Tag Archives: NYC schools

Op-ed: Why we need Mayor de Blasio’s pre-k plan


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILMEMBER DANIEL DROMM

As chair of the NYC Council Education Committee, it is a priority of mine to see Mayor Bill de Blasio’s universal pre-kindergarten plan enacted. The only viable way to ensure that our children get this extra year of education is to create a tax on the city’s most wealthy residents to help fund it.

Before teaching fourth grade for 25 years, I directed a preschool in Harlem. I saw firsthand how an extra year of socializing and learning helped set up these young learners of all social and ethnic backgrounds for a more productive educational career. Study after study has shown that quality pre-k works.

Pre-kindergarten isn’t just for the children.  It also lends a helping hand to their parents, especially single parents. At the first Education Committee hearing that I chaired on February 12, I heard from parents about how pre-kindergarten combined with after school care allows them to work a full day. Without pre-k, working mothers and fathers have to scramble to find someone to care for their children and often times have to scrape the bottom of their bank accounts to pay for childcare.

I believe it is not too much to ask of those who are making $500,000 or more a year to fund the program with a small tax increase that equals the price of a cup of latte from Starbucks every day. I totally disagree with those who say these wealthy residents may leave the city. New York City is the greatest city in the world and everybody wants to be here. Wealthy residents won’t leave just for the price of a cup of coffee. A tax on the wealthy is the right path.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to fund a statewide program without a designated tax has its pitfalls. Former Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson walked 150 miles to Albany to shine light on the unequitable amount of education funding NYC receives and won a court judgment for city schools. A decade later, more than $4 billion of that money has never made it to our public schools. That’s why we need a dedicated tax – a lockbox – to fund this program.

Pre-kindergarten is a win-win plan for everyone. It gives all children a better start with a chance at a better future. It gives parents the support they deserve to further contribute to the city’s vibrant economy.  And, most importantly, it provides New Yorkers with a bright future.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm is chair of the NYC Council Education Committee. He was elected to the New York City Council in 2009 and represents District 25 (Jackson Heights & Elmhurst).

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Sun and clouds mixed. High 28. Winds NW at 20 to 30 mph. Thursday night: Clear skies. Low 19. Winds WNW at 20 to 30 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Latin Dance Classes

Dance instruction at the Queens Theatre for all ages and all levels with renowned instructor Paul Ru Bao of Farrington Ballroom Dance School. After an hour lesson there is an hour of open dance. $10 single class/$45 for five classes. Skip the class and join open dance at 8 pm for $5. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Report: Homelessness on the rise in NYC

According to a new study, a record number of people stayed overnight at New York City homeless shelters in January. Read more: CBS New York/AP

East Harlem explosion, collapse leaves 6 dead, 69 hurt

Federal investigators are on the scene of an explosion and two building collapses at 116th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem, while rescue crews search for those still missing. Read more: ABC New York

De Blasio wants judge to toss cop union challenge to profiling law

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the police unions’ legal challenge to a law making it easier to sue cops for racial profiling is destined for failure — and asked a Manhattan judge to toss the case. Read more: New York Post

State senate makes bid to undo anti-charter school moves

The state Senate will propose sweeping measures in its budget bill to undo Mayor de Blasio’s ­moves against charter schools, sources familiar with the plan said. Read more: New York Post

Teachers fleeing city schools to the suburbs is growing: union

Teachers are fleeing to the suburbs in one of the worst “brain drains” in the history of city schools, union president Michael Mulgrew said Wednesday. Read more: New York Daily News

 

Storm slams city, dumps almost a foot of snow


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The second major storm of the month hit the city Tuesday leaving almost a foot of snow and bringing a blast of bitter cold that will last for several days.

Snowfall escalated around rush hour Tuesday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, but “the men and women of sanitation who work for this city intensified their efforts” to clear the streets.

“This storm was challenging in its size and intensity but the people who work for the City of New York rose to the occasion,” he said as he updated the city Wednesday morning.

In some areas of the city, snow accumulated to 11.5 inches, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Although the snow has tapered, freezing temperatures are still expected throughout the night. Temperature highs will remain in the teens, but feel as low as below zero with the wind chill.

The New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) issued a hazardous travel advisory for Wednesday and warned motorists to drive slowly, monitor weather and traffic, use major streets or highways, and have the name and number of at least one local towing service.

Alternate side parking is suspended Wednesday and Thursday to facilitate with snow removal, but payment at parking meters remains in effect. To track the progress of Department of Sanitation clearing operations throughout the five boroughs, click here.

Trash and recycling pickups are also suspended for Wednesday.

Express subway service was restored Wednesday morning and buses were running at 80 to 90 percent of normal levels, de Blasio said. Those levels, he said, would increase throughout the day.

Fastrack work on the E,F,M,R Queens Blvd. Line has been canceled for the remainder of the week to free up personnel for snow fighting and cleanup after the storm.

On Wednesday, Metro-North is operating at 80 to 85 percent of its normal weekday service, with some trains combined and some delays possible based on the condition of track and power systems. The LIRR is operating on a weekend schedule.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Morning clouds will give way to afternoon sunshine. High 16. Winds NNW at 15 to 25 mph. Wednesday night: A few passing clouds. Low near 5. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Madden NFL: 25 Years and Running

Madden NFL: 25 Years and Running, at the Museum of the Moving Image examines the groundbreaking video game franchise Madden NFL. The exhibit takes a look at how the game has evolved and its place in culture, and features five playable games, from the original to the latest release. The Museum of the Moving Image is located at 36-01 35 Avenue in Astoria. Through February 23.

NO SNOW DAY: NYC public schools are open Wednesday

All New York City public schools will remain open Wednesday, education officials announced, dashing hopes city students might have about getting a second snow day this month. Read more: The Queens Courier

Swirling snowstorm batters tri-state, breaks snowfall records

A swirling snowstorm broke breaking snowfall records as it battered the tri-state Tuesday, forcing schools and offices to close early, delaying flights and making the roadways a dangerous mess. Read more: NBC New York

Feds on board with $850M for Sandy subway fixes

The feds are going to give New York straphangers a break by kicking in more than $880 million for Hurricane Sandy repairs, officials announced Tuesday. Read more: New York Post

De Blasio brushes off state pre-K, will raise taxes anyway

A defiant Mayor de Blasio is vowing to go full speed ahead with plans to raise taxes on the city’s highest earners to pay for universal pre-K — even as Gov. Cuomo is offering to have the state foot the bill. Read more: New York Post

Former Gov. David Paterson, wife file for divorce

Former New York Gov. David Paterson and his wife have officially filed for divorce, more than a year after saying they were separating. Read more: CBS New York/AP

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Snow this morning will give way to some clearing this afternoon. High around 15. Winds NNW at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of snow 80%. About one inch of snow expected. Friday night: Clear skies. Low around 0. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.

NYC public schools closed Friday

All New York City public schools are closed Friday due to Snowstorm Hercules, education officials announced. Read more: The Queens Courier

Hercules flexing his muscles in first storm of 2014

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a statewide state of emergency Thursday afternoon to prepare officials for winter storm Hercules, which is forecasted to bring five to nine inches of snow to the city. Read more: The Queens Courier

For NYC schools head, a focus on middle school

The new leader of the nation’s biggest public school system started her job Thursday with storm clouds brewing — the clouds that had a new city administration weighing whether to call a snow day for 1.1 million students. Read more: NBC New York

New York Attorney General Schneiderman warns against price gouging

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman warned businesses Thursday against price gouging as Tri-State area residents stocked up on major supplies ahead of the first snowstorm of the new year. Read more: CBS New York/AP

NYPD union lawyers seek quicker stop-frisk appeal ruling

Forget about the new mayor having a grace period with the NYPD. Read more: New York Post 

De Blasio selects Carmen Farina as next schools chancellor


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter / @NYCTransition

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has named Carmen Farina, a veteran employee of the New York City public school system, as the next schools chancellor.

“We need someone who understands that the people who make the schools work and the parents who are the first and last educators of our children, that they must be treated like the stakeholders that they are,” de Blasio said at Monday’s announcement at Brooklyn’s William Alexander Middle School, the school his two children attended.

Calling Farina a “brilliant innovator” who “knows how to bring people together,” he said the selection was important not only because she is going to be the chancellor of the city school’s system, but because “she is also going to be the chancellor for my child,” referring to his son Dante, a  junior at Brooklyn Technical High School.

“This is such a privilege to be able to come back to a system that has so much work that has to done, but to doing it from stance of a progressive agenda,” Farina said.

Farina, 70, has more than four decades of experience working in the city’s school system, serving as a teacher at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, a principal at P.S. 6 on the Upper East Side, and a superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 15. She last worked for the Department of Education as a deputy chancellor before retiring in 2006.

Taking lessons from her own experiences as a student in the city’s school system, Farina promised to make parents real partners in their children’s education and prioritize college and career readiness.

Farina’s name had been floated around for weeks as one of the top contenders for the job, though she was initially hesitant to come out of retirement.

She will replace current Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who is stepping down Tuesday. He has held the position since April 2011.

De Blasio has promised departures from certain education policies of the Bloomberg administration. He proposed to charge rent to charter schools that use space in city school buildings, eliminate letter grades on school progress reports and reduce the focus on high-stake testing

Farina has been a longtime trusted friend and advisor to de Blasio, whom she met while he was a school board member in District 15. She shares his views on testing and will assist in his push for universal pre-k and expansion of after-school programs for middle schoolers.

Among challenges Farina will face as chancellor of the country’s largest public school system is a contract negotiation with the United Federation of Teachers.

 

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Howard Beach’s P.S. 207 receives nearly $2M in storm recovery funds


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Twelve feet of water rushed into the basement of P.S. 207 during Sandy, leaving the Howard Beach school with over $2 million worth of damages.

Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder announced Monday roughly $1.82 million is on the way for repairs.

“It’s been over a year since Sandy tore apart our schools in southern Queens and while we have all made significant progress there is still work to be done,” Goldfeder said. “This new funding will enormously help P.S. 207 rebuild and ensure our children receive the quality education they deserve.”

The FEMA federal funds will go to the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) and will reimburse 90 percent of the cost of repairs throughout the building.

The bulk of the damage was in the flooded basement, where a fuel oil tank rolled and spilled about 3,000 gallons of oil. Two boilers, electrical panels, lights, ductwork and the fire alarm system were also damaged.

The damage left the school without electricity, heat and water, and closed in the months following the superstorm. Nearly 90,000 gallons of water and oil was removed from the building before it could reopen.

“This infusion of federal money is helping P.S. 207 put the damaging effects of Hurricane Sandy in the rear-view mirror and enabling the school to get back to educating New York City’s children without crushing back-bills,” Schumer said.

 

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Exhibit features art from three Queens schools


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Learning though an Expanded Arts Program (LeAp)

It’s never too young to become an artist.

A group of students from elementary schools all over the city, including three from Queens, won awards for their artwork displayed at this year’s Learning though an Expanded Arts Program (LeAp) Annual Art Exhibition.

The young artists were honored on November 20 for their works currently on display at the Citigroup Building atrium, located at One Court Square in Long Island City. The students, including children from P.S. 307 and P.S. 21 in Flushing, and P.S. 19 in Corona, received honorary certificates and indulged in a reception complete with milk and cookies.

The exhibition, which is hosted by Citi, features artworks from students in LeAp’s Active Learning Leads to Literacy (ALLL) program and LeaP’s SummerQuest program.

Students created watercolor paintings, murals, graphic novels, sculptures and original books for the exhibition. Through these pieces of work the children were able to concentrate on core subjects, like building up their reading comprehension and grammatical skills, acquiring new math skills and learning American History, new math skills, and plant and animal diversity.

LeAp is a nonprofit arts education organization focused on improving the quality of public education through a “unique, hands-on, arts-based approach to teaching core subjects.”

For the past 36 years, LeAp has helped more than two million students through the five boroughs, ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade, with music, dance, theater, film and visual arts incorporated into an academic curriculum.

“This show demonstrates how much children can learn when taught in an arts-infused manner,” said Ila Lane Gross, LeAp’s co-founder and executive director. “LeAp’s program strategies use the varied learning styles of students to captivate, engage and effectively impart academic knowledge and skills. I am so proud of our students. They have developed a command of the core subjects, while creating beautiful artwork in the process.”

LeAp’s 12th Annual Student Art Exhibition, which began in October, is running through January.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: City eyes two more northeast Queens school sites


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) is looking for more than an acre of Queens land to build a new high school, The Courier has learned.

The SCA has allocated funds for the future institution, poised to alleviate Queens high school congestion, but is still scouring the borough for a site slightly larger than an acre to build it on, according to SCA Director of External Affairs Mary Leas.

“We’d love to find a nice, big site for a high school,” Leas said. “Over an acre would be best. It’s not easy to find a site that size. Then when we do, we really want to investigate it and see if we could make it work. An acre is a lot of property in the city.”

The SCA briefed Community District Education Council 26 (CDEC) Thursday on its proposed $12 billion capital budget for 2015 to 2019, which includes the new high school.

A Department of Education spokesperson told The Courier the city is eyeing a site in Whitestone that “has not been identified.”

Residents in the area, in September, said they saw SCA scouts surveying the vacant Whitestone Jewels Property at 150-33 6th Avenue. The six-acre site is in the midst of a foreclosure action by OneWest Bank.

State Senator Tony Avella said the location is not “viable” for a school, due to lack of infrastructure and public transportation options.

“The city would have to put in sewers and water mains. It would be a transportation nightmare for parents and students,” he said.

The authority ruled out a Little Neck school site — long suggested by the CDEC — due to its “remote” location near 58-20 Little Neck Parkway, on the border of Long Island.

“It’s very hard to site a high school in a community,” Leas said. “Just even looking at a site could cause quite a flurry of activity amongst communities that don’t want the high schools.”

The SCA’s preliminary five-year plan also includes building a 465-seat elementary school in either Oakland Gardens or Fresh Meadows.

Partial funds have been set aside for the potential elementary school, but the SCA has not found a site yet, according to Monica Gutierrez, an SCA community relations manager.

The City Council last week passed a controversial plan to build a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade school at 210-11 48th Avenue in Bayside. According to the SCA, it will likely take about three years to open. Its design process, which has not yet begun, is expected to be finalized in about a year.

The SCA gave the presentation to seek feedback from the school district that encompasses Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck.

To suggest site locations to the city, email sites@nycsca.org.

 

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Woodside gets more room to learn


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of SCA

Shovels full of dirt hit the ground to alleviate overcrowded classrooms in Woodside.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with city officials and the community on November 15 at the corner of 58th Street and 39th Avenue to break ground on the construction of P.S. 339.

“This new school is going to help so much here in Woodside,” said Van Bramer. “Here in Woodside, in our district, we have a serious overcrowding situation and I’m so thrilled that we’ve had a lot of these groundbreakings and that we’re building a lot of new schools in our district. The children of Woodside, Sunnyside and Long Island City deserve nothing but the very best.”

P.S. 339 is one of six new schools expected to be fully operational by 2016 in western Queens. Located at 39-07 57th Street, it will serve 472 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

The new five-story building will feature 22 standard classrooms, two special-education classrooms, multiple resource rooms, a music classroom, art classroom and “gymatorium.” The school will also have a library, cafeteria, kitchen, a community room, a general use and early childhood playground, and administrative, guidance and medical offices.

P.S. 339 is slated to open September 2015, with the facility fully operational by 2016.

Along with the new school, Van Bramer also announced the construction of a state-of-the-art extension to nearby P.S. 11, located at 54-25 Skillman Ave, which will add 350 seats and is expected to be open by 2016.

“I am so excited that this is happening,” said Anna Efkarpides, principal of P.S. 11. “It’s for our community. It’s not my school, your school, it’s a school for Woodside children.”


Members of the Woodside community, School Construction Authority representatives and local elected officials broke ground on the construction of P.S. 339, which is expected to be fully operational by 2016. (THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano)

 

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Majority of Queens schools score well on progress reports


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

The majority of Queens schools scored high on the Department of Education’s (DOE) recently released progress reports.

Out of the 62 Queens high schools that were issued 2012-2013 progress reports, 31 earned As, 16 Bs, 6 Cs, 5 Ds and 4 Fs.

The highest scoring institution was Long Island City’s Academy for Careers in Television and Film, which just moved into a new building at the beginning of this school year. It received an overall score of 100.9.

Flushing High School, Pan American International High School in Elmhurst, Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School in Far Rockaway and August Martin High School in Jamaica earned overall failing grades.

Progress reports were issued for 239 Queens elementary and middle schools. Fifty-eight of them earned As, 97 Bs, 74 Cs, nine Ds and only one, Springfield Gardens’ Community Voices Middle School, failed.

Waterside School for Leadership in Rockaway was the highest ranking Queens middle school, with an overall score of 90.3, and P.S. 203 Oakland Gardens was the top-rated elementary school in the borough, with an overall score of 86.5.

Across the city, the DOE found public school performance “remained consistent, with 87 percent of schools maintaining their grade or moving one grade compared to last year.”

The reports are based on students’ progress, performance, attendance and surveys of parents, students and teachers. High school progress reports also measure college and career readiness.

According to the DOE, more students are graduating from high school ready for college and careers.

The reports found that the four-year college readiness rate is up nearly 3 points since last year.

“The most important job of our schools is ensuring students are on track to succeed in college and their careers,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “These results are further evidence that the hard work of our teachers and principals is paying off.”

This year’s school progress reports were the last ones issued during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure.

They could see some changes when they are issued under the Bill de Blasio administration.

“While Mayor-elect de Blasio supports making overall school progress reports available to parents, he would eliminate letter grades of schools which offer little real insight to parents and are not a reliable indicator of how schools are actually performing,” his spokesperson Lis Smith said.

To find a specific school’s progress report, visit http://schools.nyc.gov/ProgressReport.

 

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Council vote OKs Bayside school on Keil Bros. site


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A controversial proposal to build a school in Bayside sailed through the City Council last week, despite the community’s overwhelming opposition.

The city’s School Construction Authority (SCA) needed the Council’s final ruling in order to go through with plans to build a new elementary school at the site of the Keil Bros. Garden Center and Nursery.

Owners of the popular garden center sold their 210-11 48th Avenue property to the city for an undisclosed amount earlier this year.

The City Council approved the application last Thursday, with only Queens legislators Mark Weprin and Peter Vallone Jr. voting no.

“I had opposed the school because I didn’t think it was the best site for a school to begin with,” Weprin said. “I wasn’t even convinced about the need for the school.”

Nearby homeowners said the 456-seat institution would destroy their quality of life, worsen parking and traffic and lead to dangerous crossing conditions for students.

The contentious plan even led to two rowdy residents threatening SCA officials in May, when the proposal was first presented to the public at a heated Community Board 11 meeting.

The board had just shot down the application in an advisory vote when a male resident threatened to break an SCA representative’s legs and a woman allegedly followed another official in a car, The Courier reported.

“The community is very much against it,” Weprin said. “The Department of Education decided we needed a school there. I haven’t met anybody in the community who is dying to have a school there.”

But many local educators who support the plan said the new school would relieve heavy congestion in the district’s 21 elementary schools. At least three schools have had to put classrooms in space originally meant for libraries or music rooms, according to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of CB 11.

The SCA said its site selection process began in 2008. The authority honed in on the Bayside location this April. The DOE did not comment on when construction would begin.

Meanwhile, a battle still brews between the district’s state senator and its new councilmember.

State Senator Tony Avella claims Councilmember-elect Paul Vallone snubbed the community by supporting the proposal behind closed doors.

Vallone, who does not cast a Council vote until January, has “never voiced support for the school site,” his spokesperson said.

“Tony must not have gotten the memo — he’s not the councilman anymore,” said spokesperson Austin Finan. “Moving forward, Paul Vallone will not be responding to the lies perpetuated by Senator Avella who has clearly demonstrated he is more focused on personal vendettas than he is the future of northeast Queens.”

 

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Op-ed: Co-location: What’s the rush?


| oped@queenscourier.com

ASSEMBLYMEMBER DAVID WEPRIN

Late last month the Department of Education’s Panel on Educational Policy voted on all co-location proposals. Martin Van Buren High, I.S. 59, August Martin High School, P.S. 40, J.H.S. 226, M.S. 72 and the Corona Arts and Sciences are the schools facing co-location in Queens.

The Department of Education called off its plans to co-locate a new elementary school in the building of P.S. 1 after parents, teachers and elected official spoke out against the proposal. At the Martin Van Buren High School co-location hearing, State Senator Tony Avella, Councilmember Mark Weprin and I along with the parents, teachers, civic leaders, students and community members urged the Department of Education to hold off on their plans to co-locate a new school in the building. However, the Department of Education has ignored our request to meet with them and is instead pushing through with their proposal.

My biggest question is “what’s the rush?”

One of the first issues that needs to be addressed with the proposed co-location at Martin Van Buren High School is the lack of transparency in the process and the reasons the Department of Education is rushing to put in the second school. It seems the Bloomberg administration is rushing these co-locations before the next administration takes office.

The problem lies in that there is a clear disconnect between the Department of Education and the community. Parents, teachers, community leaders and students have only been consulted after the Department of Education issued its proposals. Parents and community members deserve to be informed and have greater involvement in the school’s decision-making process. I call for a more comprehensive and community-based plan in which all members of the community that are impacted by the change are able to be involved in the school Turnaround process. All of the schools dealing with the issue of co-location need to be thoroughly examined to determine if co-locating the school is the best plan for the school to thrive.

The proposed co-location would eliminate 500 seats at Martin Van Buren High School and create a new six-year school that would give students the option to earn two-year degrees from Queensborough Community College. There is no reason why Martin Van Buren High School can’t have this program integrated into the school’s curriculum.

If not well planned, having an additional school in the building can become a costly project that disrupts student learning and limits access to resources and school facilities. Often when schools undergo co-location, one of the schools receives preferential treatment. The issues that can arise from co-location are overcrowding, unsafe hallways, inadequate resources and tensions over sharing space and equipment with the other school in the building. The schools often have to compete for the use of shared areas such as cafeterias, gyms, auditoriums, playgrounds and hallways. The co-located school will take away essential resources from the traditional school, depriving students of school equipment and other resources.

We have seen far too many schools in experience co-location, resulting in underfunded programs, overcrowding classes, and ultimately a spiral of academic decline. Instead of co-locating struggling schools, let’s first discuss the option with the community and invest our time and resources into turning the school around. Martin Van Buren High School is one of the few community comprehensive high schools that provide real choices, with an exciting curriculum for students and the Queensborough Community College partnership program can be incorporated into the school. The students of our city deserve to be provided the best education possible and parents should have the choice for their child to attend one of the last comprehensive high schools in Queens.

Assemblymember David Weprin was elected in a Special Election in 2010. Weprin represents the same district represented by his father, the late Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin, for 23 years and his brother Mark Weprin, for over 15 years.

 

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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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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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