Tag Archives: Martin Van Buren High School

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Two plans that have now been withdrawn included opening a K-4 Success Academy charter school in August Martin High School in Jamaica and bringing a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) high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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Judges dominate on the court


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The Benjamin N. Cardozo Judges, the top team in the borough (PSAL 10-0), were reminded to “play Cardozo basketball” before trouncing Martin Van Buren (PSAL 4-7) and keeping their undefeated record.

Both teams were without their starting point guards, Van Buren’s Darron Williams and Cardozo’s Rashond Salnave, at Tuesday night’s game but play stayed strong on both ends of the court.

“Other players had to step up,” said Van Buren head coach Everton Edwards. “We do what we do. Basketball games are won in between the lines. You have to go out and believe you can win.”

Although the Van Buren VeeBees played like they believed they could win, Cardozo set the stage with a successful layup just 10 seconds into the game.

Both teams were slow on shots throughout the first quarter, but remained physical on play. Judges forward Armando Dunn and power forward Carl Edoua Balthazar continued to snatch the ball right from the VeeBees’ hands whenever they had the opportunity.

With three minutes left, VeeBees guard Vladimir Midy faked right, sank a jump shot and got the foul for a four-point play. Forward Kristian Mondesir from Cardozo rebounded the ball and responded with a three-point shot, ending the quarter at 12-6 Cardozo.

The second quarter opened with four successful quick shots, back-to-back from both teams. Dunn blocked a VeeBees’ shot attempt and Judges’ guard Marzuq Jimoh grabbed the ball and ran with it, scoring on the other end of the court.

“If you need 30 seconds, tell me,” Ron Naclerio, Cardozo head coach, yelled to the out-of-breath Jimoh after he made his shot.

Van Buren started making long passes around the perimeter, sending Cardozo players chasing after the ball. In the final minutes of the half, the VeeBees outscored the Judges 6-2.

After halftime, the Judges slumped back onto the court, looking defeated.

Naclerio shouted: “Play Cardozo basketball!” before his team started play.

Center Francisco Williams acknowledged his coach, took the ball and easily sank a layup to start off the half, bringing the score to 24-17 Cardozo, and the team was suddenly revived.

Van Buren missed their following shot and the rebound was snagged by Cardozo point guard Elijah McNeely, who dribbled down the court and sent a sharp pass to Williams in the paint.

The VeeBees continued to play hard but fell short in executing their shots. With 49 seconds left in the game, Edwards used a full time-out despite a 17-point deficit.

After Cardozo got their energy back, they were able to win 53-35, but not without scaring the crowd just a little.

“That was a good game, it made us sweat,” said a group of Cardozo parents.

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Queens High School of Teaching stomps on Martin Van Buren in hoops score


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The Queens High School of Teaching (QHST) and Martin Van Buren High School boys’ varsity basketball teams entered the game with the same record, but Van Buren left with an upset.

Despite the loss of powerhouse forward Sonny Okorie, the QHST Tigers (5-3) kicked off the first quarter with a 7-0 run. A series of quick turnovers on both ends of the court ended with Van Buren’s guard Darron Williams getting fouled, and putting his team on the board with two points.

But the Tigers smooth passes and ability to control the ball and execute shots soared over the Van Buren VeeBees (4-4) and they ended the half up by 10 points, 27-17.

The second half started up with several stand-out plays from QHST forward Michael O’Leary and guard Brandon Anderson. Both teams continued to be aggressive on steals, amounting as much as four steals in under a minute.

Despite doubling the VeeBees score, Shelton appeared displeased at the referees’ foul calls, but the Tigers continued to score regardless. Just before the quarter ended, QHST guard Keshaun Ellis made a behind-the-back assist and brought the score to 47-23.

Several times throughout the game, Van Buren passed the ball directly into the hands of the QHST players. But before the fourth quarter, Edwards took Williams aside to talk strategy for the final minutes. But despite the pep talk and a big block from VeeBees guard Dayvon Lloyd on O’Leary, the Tigers came out victorious and ended the game 69-29.

This is the Tigers first season in the AA division and as of press time placed third overall in the borough, behind High School for Construction and the Benjamin N. Cardozo High School.

“I think we’re doing better than others expect,” Shelton said.

He added the majority of his varsity team is underclassmen so he is “excited” for the years to come, building on what they have.

“Our future looks bright,” he said.

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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More speak out against plans to put new school inside Martin Van Buren


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

More opponents have stepped up to fight the city and its plans to put an early college inside Martin Van Buren High School.

“We’re finally climbing out of this rut we were dug into by the DOE,” said junior Sharon Kaur. “Our voices should be heard.”

About 40 speakers signed up at an October 23 public hearing to discuss the six-year Early College and Career Technical Education (CTE) High School program proposed inside the struggling Queens Village school.

Most were teachers and students against the Department of Education’s (DOE) plans.

“There’s no room intellectually and physically for another school,” said Frank Suriano, a social studies teacher. “It’s total nonsense. It’s got to stop.”

But some, including leaders from nine of the largest civic associations in eastern Queens, supported plans they say would “fast track” positive changes.

The new school is modeled after a P-Tech design that has been lauded by President Barack Obama. It would give students a chance to get a free Queensborough Community College associate’s degree while in high school, education officials said.

The early college would also focus on computer science and business technology and give students “real-world work experience” through internships, according to the DOE.

“Across the city, we’ve transformed the landscape with our new school options — and we’ve been nationally recognized by President Obama for our visionary offerings,” said DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield.

However, Sanjay Patel, director of specialized programs at Van Buren, said the school already has CUNY partnerships and college-ready science programs in the engineering, pre-med, law, forensics and computer technology fields.

“This is a huge step forward toward the transformation and rise of our school,” he said.

Students in the early college program would also have to complete internships and take off-site classes at QCC, Patel and city officials said.

“We have ours right here,” Patel said. “I want the CTE to see what we’re doing.”

The new school would open next fall if the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) approves the plans October 30.

 

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Students, lawmakers rally against Martin Van Buren High School co-location


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Queens lawmakers and dozens of students carrying picket signs rallied last week against the city’s plans to put another school inside the storied yet struggling Martin Van Buren High School.

“We’ve been fighting so hard,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but in the dead of night, in secret, they put a colocation in the school.”

The city’s Department of Education (DOE) has proposed adding a new early college within the Queens Village school to serve grades nine to 14.

Education officials said the Early College and Career Technical Education High School would give students a chance to get a free associate’s degree while in high school.

It would focus on computer science and business technology and give students “real-world work experience” through internships and focus on career readiness, the DOE said.

But students are unwilling to share the already congested 230-17 Hillside Avenue building.

“It’s already crowded as it is,” said Gaitree Boojraj, 16, the school’s junior president. “We don’t need more people in this school.”

The new school would also undo progress Van Buren has made since Principal Sam Sochet took over last June, said Queens legislators, who held another rally in July.

“[Sochet’s] been turning the school around,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “The students are getting the type of education they need. Then, we get a knife in the back. We’re not accepting this. We are not going to let this happen. We’re going to fight until the bitter end.”

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

“It’s not about one person. It’s about an entire community,” said James Vasquez, the UFT district representative for Queens high schools.

But the community seems to be split.

Leaders from nine of the largest civic associations in eastern Queens, representing thousands zoned to Van Buren, said they supported co-location plans that would “fast track” positive changes.

The early college would “be the catalyst needed” to restore Van Buren’s prior high academic standards, said Mike Castellano, president of Lost Community Civic Association.

More than a decade of decline, the group said, is too much for one principal to quickly fix.

The school would also give its graduating students two years of tuition-free education at Queensborough Community College, the civic leaders said.

“This is a win-win for students, parents and the community, and a huge attraction that will finally begin to raise the four percent local community participation rate,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village. “This is a blueprint for success.”

The city will hold a public hearing Wednesday to discuss the plans at the school at 6 p.m.

 

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College Point principal resigns after protests and allegations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jones-Rogers could not be reached for comment.

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

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

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

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

 

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


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Martin Van Buren to get $4M in School Improvement Grants


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A struggling Queens Village school will get more than $4 million in federal funds to bounce back this fall.

Martin Van Buren High School and 21 others in the city were awarded $74.2 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG) to be used over three years, State Education Commissioner John King Jr. announced Friday.

The state’s education department doled out a total of $126 million to 34 low-performing schools throughout New York this year. It was the second round of funding in 2013, though no Queens school was awarded earlier, officials said.

The dollars will go toward implementing “intervention models” in the failing schools, education officials said.

“Many English language learners, students with disabilities and low-income students are in schools that need to change,” King said. “SIG grants can help give those students the opportunity to attend schools that are changing what’s happening in the classroom.”

Van Buren received a C in the city Department of Education’s (DOE) most recent progress report, which is based on student progress toward graduation, performance on standardized tests, coursework and student attendance.

Elected officials said morale and grades have been improving under the school’s new principal, Sam Sochet, since he took over last June.

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

“Our strategy has always been to take action rather than sit idly by,” said city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, “and today’s awards validate our work. [The grants] will support students at schools that are phasing out, provide resources to bolster interventions in schools that are struggling, and help new schools deliver great outcomes.”

Under the designated “transformation model,” Van Buren would have been forced to replace its principal, the state education department said. But since Sochet is new to the helm, that requirement is already satisfied, a city spokesperson said.

However, Van Buren educators, under another condition, will have to follow the state’s approved Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plans.

“Martin Van Buren High School has made huge strides over the year,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin. “This money will go a long way to help put the school in better shape than we are already.”

The DOE recently proposed adding another school inside Van Buren next year, in a move known as co-location, despite protests from Queens lawmakers. They say the move would eliminate 500 existing seats.

“Hopefully, the DOE will realize we can do wonderful things at Martin Van Buren and not worry about co-locating schools in the building,” Weprin said. “It’s already on the way back.”

 

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Martin Van Buren High School co-location met with protest


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The city’s plans to add another school within a struggling Queens Village institution is a “knife in the back” to the community, elected officials said.

“This is the wrong plan at the wrong time, in the wrong place, at the wrong school,” said Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.

The Department of Education (DOE) has proposed adding a small district high school inside Martin Van Buren High School.

The two schools would share the 230-17 Hillside Avenue building — including its gym, cafeteria and auditorium — in a move increasingly known as co-location.

“We’ve been nationally recognized for our visionary new school models, and this new option replicates those that are in extraordinarily high demand across the city,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.

“This new school will deliver great outcomes for neighborhood students,” Puglia added. “Parents in this community are clamoring for, and will continue to demand, more high quality options, and we’re going to keep delivering them.”

Queens lawmakers say the new school would eliminate 500 existing seats at Van Buren. They were told the DOE is shooting for a 2014 opening, though the city would have to hold a public hearing beforehand.

“Reducing the seats at Martin Van Buren High School is a slap in the face to our community, which has fought to turn around the school,” said Assemblymember David Weprin. “Now is not the time for the outgoing administration to make this kind of destructive decision.”

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

There is also a new principal, Sam Sochet, who replaced Marilyn Shevell last June. Elected officials said morale and grades have been improving under Sochet.

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

“What the DOE is proposing could undo all of the progress the administration and teachers have made so far,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin. “Creating a new school will cost millions and may threaten the revitalization of our neighborhood school.”

The councilmember said the community was kept out of the loop during the DOE’s “whisper campaign” to co-locate the school. He said he caught wind of the plans in June.

“In the middle of the night, we get a call saying the DOE is looking to co-locate another school within this building, after all the effort that has been put in to try to fix this school,” he said.

Washington Sanchez, a representative for the United Federation of Teachers, called the move a “sneak co-location.”

“They just want to do it in the heat of the summer, behind closed doors,” he said.

State Senator Tony Avella said the school was on the right track in October 2011 when Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott “did a tour of the school and made all sorts of promises to turn this thing around.”

“Now all of a sudden we get the knife in the back, and that’s what this is,” Avella said. “They’re stabbing us in the back.”

The city’s educational impact statement of the new school is expected to be released late August. Public hearings are likely to be scheduled soon after.

Nearly 3,000 students from ninth to twelfth grade attend Van Buren.

“Changing the school is a big mistake,” said rising senior Harsimranjeet Singh. “There have been a lot of new programs. Grades are going higher now. Progress will decline.”

 

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Star of Queens: Jackie Forrestal, Hillcrest Estates Civic Association


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

IMG_1377

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Jackie Forrestal has been active in the Queens community for years. She is a board member of the Central Queens Historical Association. She also served on the St. Joseph’s Advisory Board until the facility closed in 2004.

Forrestal is the corresponding secretary for the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, while her husband Kevin is president.

BACKGROUND: A lifelong resident of Queens, Forrestal graduated from Martin Van Buren High School and studied at Queens College.

For decades, Forrestal and her husband have volunteered their time and efforts to help countless organizations.

Last year, she was honored by the Queens Civic Congress with the Queens Civic Award for Outstanding Community Service.

She has also been the recipient of a Woman of Distinction Award from Community Board 8 and was one of 29 women to receive the City Council’s Pacesetter Award in 2006.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Forrestal remembers the day she and her husband moved to Hillcrest Estates.

“In 1974, we moved into our first home on 164th Place as homeowners and were invited by the neighbors to square dance,” she said.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Honestly, my biggest challenge has to be saving Jamaica High School from closure,” she said. “This historic and renowned school should not be closed. The phase-out of Jamaica High School is incredibly unjust and unfair to students.”

INSPIRATION: Out of her love for the Queens community, Forrestal has spent decades fighting to preserve programs and institutions to improve the standard of living for residents.

“I love people and I find serving them to be very satisfying and fulfilling,” she said. “Hillcrest Estates is a very special place, my civic work is a nurturing pastime.”

BY LUKE TABET

 

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Northeast Queens votes on community project funding


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Queens County Farm Museu

Northeast Queens residents have answered the million dollar question.

The 23rd District has voted to repair the Queens County Farm Museum, provide the Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps with emergency equipment, install 20 SMART Boards in Martin Van Buren High School and mount three sets of portable security cameras in the district.

A musical stage will also be built in Cunningham Park, and a popular picnic area there will be reconstructed.

The physical infrastructure projects, totaling to nearly $1 million, will be funded by a citywide participatory budgeting initiative.

 

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Queens Village high school students paint over the past


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Melissa Chan

Students at a struggling Queens Village high school are painting over their past, one locker at a time.

Historical figures, sprawled across obsolete lockers at Martin Van Buren High School, have become symbolic of the new face of the changing school, students and administration said.

“We’re basically trying to paint a picture of a whole new Van Buren,” said art teacher Antonio Montalvo. “We want to create a more welcoming, lighter learning environment. We’re trying to improve.”

Van Buren found itself in the public eye last year when local leaders and parents rallied to replace former principal Marilyn Shevell. Morale plummeted under her leadership, they said, while Van Buren worsened in progress reports. Shevell retired last June after taking over in 2002, education officials said. Since then, interim acting principal Sam Sochet said the school has risen to the challenge of improving.

“Van Buren, at one time, was one of the top schools in the city,” Sochet said. “It has fallen on some harder times recently, and so we’re looking to rediscover the greatness that it used to have and maybe go beyond it.”

An art inclusion class, led by Montalvo, chose scientists Albert Einstein and Alexander Fleming, psychologist Carl Jung and former United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to represent the search for greatness, Sochet said. The project team of 30 students took two months to paint a mural of their caricatures across nearly 90 lockers on the school’s second floor.

“They’re old figures, but they do represent people who worked really hard, people who broke traditional thinking, who really thought outside the box,” Sochet said. “And that’s the idea. These are examples of what the human spirit is capable of.”

The display also promotes Van Buren’s newest college-ready science programs or “majors” for incoming freshmen, said Sanjay Patel, the school’s director of specialized programs.

Graduating middle school applicants can apply to Van Buren’s revamped engineering program, which features the school’s robotics team, or its pre-med, law and forensics, or computer technology programs, Patel said.

“There are a lot of careers available in these areas, and we’re trying to prepare students,” said Assistant Principal Cathy Kross.

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

“The change is happening, although sometimes it’s very difficult to detect,” Sochet said.

Junior Jeshu Dastidar, a first-time honor roll student this year, said the school’s new environment has revived his passion for learning.

“In the last two years, school really wasn’t really in my interest,” said Dastidar, 16. “But this year, the first day I went to class, I was feeling this rhythm. Something was in the air. The school has changed. Grades have gone up tremendously for me personally.”

 

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Queens native wins Nobel Prize


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Alvin Roth

Alvin Roth, one of the two winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, is a Queens native and graduate of Martin Van Buren High School, the New York Post reported.

The Harvard professor, 60, who reportedly has accepted a position at Stanford University, won for his work on how to match different agents, such as  students with schools and human organ donors with transplant patients, as efficiently as possible.

“I didn’t become an economist until rather late in life,” said Roth in an interview with Nobelprize.org.

“The kinds of things that I found myself interested in, trying to understand and trying to make things work better were things that involved people and that meant economics.” he added.

 

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.