Tag Archives: Long Island City High School

LIC HS students each take home more than $100K in culinary scholarships


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Emily Hewitt

More than 20 city public school students have received the ultimate treat for their future.

During the New York Careers through Culinary Arts Program Scholarship Awards Breakfast on Friday 21 students were awarded culinary scholarships to attend the most prestigious culinary schools in the city and across the nation.

The scholarships ranged in value from $2,000 to $104,000.

Among the recipients were two Long Island City High School students, who took home the biggest awards. Melanie Vives received $105,800 from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Full-Tuition Scholarship and a CIA Community College Stipend of $2,950. Uriah Thompson was awarded $108,624 for the Johnson & Wales Full-Tuition Scholarship.

 

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DOE withdraws co-location plans


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

From the 49 co-location proposals released last year for schools all around the city, the Department of Education (DOE) has announced it will be withdrawing nine and revising one.

Two plans that have now been withdrawn included opening a K-4 Success Academy charter school in August Martin High School in Jamaica and bringing a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) high school to Long Island City High School. The rest of the plans involve schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“The previous administration handed over these proposals – and we have had to review all of them under inflexible deadlines. While the circumstances for each proposal are unique, we identified clear criteria and we followed it,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said. “We were deliberate in our decisions and, under the circumstance we inherited, believe is the best approach.”

In reviewing the proposals, the DOE identified four “core values” that will be used to evaluate co-locations: new elementary schools should not be opened on high school campuses; the new schools must have the resources needed to provide services the students deserve; depending on capital work to make space for the co-location; and seats must not be reduced in District 75, serving special needs students.

The agency also took into consideration deadlines and the impact some of the proposals would have on thousands of families.

“If there is one thing school communities should know, it’s this: we’re going to do things differently,” Fariña said. “Today, we are turning the page on the approach of the past. We are going to listen and be responsive like never before, and that will be reflected in everything we do.”

The Career and Technical Education high school proposed for LIC High School is now planned to be moved to Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan.

“This is a win for all of us in the community, but most of all for the students who only want the resources they deserve to receive a proper education,” State Senator Michael Gianaris said about LIC High School.

The DOE plans to host a meeting for each school community of the proposals that will be implemented. The meeting will help discuss next steps and also allow the DOE to engage with parents and school officials.

Councilmember Mark Weprin said that he is disappointed to learn that the DOE still plans on pursuing its plan to co-locate another school at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village. However, he said he has heard that the DOE will work with the local community to make sure the programs at the school meet the community’s needs.


THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan 

“We want to make Martin Van Buren a destination high school once again,” Weprin said.

 

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Op-ed: Make traffic safety a priority


| oped@queenscourier.com


COUNCILMEMBER COSTA CONSTANTINIDES

The 21st Street corridor between Queens Plaza and 20th Avenue has always been notorious for pedestrian fatalities.  It serves as a conduit between the Queensboro and Robert F. Kennedy Bridges, resulting in cars, trucks, and other heavy vehicles using the street to move quickly between these two points.

21st Street is also home to major senior and youth developments, such as I.S. 126, Long Island City High School, Bishop Iakovos Senior Housing, Vallone Family Senior Residence, Variety Boys & Girls Club, Queensview and North Queensview.  The increase in youth and senior populations, combined with increased commercial and cycling traffic, brings a need for improvement of traffic flow and an awareness of pedestrian safety.

According to data analyzed from the New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the New York Police Department, traffic on this stretch of 21st Street caused seven deaths and left 102 people with injuries from 2002 to 2011.

And these statistics have not improved since then. That data also showed that Queens had the highest incidents of fatalities due to traffic accidents in the city in 2013.

It’s easy to see why these deaths and injuries are occurring.

Some intersections along 21st Street have no crosswalks or countdown clocks at all. Many pedestrian crosswalks are bumpy, obscured with gravel or cracked asphalt, or otherwise impossible to cross if you’re in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller.  Some crosswalks are impossible to cross because the lights are non-existent or don’t allow for enough time to make it to the other side of the street.

This is an issue that plagues our entire city.  According to a Daily News analysis of NYPD reports, pedestrian deaths from vehicles, especially the number of children, are increasing and we are on pace to outnumber 2013 deaths in 2014.  So far, there have been 11 pedestrian deaths in 2014 across the city.

We clearly need a solution.

Earlier this month, we held a press conference on 21st Street, calling on the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) for action. State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, local advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Community Board 1,  parents from local schools, neighborhood community groups and senior centers, and other local activists joined. They agreed that real change is required to make 21st Street safer for everyone.

I therefore ask that the DOT conduct a traffic study of the 21st Street corridor, with the goal of creating a more safe and accessible street for all.

We need calming measures, such as countdown clocks and traffic lights for pedestrians, as well as well-maintained flattened crosswalks with no physical impediments for pedestrians with disabilities or children in strollers.

Our growth in population and small businesses is a boon to our local economy, but we need to make sure our infrastructure keeps up with increases in traffic. There is no excuse for us not to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities by vehicles to zero.

Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair the City Council’s Sub-Committee on Libraries and sits on seven standing committees: Civil Service & Labor, Contracts, Cultural Affairs, Environmental Protection, Oversight & Investigations, Sanitation, and Transportation.

 

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Benjamin Cardozo wrestler takes first place in citywide tournament


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYC & Company/ Julienne Schaer

When Benjamin Cardozo High School wrestler Adam Gomez gets on the mat, it’s all business.

Gomez enters his own zone, where he focuses only on defeating his opponent for the entirety of the match.

“As we wrestle I don’t pay attention at all to anybody else besides who I’m wrestling and that’s about it,” Gomez, a junior, said.

At the annual NYC Wrestling Mayor’s Cup tournament on Sunday, Gomez was fully locked on to his opponents, as he topped his competition to win the crown in the 106-pound division.

Gomez, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, defeated the No. 1 seed John Luke DeStefano of Poly Prep High School in the finals. After wrestling all three rounds with DeStefano, Gomez won the decision with a 4-1 point advantage.

“I’m impressed. He had a really tough opponent in the finals,” said Cardozo wrestling head coach Chris Milani. “It was a great match.”

About 10 schools from Queens were represented at the annual NYC Mayor’s Cup championship at Columbia University. Besides Cardozo, Long Island City, Flushing, Grover Cleveland, Information Tech, William C. Bryant, Springfield Gardens, Hillcrest, Martin Luther School and Lexington School for the Deaf all sent representatives to the mats.

The tournament featured the city’s top 16 wrestlers from the public, Catholic and private schools, in 15 different weight classes.

While Gomez was the only wrestler from Queens to have a first-place finish in their weight category, many of the other athletes enjoyed the experience of competing with top wrestlers from other leagues.

“It’s a big tournament. It’s good to [oppose] people that you don’t usually,” said wrestler Thomas McLoughlin of the Martin Luther School. “You wrestle them all the same. You go out there and you wrestle your game. You don’t wrestle to theirs.”

 

Queens wrestlers results 

  • 99 pound category, Randy Cazales of Flushing High School finished in third place.
  • 106 pound category, Oscar Estudillo of Long Island City High School finished in fifth place.
  • 113 pound category, Abdul Rabbani of Grover Cleveland High School finished in seventh place.
  • 138 pound category, Thomas McLoughlin of Martin Luther School finished in third place.
  • 152 pound category, Shaquille Jones of Hillcrest High School came in fourth place.
  • 160 pound category, Troy Walters of Flushing High School finished fifth place.
  • 170 pound category, Alex Ortiz of Martin Luther School finished in sixth place.
  • 182 pound category, Gabriel Ortega of Grover Cleveland High School finished in fourth place.
  • 195 pound category, Nnamdi Uchendu of Springfield Gardens High School finished in third place.
  • 220 pound category, John Pierre-Louis of Springfield Gardens Hill School finished in third place.
  • 285 pound category, Daniel Pottinger of Benjamin Cardozo High School finished in sixth place.

 

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Costa Constantinides sworn in as District 22′s new councilmember


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Costa Constantinides' Office

Councilmember Costa Constantinides is ready to work for his community.

The freshman legislator celebrated his inauguration Sunday at Long Island City High School as the new District 22 councilmember, representing Astoria, and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

Constantinides was sworn in by former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., and Councilmember James Gennaro was the emcee of the ceremony. Constantinides previously served as deputy chief of staff for Gennaro.

“Today marks not just a transfer in power, but an inauguration of a new era in our city, an era that will be defined by a revitalized sense of civic participation and engagement,” said Constantinides. “We will ensure that the levers of city government are once again working to lift up our homeowners, tenants, small business owners, and everyone struggling to get by.”

During his inaugural address, Constantinides spoke about his goals for the district, including cleaner and safer streets, better health care, more transportation options. The councilmember also shared his stories on growing up in Astoria, from playing basketball with State Senator Michael Gianaris, back in the day, to meeting his wife on Steinway Street.

The inauguration ceremony also featured the LIC High School JROTC Color Guard, the high school’s marching band, dance class, chamber choir and refreshments by the culinary class and greek restaurant Zenon Taverna. The Greek-Cypriot Dance Pancyprian Association Youth Dance Division also performed.

“All that I have I owe to the combined efforts and the sterling example of our community, without which the course of my life would have been profoundly different,” said Constantinides. “I know that we can accomplish great things when we come together because I have lived it my entire life.”

 

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Queens school co-locations approved


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Kids, make room. Nine borough school co-locations have been approved and are planned to go into effect by the next school year.

For the 2014 to 2015 school year, co-location plans will be executed in Martin Van Buren High School, J.H.S. 226 on Rockaway Boulevard, P.S. 40 in Jamaica, J.H.S. 72 in Jamaica and Long Island City (LIC) High School.

A Success Academy Charter School will additionally move in with August Martin High School and Voyages Prep, and another in I.S. 59 Springfield Gardens.

In the 2015 school year, the Elmhurst Educational Campus will hold five different schools, and the proposed co-location in M.S. 311 will take place in the 2016 school year.

The bundle of co-locations was approved at the Panel for Educational Policy’s (PEP) October meeting.

“True to form, every single proposal was approved by the spineless puppets appointed by Bloomberg,” said Ken Achiron, a teacher at LIC High School and the school’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader. “Not once did they waiver that the ‘King’ could be wrong.”

Even still, the next mayor has the power to reverse the plan, and “there’s a lot of rumbles going on” as to whether that will happen, said Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the PEP Queens rep appointed by the borough president.

The initial co-location plans projected five years ahead and claimed they will keep the school buildings just at full capacity. But Fedkowskyj, who voted against the proposals, said “so many things can happen, who’s to say their projections will be right?”

A Department of Education spokesperson said “across the city” they have “transformed the landscape with our new school options.”

“This will be a new option that will deliver great outcomes for children, and we’re confident it will be in very high demand,” said the spokesperson.

 

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LIC High School students voice opposition to co-location


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Above photo by Angy Altamirano/Building photo by Rosa Kim

These bulldogs are not ready to go down without a fight.

School officials, students, community members and local elected officials gathered in the auditorium of Long Island City High School, home of the Bulldogs and referred to as “LIC,” on October 23 during a public hearing to voice their opposition to the Department of Education’s (DOE) proposal to co-locate a new school within the building.

The DOE’s Panel for Education Policy is expected to vote on the proposal that would open a new Career and Technical (CTE) high school in the 14-30 Broadway building by September 2014.

Students, with faces painted with the school’s colors and holding signs that read “We are LIC, One team, One Family,” rallied against the co-location before heading into the hearing.

“I consider LIC my home away from home,” said Irving Torres, LIC High School senior and student member of District 30’s Community Education Council (CEC). “I will not stand by as I watch my home be attacked by this proposal.”

If the proposal is approved, students of LIC High School and P.S. 993, a special needs District 75 school currently located in the building, would have to share their space with the new school. Students fear this will bring cuts to their beloved AP courses and extracurricular activities.

In order to make room for the incoming ninth grade class, the DOE will make enrollment cuts at LIC High School beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

The high school, which currently has 2,524 enrollees, will have around 2,000 students by the 2017-2018 school year.

“They have yet to tell us who besides the chancellor and the mayor want this,” said Ken Achiron, a teacher at LIC High School for 25 years and chapter leader for the United Federation of Teachers. “The reality is it’s some children first, certain children always, but LIC children never.”

In the proposal, the DOE said the school has received an overall “C” grade for three consecutive years on its progress reports and enrollment cuts are only in response to what has already been occurring at the school for years through diminishing student sign up. However, those opposed said the new principal, Vivian Selenikas, has been taking the school on the right path to success and the co-location would only take away from the school’s achievements.

“I’m not going to let them take away my school,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris, who graduated from LIC High School in 1986. “The last thing we need is a new school dropped in here that no one has asked for.”

The high school was in danger of closing last year when officials put it on a Turnaround list alongside Flushing High School and 22 other city schools.

“It seems to me that every time our school achieves success, the DOE finds a way to combat it,” said Divya Ramdath, president of LIC High School’s student organization. “LIC has a future, only if the DOE allowed it.”

The DOE did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

 

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DOE says enrollment cuts reflect trend at LIC High School


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Rosa Kim

The Department of Education (DOE) has come under harsh criticism from members of Long Island City High School after announcing plans to cut enrollment.

According to Ken Achiron, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader at LIC High School, the DOE plans to cut the incoming ninth grade class from 1,000 to 440 students. He added the plan would entail $3 million in cuts to the school’s budget and the loss of 30 staff members.

“They have capped our incoming class below the numbers needed to maintain our quality programs,” said Achiron.

“The budget will hurt all grades, including seniors who expected courses to be available when they were scheduled to take them.”

The high school was in danger of closing last year when officials put it on a turnaround list alongside Flushing High School and 22 other city schools. Members of the LIC High School community believe the planned cut in enrollment is an attempt to close the school through other methods.

“It’s a good school, it’s a proficient school. They are doing very well and they survived the turnaround,” said James Vasquez, UFT representative for Queens high schools. “This isn’t about teachers losing their jobs; the issue is what it does to that school community. What’s happening here is the destruction of the school community.”

Yet, according to the DOE, the enrollment cuts are only a response to what has already been occurring at the school for years.

“Since 2007-2008, we have seen a 34 percent decrease in ninth grade enrollment and we’re expecting further drops next year,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia. “That’s as neighborhood parents have clamored for new, smaller, high-performing school options.”

The reduction would not be expected to take place until the 2014-2015 school year. LIC High School will have around 2,000 students after the decrease.

“An enrollment reduction would reflect what’s already occurring: lower parent demand for Long Island City High School and higher demand for alternatives,” said Puglia.

The DOE said it has been in communication with the community and that it might open a new school with a smaller student body. The department added that such a center would likely be a career and technical education school in the LIC High School building.

 

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Students at saved Turnaround schools reflect on first day of classes


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

The first bell of the school year rang yesterday for a number of Queens high schools that were planned to lay dormant this year.

Seven schools slated for Turnaround started classes on Thursday, September 6 after a nearly year-long battle to stay open.

An arbitrator’s ruling to let all teachers keep their jobs and open the institutions this fall under their original names was upheld in State Supreme Court at the end of July. But the threat of closing by the state after this year, however, is still open if the schools don’t shape up.

Over at Long Island City High School, students lined up to review their course schedules before the start of the day.

Tenth graders Sohela Elgaramouni and Ouissal Elkharraz were happy to return to the school they knew and loved.

“We’re happy to see all our old teachers and most of the kids are still there,” said Elkharraz. “I don’t feel like a freshman again.”

But first-day jitters lingered long after dismissal for Flushing High School freshman Riana Painson.

Painson, 14, said she felt lost roaming around a new school and overwhelmed at having classrooms so far from one another.

“I felt lost, but I would have been more lost [if Turnaround happened],” Painson said.

Flushing senior Kassandra Marie said she was happy to walk into a school she was familiar with for three years, but already had one foot out the door.

“I’m used to Flushing High School already. I didn’t want to start all over again,” the 19 year old said. “But I just want to leave already, move on with my life and go to college.”

Magdalen Radovic is the current interim acting principal of Flushing High School, according to Department of Education spokesperson Marge Feinberg. But a C-30 process to find a permanent principal is in progress, she said.

Olga Perez stood outside of Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood near day’s end waiting for her granddaughter, junior Kayla Vargas, who had her first day there after transferring from a Manhattan high school.

Grover Cleveland was removed from the list of 26 city Turnaround schools hours before the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close them.

Perez’s children had gone to Grover Cleveland and she was relieved to hear the school would remain open when her granddaughter went to register.

Work still had to be done at the school, Perez said, referencing a high level of violence in the school. On the first day of school, though, she said things seemed quiet and would continue to.

“I was impressed by it,” she said. “I just hope it gets better and not worse.”

Other failed Turnaround high schools that opened its doors under the same staff and original names Thursday include Richmond Hill, Newtown, August Martin, Bryant and John Adams.

Additional reporting by Melissa Chan and Alexa Altman

Queens students start a new school year


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Lorenzo Barrios lined up outside P.S. 234 in Astoria for his first day of school ever. The 4-year-old had been looking forward to starting pre-kindergarten for a long time, excitedly anticipating learning how to read and write his name. Wearing his brand new Elmo backpack, Barrios followed his teacher and classmates into the school, waving goodbye to his mother who watched as her youngest child entered the building.

“I’m excited that he’s starting a new chapter,” said mom Maria Barrios.

Her son starting school marks the first time her home will be empty during the day since becoming a mother. Maria said she didn’t know what to do with herself. Her 8-year-old daughter, Jasmine, also attends P.S. 234.

“I’m ready to do homework with both of them,” Maria said.

Over at Long Island City High School, one of the schools that was slated for a now-failed Turnaround, students lined up to review their course schedules and start their first day of school.

Tenth graders Sohela Elgaramouni and Ouissal Elkharraz were happy to return to the school they knew and loved.

“We’re happy to see all our old teachers and most of the kids are still there,” said Elkharraz. “I don’t feel like a freshman again.”

Check out more photos of the first day of school in Queens.

16 Queens schools face shutdown by state


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

After seven Queens high schools won a nearly yearlong battle with the city to remain open, the institutions — along with 10 other borough schools — find themselves on a state list of schools that need to shape up or shut down.

New York state education officials unveiled a list of 123 schools in the city that face closure by the 2014 school year if improvements are not made. The list is made of schools in the bottom 5 percent on test scores and graduation rates.

Twenty-two borough schools also made the state’s list of the best in New York.

Six Queens high school were marked for turnaround by the city — which would have closed and reopened the institutions under new names — before a judge overruled the decision. Now, the schools again find themselves on a list that might mean their closure.

“The state’s new system more closely resembles the city’s school Progress Reports by recognizing growth and measuring students’ college and career readiness. This year, 55 schools were recognized for their strong performance and fewer schools were identified as struggling,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said.  “There is still more work to do, and we will continue to support our struggling schools while holding them accountable to the high standards our students deserve.”

The Queens schools include 12 high schools, three middle schools and an elementary school.

The schools are: Newtown High School, Grover Cleveland High School, Flushing High School, Martin Van Buren High School, Beach Channel High School, August Martin High School, Richmond Hill High School, John Adams High School, Excelsior Prep High School, Jamaica High School, Long Island City High School, William Cullen Bryant High School, M.S. 53, J.H.S. 8, I.S. 192 and P.S. 111.

 

 

LIC HS teen choosing between MLB & college


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Joshua Almonte

Joshua Almonte has a life-changing decision to make, and the clock is ticking.

Almonte was drafted from Long Island City High School in the 2012 Major League Baseball draft by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 22nd round, 685th overall. While the draft was a few weeks ago, he hasn’t decided whether to become a professional or continue his education.

“I’m only 18 so I could go to junior college and get drafted again,” said Almonte, who became the first player to be drafted from the school in approximately 45 years, according to published reports. “But then I could get injured. There are pros and cons.”

Almonte was also offered a full-ride scholarship to play baseball for Miami Dade College in Florida. He has until July 13 to sign his professional contract.

“Most people tell me, ‘that’s my dream, go ahead and sign,’ but it’s not as easy as people think,” he said.

His dream, to be drafted and become a professional player, started last summer. Almonte said that while playing with his summer travel team, the New York Rays, he was visited by so many college coaches that he thought if he pushed himself he could get pro scouts to talk to him as well.

“My freshmen year I was just trying to make varsity, play well and hopefully get into a good college,” Almonte said. “Getting drafted definitely wasn’t on my mind freshman year.”

But with newfound ambition, he began working towards getting drafted.

He worked out frequently to raise his speed and went to batting cages after practicing with his team to enhance his hitting.

He also had a personal trainer to become stronger, and he attended showcases to present his talents to scouts.

“I was definitely trying my hardest to get drafted,” the outfielder said. “Instead of trying to focus on one thing, I tried to improve my overall skills.”

And scouts took notice.

“At the beginning of the season when we were about to play there were seven or eight scouts at our first game,” said Thomas Lehman, Long Island City Bulldogs Head Coach.

The only problem was that Almonte had a down year in the Public School Athletic League (PSAL).

He batted just .244 and had a .404 on base percentage, a year after tearing up the league with a .395 batting average and over .536 on-base percentage.

“I found it really hard to make an adjustment,” Almonte explained. “In the summer I saw fast pitching and then in high school I rarely saw anyone throwing above 85 so it was hard for me to make an adjustment.”

But the stats didn’t stop scouts from keeping an eye on him, because of the potential the outfielder showed.

Standing at 6’3,” Almonte is long and lean — and fast, running the 60-yard in a stunning 6.55 seconds. At a recent showcase Almonte showed off his arm, gunning a 94 mph strike from right field to home plate.

“He has the tools,” Lehman said. “I think scouts saw that and how he projects for the future.”

If Almonte does choose to sign will the Blue Jays, the organization will pay for his education. However, he won’t be able to play college ball.

No matter what decision Almonte makes, Lehman said he will support him 100 percent, and is just happy to see Almonte have opportunities many other players don’t.

“It was a great honor to coach a kid with that kind of talent,” Lehman said.

 

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.

Turnaround proposals submitted for eight Queens high schools


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


Elected officials are refusing to “turn” the other cheek on the city’s plan to overhaul a number of high schools throughout the borough.

The Department of Education (DOE) has submitted proposals to Turnaround eight high schools – Flushing, William Cullen Bryant, Long Island City, Newtown, Grover Cleveland, August Martin, Richmond Hill and John Adams – resulting in the closure of the school at the end of the academic year and its reopening under a different name in the fall of 2012, along with the replacement of 50 percent of the faculty.

In total, 33 schools across the city have been designated for the Turnaround model, but each current student will be guaranteed a seat in their reopened school.

Local leaders, parents and teachers have all expressed outrage over the DOE’s plans, emphasizing the destructive influence this will have on students.

“This is a slap in the face to all of the teachers and students who have been working hard to keep [these schools] on the road towards greatness,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, a graduate of Bryant High School. “I think pulling the plug is the wrong way to go. The students feel pride in their school, and if you close it, you are saying it is a failure. I think that’s the wrong message.”

Van Bramer, who called the city’s tactics “draconian,” also noted that a new principal was installed in Bryant in September, giving the leader less than a year at the school.

Other legislators have argued that politics should be left out of the classroom.

“The DOE should realize this proposal does not factor how such an extreme overhaul of Bryant and L.I.C high schools would affect attending students and how they learn,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “Children’s education should supersede political posturing.”

DOE officials said the city lost significant federal funding when an agreement on teacher evaluations could not be reached with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

By deciding to Turnaround the schools – a program which does not require teacher evaluations – the city can apply for up to $60 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding from the state.

“When we did not get an agreement with the UFT by January, we lost out on money from the state,” said DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas. “That’s one of the reasons behind this – we want to try to salvage as much of those funds as possible. We also see this as an opportunity for these schools to get better, improve their culture, improve their school program, improve their staff and become much better schools.”

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 Michael Bloomberg, on April 26.

According to Thomas, if the Turnaround proposal is approved by PEP, the department plans to move forward regardless of funding.

“This is being done because of the mayor’s ego, and not because of any inability of the UFT to negotiate,” said Ken Achiron, the UFT chapter leader of L.I.C. “The mayor walked away from the table and refused to negotiate. I think this is a disaster for the children and school system. This mayor is doing more damage than the fiscal crisis of 1975.”

Maria Karaiskos, an English teacher at L.I.C. for 16 years, believes the plan has hurt students and educators alike.

“I think this will severely disrupt the students’ education,” she said. “If the goal is to improve education, this is the worst thing they can do. Teacher morale is low, and it should be clear that Bloomberg is trying to remove teachers.”

Eight high schools to ‘Turnaround’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

The city’s failure to successfully negotiate with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) may spell doom for more than half a dozen high schools across Queens — including the subtraction of half their educators.

Due to the inability of the two parties to come to an agreement regarding teacher evaluations, the Department of Education (DOE) has moved eight high schools — Flushing, William Cullen Bryant, Long Island City (L.I.C.), Newtown, Grover Cleveland, August Martin, Richmond Hill and John Adams — into the School Improvement Grant Program known as Turnaround.

Turnaround involves the closure and immediate reopening of the school under a different name, along with the replacement of the principal and 50 percent of the teachers. The schools, which are state-designated Persistently Low Achieving (PLA), were initially slated for Transformation or Restart, which do not involve closure and are less severe programs with regards to expulsion of faculty.

“A school’s performance is judged on multiple measures, and when there has been important progress but there is also significant room for improvement, we believe students will benefit from intervention,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “This is an opportunity to assess and keep what is working and also bring in a new wave of talent that will be able to build on the progress already made.”

As part of the Turnaround program, school-based committees will be formed to assess and replace half the teaching staff based on merit — replacing the least effective teachers and keeping the best. Each school will be reopened by the fall of 2012, and every current student will have a seat in their respective school.

In total, 62 schools from across the five boroughs have been assigned to one of the DOE’s intervention programs.

Of these, 18 schools will be phased out over several years by not accepting any new students and officially closing after current classes graduate.

Five will close at the end of the current school year in June, forcing current students to transfer. Six will lose their middle school grades but stay open as either high schools or elementary schools only, and the remaining 33 schools will close in June and reopen immediately with a different name.

P.S. 215 in Woodmere has been slated for phase-out, and the Peninsula Preparatory Academy, a charter elementary school in Rockaway Park, is also lined up for closure.

Since negotiations between the DOE and UFT failed, the city’s School Improvement Grants (SIG), which are used by 27 of the 33 schools designated for Turnaround, has been suspended by the state. The city, however, is hopeful its actions will once again make it eligible to receive the funds.

“The unfortunate thing is that we see this as the mayor playing politics with our schools, and they are holding these PLA schools and their communities hostage,” said James Vasquez, Queens district representative for the UFT. “The turnaround model has no educational value other than the mayor’s unwillingness to come to an agreement in negotiations. We have been and continue to be open to negotiations.We are not the ones who walked away from the table, they were. In the end, these school communities are the ones who will suffer.”

Vasquez says the city abandoned negotiations roughly 36 hours before the state’s January 1 deadline. He claims the mayor opposes the state’s new holistic evaluation approach — which the UFT supports — and is searching for a scapegoat for the precarious situation in city schools.

Despite the distraction, some teachers are concentrating on their students, attempting to prevent the ambiguous situation from causing a digression in their education.

“A lot of things are in motion and we’re sorting out what it means,” said Debra Lavache, a teacher at Flushing High School. “We’re just focusing on the students. We still have students to teach.”

The majority of students, parents and faculty have expressed tremendous outrage regarding the city’s plans, furious that the students’ education is being placed in the middle of a bureaucratic war.

“We have worked around the clock to try and improve the school,” said Mirit Jakab, an English and Theatre teacher at Grover Cleveland High School. “Many parents and kids are very disappointed. This is tearing our community apart. It is a shame that what seems to be politics is hurting our kids.”

Other teachers believe the Turnaround will do more harm than good.

“I think the city has not given us enough support to implement structural changes that would help the students achieve. It is designed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to fail,” said Maria Karaiskos, an English teacher at L.I.C. High School. “The worst thing you can do is implement this Turnaround model, because what will turn around is the students, and they will go back home. They will turn their backs on education.”

Students at L.I.C. echoed their teacher, emphasizing the lack of excitement and energy most will exhibit while attending the “turned around” school.

“I think this is a terrible idea,” said Amara, a 17-year-old senior. “This is only going to psychologically harm the kids and teachers. Rearranging the system is going to make students get used to a whole new set of teachers. It will drive us away from learning.”

Barbara Loupakis, who graduated from L.I.C. in 1987 and currently has a daughter in 10th grade at the school, believes the Turnaround is the latest example of the city not prioritizing education

“This year things have been going crazy,” Loupakis said. “First there were not enough teachers. A lot that they had were substitutes because they didn’t want to spend money to hire teachers. They have books that are over 20 years old. My daughter brought home a book that my husband had. We don’t have money to give new books and now we are firing teachers? My daughter is not going to want to come back. Because of these changes, these kids are not going to have the spirit and drive to get up in the morning. Bloomberg is sending a message to these kids that they are nothing.”