for additional seats,” Vallone, who was initially an outspoken supporter for the creation of the proposed high school at the Jewish center, said in a statement. “The significant overcrowding in our schools is an issue that has been put off for too long and will only continue to worsen if it is not addressed.”


Cardozo senior to play on NFL gridiron

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Dawn Perry


Four years ago, the only football experience Miltiadis (Milton) Kaplanidis had was in the schoolyard of M.S. 67 on Marathon Parkway.

Playing in those informal games, Kaplanidis did not necessarily think about a high school career, let alone one that would lead to playing on an NFL field at some point. Eventually it did, and the Cardozo senior defensive lineman received one of the coveted spots on the 2015 U.S. Select Team that faces the International Federation of American Football World Team at AT&T Stadium on Jan. 31.

Kaplanidis is among 57 varsity high school football players to be selected to play at the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The team joins five U.S. national teams as part of the International Bowl in competition between USA Football and Football Canada, and Kaplanidis admits to being shocked at making the team even after doing well in tryouts last summer in College Station, Texas.

“It was a shock because when I played in Texas on the national team to try out for this team, I wasn’t the biggest,” Kaplanidis said. “I wasn’t the strongest, I wasn’t the best, but I listened to my coach and did the best I could do. I worked hard. I trained for months, and [for] a kid who’s in a public school in New York and to make such an honorable team, it’s amazing.”

Listed at 6 foot 1 and 252 pounds, Kaplanidis is the one of two New York City players and one of three players from New York State on the team. The others are Woodhaven native and Fort Hamilton High School linebacker Jayson Magnani and Babylon High School running back Jerry Brown Jr. Among the recent alumni of the team are quarterbacks Bryce Petty (Baylor) and Kevin Hogan (Stanford), linebacker Mike Hull (Penn State), running back Samaje Perine (Oklahoma), wide receiver Jaxon Shipley (Oklahoma), offensive lineman Jack Mewhort of the Colts, defensive back Tyrann Mathieu of the Cardinals and defensive end Stephon Tuitt of the Steelers.

The road to playing on a national team started in the summer of 2011 when Kaplanidis was among many who received a letter from Cardozo junior varsity coach John Savage about trying out for the team. Unlike many others, Kaplanidis had never played for any of the youth programs in Queens that often feed players into high schools.

“I was contemplating should I join the football team, should I not because years before I wanted to play football, but they never had an outside league,” Kaplanidis said. “I just tried out, [Savage] liked my size, I played and years went by. I think I found my footing in it because I would have never thought I’d have come this far into my life being into football.”

Upon reaching Cardozo in the fall of 2011, Kaplanidis played seven games with the junior varsity. He eventually switched from offensive line to defense so he could go from blocking to making tackles.

“I started off playing left tackle,” he said. “I started playing offensive line. I thought it was boring so I tried defense, and I was still better at offense, but I wanted to work hard on defense because I enjoyed it a lot more.”

Last year, he had 37 tackles in eight games while serving as the team captain. Although the team finished with a 2-8 record, he was the team’s best player and he credits coaches Joseph Kaso, Lou Decicco and Sean Glover for his development and getting a chance to play on the same field as Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and the rest of the Cowboys.

As for what comes next, Kaplanidis intends to play football in college. So far, Buffalo, which competes in the Mid-American Conference, has shown interest, but most of the interest in Kaplanidis has come from Division II and III schools such as SUNY-Cortland, Ithaca, Assumption, Stonehill and Merrimack.




High school brings colorful posters to Queens businesses

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A local high school is designing posters and fliers for independent Glendale and Ridgewood businesses.

Andrew Drozd teaches three art and design classes at the Academy of Urban Planning in Bushwick where students work with local businesses in Brooklyn and Queens to apply design techniques to real world applications like advertisement.

“This is something that’s still in its infancy but we’re learning,” Drozd said.

“Students appreciate what they’re learning if there’s a real value attached to it.”

He first started the class this semester in April. The design exercise was meant to only last a couple of weeks.

“And now here we are, nearing the end of the school year and my students are still passionate about it,” Drozd said. “There’s been such an outpouring of support from the local business communities.”

Jesse Ibrahim owns Roma Deli in Glendale. He displays a huge poster at the entrance of his store.  The poster has pastel colors that frame a picture of the deli-front in the center. On the bottom right corner it says, “This poster was created by Jocelyn Perez a student at the Academy of Urban Planning.”

“I love it,” said Ibrahim, who has owned the deli for almost 15 years.  “Now my entrance is brightened. It’s very presentable.”

Ibrahim was first approached by Drozd two weeks ago and was then given an option of about 15 different poster designs all made by separate students.

“So there’s a level of competition,” Drozd said.

In Ridgewood, Armand Baklajan was expecting his poster any day now when it would be hand-delivered by Drozd.

“This is fantastic work,” he said, holding a sketch of his yet-to-be completed poster. “I wish I had such a motivated and passionate teacher when I was in high school.”

Drozd said that he has about 40 other businesses lined up for future posters. He first came up with the idea when he noticed that so many delis have hand-written signs advertising things like breakfast sandwiches.

“So there’s an element of social justice in this. We’re providing a service to people who could really benefit from it,” he said.

Each class produces about three posters a week using design programs and pictures. Drozd expects the work to continue through the summer and next school year the design exercise will be introduced to another batch of students.

“We’re going to ride this until it crashes,” he said.


Cambria Heights high school scholar set to graduate in three years

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Rosmary Reyes

Follow me @liamlaguerre

While most high school students are happy to leave school when the bell rings, Rosmary Reyes takes extra classes, which sometimes keep her as late as 6 p.m.

Now that extra time is about to pay off.

Reyes, a student at Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School in Cambria Heights, is set to graduate after just three years.

“I feel like as soon as I get out of high school, I can get into the real world and closer to my dream of being a lawyer,” Reyes said. “The faster the better.”

Reyes, 16, maintains a 91 percent average in school, is a member of Arista, the National Honor Society, and is in the running to be her school’s valedictorian or salutatorian. She speaks fluent Spanish, and also knows American Sign Language, which Reyes learned so she could communicate with her deaf cousins.

Besides her academics, Reyes participates in a great deal of extracurricular activities and volunteer work.

She is president of the school’s student government, editor of the yearbook, a member of the journalism and the recycling clubs, and she also tutors students who need help in specific subjects. Reyes volunteers at the annual high school fair for eighth-graders and the college fair.

Outside school, Reyes is a New York Cares team leader and has volunteered to help many causes, including working in a soup kitchen and taking part in a coat drive for a senior citizens home.

“It’s not just for academic achievement or looking better for my resume,” Reyes said. “I like [volunteering] because I want to do it. I like helping people and being in leadership roles.”

Even before high school, Reyes was an exceptional student. She received student of the month and student of the year awards from M.S. 61. Reyes pushes herself to do more, because of her philosophy to stay motivated.

“When you are tired and just want to give up, you should just stop for a moment and imagine what you can achieve if you try just a little bit more,” Reyes said.

But her ideals aside, Reyes recognized that she wouldn’t have been able to achieve all of her accomplishments without her family as a backbone of support.

“[I] give thanks to my parents for always giving me the resources I need, and my sister for always giving me the push I need to achieve my goals.”

Reyes is now waiting to hear from St. John’s University, where she plans to continue her education. She then wants to go to law school to become a civil litigator or human rights lawyer.

“I always found a true passion in it,” Reyes said. “The thing I like about lawyers is that they get to help people who may not be able to help themselves.”



Queens students bridge the generation gap using makeovers

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of GlamourGals and by William Mebane

Using makeup and nail polish, hundreds of Queens teens are bridging the gap between two generations.

Nearly 185 high school students in the borough have joined in a nonprofit’s cause to provide friendship and free makeovers to women living in senior homes.

The after-school leadership program, GlamourGals Foundation, Inc., has spread to 83 chapters in the country, including seven high schools in Queens.

“We’re bringing together two fragile populations,” said Kavita Mehra, vice president of GlamourGals. “Our volunteers come back to us and constantly share what they’ve learned from the seniors and their experiences.

We’re building compassionate, young leaders who are making a positive difference in their community.”

The teens visit local nursing homes and senior centers at least once a month for community service credit, Mehra said. They give hand massages, file down and paint nails, and apply foundation, blush and lipstick using clean, hypoallergenic materials supplied by the organization.

“What young woman doesn’t love nail polish and what older woman doesn’t love to be pampered? It’s a great way to start a conversation,” Mehra said. “It’s something about the human touch that can break immediate barriers.”

Eghosa Asemota, 19, a former Queens chapter president, said the program transformed her life after a traumatic car accident left a scar on her face.

“Before I joined GlamourGals, I was a quiet girl. I walked with my head down,” said the Ozone Park resident. “The more I visited nursing homes, the bolder I got. I was able to build that confidence again.”

Asemota, now a sophomore at Adelphi University, led the chapter at Thomas A. Edison High School, which boasts nearly 100 volunteers, in her senior year. The seniors, she said, became her own family.

“My grandparents live in Nigeria. I don’t necessarily get to speak with them a lot. Having these elderly women filled the void of a special grandmother,” she said. “I was able to give them a purpose, and they gave me a purpose.”

GlamourGals was established 13 years ago. Since then, its programs have spread to the Academy of American Studies, Thomas A. Edison, Townsend Harris, Robert F. Kennedy, Forest Hills, Flushing, and Cardozo high schools in Queens.

The organization also awards a select group of volunteers yearly with $1,000 scholarships and paid fellowships.

“We help them develop their fullest potential, and for the elderly, we demonstrate that they are not forgotten,” Mehra said.



School shooting in California, one injured

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

According to the Associated Press, a student was shot at a high school in Taft, California. The shooting suspect is reportedly in custody. No other injuries have been reported thus far.

Immigrants finish high school at higher rates than U.S. born

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A report recently released by the city’s Independent Budgetary Office (IBO) found that immigrant students graduate in four years at a slightly higher rate than U.S. born students, but those differences depend greatly on the foreign born student’s country of origin.

The IBO’s report tracked the graduation rates of the 89,750 students who were or would have been part of the class of 2009 at New York City public high schools.

Students from the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, Central America and U.S. Territories graduated at a rate lower than those born in the United States, but students from other parts of the world earned a greater percentage of diplomas.

“We’re pleased to see the positive graduation rates for immigrant students overall,” said Kim Sykes, manager of education advocacy for the New York Immigration Coalition.

But she was concerned that particular groups of immigrants had lower rates.

“The city needs to really ensure that all students get access to the services they need to acquire English proficiency,” said Sykes.

Also, she added, they need to have access to high-quality career and technical education programs, and have alternate paths to graduation that don’t include the state Regents exams.

Students at New York City public schools must pass those tests to graduate, which can be challenging for immigrant students who are trying to learn English, said Sykes.

One of the current activities that the New York Immigration Coalition is helping students with is the new policy that offers immigrants who entered the U.S. as children a way to remain in this country.

“I think [the new policy] is a meaningful incentive to stay in school,” said Sykes,

In addition to the gaps in immigrants from different areas of the world, there were also differences across racial lines.

Among immigrant students, whites had the highest graduation rate at 78.7 percent, but Asian students were only slightly lower at 74.6 percent.

U.S. born Asian students graduated at 87 percent, beating out white non-immigrant students by almost 10 percent.

Hispanic and black students graduated at a lower rate than white and Asian students in both categories, but the rate for black immigrant students was actually higher than their U.S. counterparts (68.3 versus 60.7 percent).

Hispanic immigrant students had the lowest graduation rate at 55.8 percent.

The IBO report was prompted by the large increase of graduation rates since the 2001-2002 school year. Before that time, they had barely changed since the mid-1980s when graduation rates were first reported.

In 2011, a record 65.5 percent of students graduated from high school, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced this June.

The Bloomberg administration has used these numbers to show the positive change the mayor has brought to the city’s public schools.

This sudden turnaround led to suspicions that the graduation rates were not what they seemed, and that some students who dropped out were actually being classified as “discharged.”

Discharged means a student left the New York City Public School system, but enrolled in another educational institution, such as a city private or parochial school, or in another public school district.

But the IBO found in its September 5 report that its calculations of graduation and dropout rates were close to what the Department of Education showed.

Seven Queens high schools close their doors for good

| brennison@queenscourier.com

august martinw

The final bell rang for the seven Queens Turnaround high schools as the last students passed through the doors of what the city graded as failing institutions.

Wednesday, June 27, marked the final day of class for August Martin, Flushing, John Adams, Long Island City, Newtown, Richmond Hill and William C. Bryant after the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close the schools in April. Seventeen other high schools around the city have also closed.

Under the Turnaround model, the schools will reopen in the fall under a new name with half the staff possibly replaced.

“I guess I’m happy that I’m the last graduating class of this high school but at the same time it’s disappointing because we’re not coming back and half of these teachers are not coming back at all,” said Newtown senior Adianes Dalle, fighting back tears. “I tried my best to keep it open… There’s no point in coming to visit because [the teachers] are not going to be here.”

The state’s Education Department approved the closings on Friday, June 22, saying they met New York’s requirements.

“I’m disappointed that I’m not going to finish my career here,” said Bryant teacher Mike Sherwood, who has been at the school for 20 years.

The Queens schools shutting their doors were all on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools, and were receiving federal Race to the Top funding before negotiations broke down between the city and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) on an evaluation system.

Flushing teacher Robert Pomeranz called the Turnaround “a trick by renaming and renumbering.”

“Next year, the new school won’t have statistics that will count for another three years. It is a trick by the mayor and his flunkies.”

By instituting the Turnaround model — a program which does not require teacher evaluations — the city was eligible to apply for up to $60 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from the state.

That funding has been provisionally approved by the state pending the outcome of arbitration.

“My conditional approval of these plans is contingent on the NYC DOE’s ability to meet the relevant staff replacement requirements, ongoing consultation and collaboration with stakeholders,” state Education Commissioner John King wrote in a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The UFT filed a lawsuit in May saying the method of replacing teachers at the turnaround schools violated their contracts.

An arbitrator will determine if the DOE has properly staffed the turnaround schools.

If the arbitrator decides against the DOE — which says it is properly following the guidelines in the teachers’ contract — the department may revisit and consider additional staff from the closed school in order to receive SIG funds. The DOE said that the fact that the state education commissioner approved the closures will be brought the arbiter’s attention.

Though the federal funding is important to supporting the new institutions, the spokesperson said, the main mission of the turnaround plan was developing a strategy to improve student achievement.

Committees composed of representatives from the UFT and DOE will make the decision on whether former teachers meet the qualifications at the new school.

The final decisions on hirings cannot be made until after the arbitrator’s decision, the UFT said, which the union expects soon.

“No final personnel decisions involving these schools can be made until the arbitrator rules on the UFT’s contention that these are not really new schools,” a UFT spokesperson said.

— Additional reporting by Chris Brito

Grover Cleveland saved from closure

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Hours before the Panel for Educational Policy meeting to decide the fate of 26 city schools, the Department of Education removed Grover Cleveland High School from the list ensuring its survival.

Under the turnaround model the Ridgewood school would have closed and reopened under a new name with up to half the teachers being replaced. Bushwick Community High School was also removed from the list.

“Over the past several weeks, during public hearings and visits from my senior leadership, we looked closely at schools whose performance and quality of instruction have shown positive signs in the last two years. We have come to believe that two of those schools – Grover Cleveland High School and Bushwick Community High School – have demonstrated an ability to continue their improvements without the more comprehensive actions that are clearly needed at 24 other schools,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

The hearing on Monday, April 2 and the public comments given that night also played a role into the DOE’s decision to keep the school open.

“This news is a testament to the hard work of the school community, the students, parents and teachers and Principal [Denise] Vittor at Grover Cleveland,” said Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley. “I was proud to stand with the community protesting the turnaround model, and I am relieved the DOE has listened to common sense and will keep the school open. We must continue to fight for the remaining schools that are still slated for closure.”

Cleveland has shown improvement in recent years raising its graduation rate and being rated proficient on the quality review.

Twenty four other schools — seven in Queens — will have their fate determined tonight at the PEP meeting in Brooklyn.


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.