Tag Archives: NYC schools

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Parents, pols fight Queens co-locations


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Leroy Comrie

Parents and pols aren’t ready for their schools to squeeze into one building.

Twenty-three co-locations have been proposed within the next four years for schools in Queens, 10 of those in the southeast community.

The Department of Education (DOE) is proposing Q297 join J.H.S 226; and P.S. 233, New Transfer High School join August Martin High School and later add a Success Academy elementary charter school.

Parent Takia Moore said she chose J.H.S. 226 for her daughter because it stood alone without a high school, and was “under the impression that my child would be free from the peer pressure of older high school students,” she said.

“Once again, the administration has proposed a plan without taking into consideration the consequences it will have for Queens’ youth,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie. “The proposed co-locations will force these schools to share even more resources while the standards they are required to meet continue to rise.”

Proposals also exist to truncate P.S. 174 to a kindergarten through fifth grade school; join new middle school Q287 with J.H.S. 008 and York Early College Academy; and co-locate J.H.S. 72 and P.S. 993.

“Forcing more schools into a single building is not the solution,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards. “When more students are squeezed into fewer classrooms, some children get left behind.”

Success Academy Charter School additionally hopes to co-locate with I.S. 59 and P.S. 176, and there are plans to co-locate five magnet high schools in District 29.

“The Bloomberg Administration’s tone-deafness is on full display in Queens,” said Melinda Katz, Borough President candidate. “By starving, co-locating, and closing public schools in low-income neighborhoods just to cozy up to the charter school lobby, this administration is hurting our students and robbing our city of talent we will need in the next generation of workers and leaders.”

For more information on proposed co-locations within the borough, click here. Hearings will be held for all individual proposals. Dates can also be found on the DOE website.

“We need an immediate freeze on co-locations, until a new mayoral administration takes the reins and reevaluates the long-term effectiveness of the policy,” Katz said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Partly cloudy. High of 79. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Tuesday night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then clear. Low of 68. Winds from the West at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Biala: Vision and Memory

Janice Biala (1903-2000) was well known for her charming interiors, still-lifes, and landscapes. This exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s career, featuring 50 paintings, collages, and drawings from public and private collections and the Estate of Biala, and two paintings from the Godwin-Ternbach Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibit will be at the museum, located at Queens College, through October 26. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Government shuts down for first time in 17 Years

The first government shutdown in 17 years officially began Tuesday morning after Congress missed a midnight deadline to pass a short-term spending bill. Read more: NBC News

Report: Subway noise can be dangerous to your ears

A published report Monday said the sound of metal against metal in the subway can be harmful to your ears. Read more: CBS New York

City announces free wi-fi in all 5 boroughs

New York plans to offer free public Wi-Fi in commercial districts in all five boroughs, officials said Monday. Read more: NBC New York

NYPD hunts for men who parachuted onto Manhattan street

The NYPD is searching for two men who parachuted in front of the Goldman Sachs headquarters in Lower Manhattan early Monday morning. Read more: ABC New York

STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — gets boost from City Education officials

City Education officials are boosting STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — by offering more than 120 new advanced placement courses in related subjects at 55 high schools starting next year. Read more: New York Daily News 

 

Three Queens elementary schools receive Blue Ribbon award


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The coveted federal Blue Ribbon award will go to three Queens elementary schools this year, U.S. education officials announced early this week.

P.S. 46 in Oakland Gardens, P.S. 66 in Richmond Hill and P.S. 221 in Little Neck earned their prestigious titles on September 24.

The honor is given to public and private schools that have demonstrated significant student achievement, education officials said. It is based on overall academic excellence or improvement.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Principal Marsha Goldberg of P.S. 46. “The students realize the impact as much as the adults do. This is their expectation. To them, it’s another day at school.”

Principal Patricia Bullard of P.S. 221 said her school’s award was achieved through “the hard work of our conscientious students, dedication of our talented staff and support of our parents.”

“I am extremely proud of our entire school community for achieving this national distinction,” she said in a statement. “P.S. 221 is truly a special place.”

Over in Richmond Hill, P.S. 66 was also beaming with pride.

“I’ve been in this community as a teacher since 1976,” said Principal Phyllis Leinwand. “On a personal level, I’m very proud, having been in this area for nearly four decades, that this amazing accolade is being shared by the south Queens community.”

The U.S. Department of Education named 286 schools in the country this year as Blue Ribbon institutions. Award recipients also include two schools in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan.

“Excellence in education matters and we should honor the schools that are leading the way to prepare students for success in college and careers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“National Blue Ribbon schools represent examples of educational excellence, and their work reflects the belief that every child in America deserves a world-class education,” Duncan continued.

The Blue Ribbon honorees will be celebrated in November at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Parents say school rezoning puts kids in danger


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Maps courtesy of the Department of Education

Parents say a District 24 rezoning proposal has crossed the lines.

The Division of Portfolio Planning in the city’s education department presented a rezoning draft, which targets overcrowding, at the Community Education Council (CEC) D24 meeting at P.S. 305 on September 12. But following an incident in which an SUV jumped the curb on Grand Avenue and injured five students, the plan drew heavy backlash from parents in attendance because some students will have to cross dangerous intersections.

Based on the plans, students would have to cross Queens Boulevard, the so-called “Boulevard of Death,” to get to P.S. 229 from the newly expanded northern area. Also, some children that formerly would be zoned for P.S. 229 will be instead moved to P.S. 153, which may force them to cross the Long Island Expressway via Maurice Avenue.

“You can’t even drive down Maurice Avenue, how are [children] going to walk,” said Sinead McGillen, a parent from P.S. 229. “Just leave us alone, we are happy where we are.”

The proposal will adjust zones based on neighborhood populations, and representatives from Portfolio Planning said they are confident every school will see reductions in congestion in future years.

“It’s definitely going to lower overcrowding,” said CEC D24 president Nick Comaianni. “Is it going to be enough? That’s yet to be seen. In my 10 years as president it’s never been enough. You build it, and it gets filled up.”

The zone changes would only affect incoming kindergarten students in the 2014-2015 school year, meaning that current students won’t change schools. Representatives of Portfolio Planning said they are also considering allowing siblings to stay in the same schools if there is space.

The plan was introduced to the parents for their feedback.

Portfolio Planning staffers took note of the troubled streets parents brought up during the meeting and they plan to reconfigure the proposal and meet with the CEC again on September 24.

LIE Crossing PS 153

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

 

 

New state-of-the-art school facility opens in Long Island City


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo By Angy Altamirano

The students of Long Island City’s P.S./I.S. 78 will now have a new place to learn and grow.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott met with local elected officials, parents, students and school leaders on September 12 to cut the ribbon on the new, state-of-the-art building, located at 46-08 5th Street, which will house P.S./I.S. 78 and P.S. 277-The Riverview School. The facility opened for the first day of school on September 9 and will serve a total of 578 students.

“This building offers P.S./I.S. 78 a state-of-the-art facility for the school to grow and prepare students for the older grades and for college and a career,” said Walcott.

P.S./I.S. 78 is expanding from its original site at 48-09 Center Boulevard, only a few blocks. Grades pre-kindergarten through second will remain at the original spot and students in third to sixth grades will move to the new facility, which later will include seventh and eighth grades.
P.S. 277 is a District 75 school serving special education students.

“We are delighted with the new building and know our A school will continue to offer the best education for our students,” said P.S./I.S. 78 Principal Louis Pavone. “We take pride in providing state-of-the-art online learning, and now we have a new building to complement the students’ skills.”

The new five-story building is fully air-conditioned and accessible for students with disabilities. It features 21 standard classrooms, eight special education classrooms, an art room, speech room, music suite, two science labs, a library, gym, auditorium, cafeteria, kitchen and outdoor playground.

“As Long Island City continues the growth that comes with being New York City’s hottest neighborhood, we must ensure that our schools and other infrastructure keep up,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “The opening of the new and improved P.S./I.S. 78 is a landmark event that represents a big step in that direction.”

The new facility was part of an effort by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer to help the School Construction Authority and the Department of Education secure five new school sites within western Queens. All the sites are expected to be fully operational over the next four years.

“Our children deserve the best we can possibly provide for them and this new facility promises to have a positive impact on the education our children will receive for generations to come,” said Van Bramer. “The expansion of P.S./I.S. 78 and creation of P.S. 277 in Long Island City will provide hundreds of students with a state-of-the-art facility right in the heart of a vibrant neighborhood that has become home to thousands of new families.”

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

Hunter’s Point South school building opens


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/

Lights, camera, action on the new school year and the opening of a brand new school building in Long Island City.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott met with local elected officials, representatives and school leaders on Monday to take a tour of the new Hunter’s Point Campus, located at 1-50 51st Avenue, on the first day of classes.

During the walk through the building, Walcott visited a special education, middle school and high school classroom to meet with students and view their lessons.

“The Hunter’s Point Campus offers a state-of-the-art facility for students and staff,” said Walcott. “There are brand new science rooms at the middle school and students at the Academy for Careers in Television and Film have a unique vista of Manhattan from the building’s terrace that will help them perfect their filming and editing skills.”

The new school is part of the Hunter’s Point South development project which broke ground in March on the first phase of construction and opened the Hunter’s Point South Park last month. The building houses a middle school, with 12 classrooms and two special education classrooms, and The Academy for Careers in Television and Film high school, which made its move from 36-41 28th Street in Long Island City. With both schools, the building has a capacity of 1,071 students.

My whole school community,parents, students and staff alike were just blown away to come here every morning,” said Edgar  Rodriguez, principal of the Academy for Careers in Television and Film high school. “The kids are extremely happy, the staff had an amazing day. Everything turned out quite positive.”

The campus has a shared gymnasium, separate boys’ and girls’ locker rooms for both schools, a library, auditorium, tech center, speech room, cafeteria, full sized kitchen, art room, music room, science lab, prep lab, science demo rooms and resource rooms.

“We started from the bottom and now we’re here,” said high school senior Brandon Bass, 17, from Jamaica.

The high school now has 14 standard classrooms, two special educations classrooms and a student general store.

“The new school is nice, it’s awesome,” said senior Justin Bruggemann, 18, from Flushing. “I love it. I’m excited for the school year.”

Walcott also participated in a practice filming session with the students on the school’s fourth floor balcony which overlooks the Manhattan skyline.

“It feels great, it’s a big change. It’s all brand new,” said senior Lesley Ptacek, 16, from Jackson Heights. “It’s great we’re meeting the Chancellor and showing him what we have learned.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens students start a new school year


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

It was Jennifer Ramos who felt nervous as she dropped her son Jayden off for his first full day of school.

“This is a big step for me and him,” said Ramos, preparing to say goodbye to the kindergartner at P.S. 229 in Woodside on Monday, September 9, the start of the year for the city’s public schools.

“I think I’m a little more nervous than he is because this is a whole day without my son,” she added.

Some P.S. 229 parents were also anxious about whether they prepared their children for the academic year ahead.

“I wanted them to do more reading if they had time, but all they wanted was to play video games,” said Woodside resident Armen Baltaian about his kids getting ready for school during the summer.

The summer was a mix of outdoor activities and academics for Alison Ulmschneider’s children.

Ulmschneider, who has kids starting the seventh grade, third grade and kindergarten at P.S./M.S. 207 in Howard Beach, said they had summer reading and each one came home with a list of books.

“They have to keep going with their education,” she said. “They get too used to being home and they lose what they learn.”

Lisa Singh, the parent of second grader Ashvin at P.S. 232, also in Howard Beach, was happy that even though the family vacationed during the summer, her child had to do book reports.

“He gets something to do and he’s not just playing video games or watching TV,” she said.

Ashvin, however, said he was sad that he had to trade his summer fun for classroom time and wake up early for class.

At P.S. 46 in Bayside, however, some of the students were glad to get back to class.

“I liked everything. I have the best class and the best teacher,” first-grader Peyton Jean-Jacques, 6, said after class let out on Monday.

Cayla Hogan, 6, also a first grader, said “there are so many new things in first grade,” but that her favorite part of school was recess.

Parents and kids rushed to school for the first day of classes at P.S 229 in Woodside.
(THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre)

A mother says goodbye to her daughter as they part in front of P.S. 229.
(THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre)

Crossing guards are back on the job, helping kids to stay safe.
(THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre)

Isabel Williams and her mother, Jennice, were excited for the first day of kindergarten at P.S. 229.
(THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre)

Friends Cayla Hogan and Peyton Jean-Jacques, both 6, started first grade.
(THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

Sabrina Flores, 6, leaped into mom Paola’s arms at dismissal after a good first day of school.
(THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

MORE PHOTOS FROM THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

 

-With additional reporting by Liam La Guerre, Maggie Hayes and Melissa Chan 

New Corona school building to ease overcrowding


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A new school in Corona is set to ease the burden of overcrowded classrooms in the area.

According to the Department of Education (DOE), P.S. 330, currently located within a building at 86-37 53rd Avenue in Elmhurst, will move into a brand new location at 111-08 Northern Boulevard just in time for the beginning of the school year next week.

“This is a fantastic new building, and we’re confident that P.S. 330 will deliver well for its students there,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.

P.S. 330 opened at the initial building in 2010 in order to lighten overcrowding in District 24 elementary schools. The school currently serves 220 students in kindergarten and first grade, but is expected to open more than 400 seats once it makes the move.

The new building will continue to alleviate overcrowding in Corona and is also located in an area closer to where 84 percent of the students currently live, the DOE said.

“Over the past 12 years, we’ve created over 125,000 new school seats,” said Puglia. “As we put up brand new, state-of-the-art buildings around the city, we’re meeting the needs of our schools and communities.”

Once P.S. 330, at its new location, completes its expansion and reaches its full capacity in the 2015-2016 school year, it will serve 570 to 630 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“Because overcrowding is a serious issue in my district, I could not be happier to have P.S. 330 opening its doors this September,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras.

In April, Ferreras established the Educational and Overcrowding Improvement Task Force. The task force was created to help improve the communication between the DOE and parents, as well as ease the overcrowding issues in Community Education Council Districts 24 and 30.

“These efforts, combined with plans for the construction of five additional schools in my district, will undoubtedly improve the overcrowding issues our local schools are currently experiencing,” said Ferreras.

According to the DOE, it will work with the community to figure out the best use for P.S. 330’s original building.

 

RECOMMEDNDED STORIES

 

New school opening in St. Albans


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office Of Councilmember Leroy Comrie

A new elementary school is coming to St. Albans to help alleviate overcrowding in the neighborhood’s existing schools.

The current St. Pascal Baylon Roman Catholic Church on 112th Avenue is being renovated into the new school, P.S. 892, and will welcome about 380 students.

“Once P.S. 892 opens, it will help relieve the overcrowding currently taking place at P.S. 118 and P.S. 134, while helping to ensure our youth have the resources to learn and be successful in the future,” said Councilmember Leroy Comrie, who advocated for the renovation.

The abandoned church was once home to the Police Athletic League where they were able to provide various youth services to the community. However, after the group left the building, residents grew concerned not only that there would be a decrease in resources for their young people, but also that the site would be negative on the community, Comrie said.

But the new school is on its way. Once the $19 million renovation is complete, estimated to be by July 2014, students in pre-kindergarten through 5th grade will walk through the doors and head to one of the 13 standard classrooms, two pre-kindergarten rooms or two special education classrooms.

It will also have a gym, science/art resource room, music suite, library, cafeteria, kitchen and an outdoor playground.

The building will additionally be equipped with wireless routers and LAN lines for Internet access, as well as interactive white boards in the classrooms.

An opening date has not yet been decided but is projected for 2015.

“We’re working hard as we can to work with and deliver for this community, and the new school reflects our efforts,” said a Department of Education spokesperson. “Anytime we open a new school, we’re confident it will achieve great outcomes for kids. When we can do it in a new building, even better.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Mostly cloudy with rain showers, then thunderstorms and rain showers in the afternoon. High of 82. Winds from the SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Monday night: Overcast with thunderstorms, then a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 73. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60% with rainfall amounts near 0.2 in. possible.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Free screening of Juno at Astoria Park

The Central Astoria LDC presents Juno as the final film of its Monday night outdoor film series at Astoria Park. Free.  Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Correction officer from Queens arrested after shooting son

A teenager in Queens is in the hospital Monday, suffering from a gunshot wound. And the person accused of firing the shot is his own father, a correction officer at Rikers Island. Read more: ABC New York

Students in Bloomberg’s smaller schools have better on-time graduation rates: report

The new, smaller schools at the center of Mayor Bloomberg’s education reforms have boosted students’ chances of graduating on time, research to be released Monday shows. Read more: New York Daily News

Public advocate candidates clash on qualifications, seek to defend spotty voting records

The Democratic candidates competing for New York City public advocate argued about their qualifications for the job and several sought to explain their spotty voting records Sunday during an official debate on NBC 4 New York. Read more: NBC New York

Barclays Center in the spotlight for MTV Video Music Awards

Brooklyn was on the world stage Sunday night – perhaps like never before – with Barclays Center hosting the MTV Video Music Awards. Read more: CBS New York

Farmers’ Almanac: Super Bowl may be ‘Storm Bowl

he Farmers’ Almanac is using words like “piercing cold,” ”bitterly cold” and “biting cold” to describe the upcoming winter. And if its predictions are right, the first outdoor Super Bowl in years will be a messy “Storm Bowl.” Read more: AP

 

Teachers, parents demand firing of College Point elementary school principal


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Several parents and teachers in College Point want the city to end what they claim is an elementary school principal’s terror-driven reign.

They said Jennifer Jones-Rogers of P.S. 29 has wrongfully placed a handful of students in special education classes without notifying parents.

Critics also say the administrator’s “hostile environment” has driven away droves of teachers and has caused parents to pull their kids from the school.

“It is a shame that one person can do so much harm,” said parent Linda Briones, who has since transferred her child out of the school.

Marisol Chavez said her nine-year-old son Lukas “came crying home” at the start of the school year when he was put into a special education class.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to be in that class. I don’t belong in that class,’” Chavez said.

He spent a week there before Chavez was able to straighten out the mishap.

“I had to fight it. They made me cry,” she said. “She said my son would never perform well in another setting, that he will never succeed. It was horrible.”

The principal’s bullish tactics are also allegedly used on teachers who complain about her. Many said they had their desks taken away as punishment.

“It is clear that the principal has lost control of the school,” said State Senator Tony Avella, who joined about two dozen people at a rally on August 1.

The group called for the city to fire Jones-Rogers and start an investigation into apparent mismanagement of funds.

Educators say she has not provided a copy of the school’s budget to the United Federation of Teachers chapter president for the past two years as required.

Jones-Rogers is also accused of getting rid of the school’s library and computer lab.

“The current administrator at our school has created a learning and working environment that is detrimental to all,” said Stephanie Flunory, a second grade teacher.

P.S. 29 scored a “B” on its most recent city progress report. The school received an “A” in 2010 during the principal’s first term.

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education said the department is “aware of the concerns” and will address them.

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) vouched for Jones-Rogers, saying she is “widely considered to be a fine school leader.”

“This is a typical case of a handful of disgruntled people and a politician who is looking to further his constituent base in an election season,” said CSA Executive Vice President Mark Cannizzaro.

Jones-Rogers could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

 RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Three file racial discrimination claim against Elmhurst principal


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Devin Lightner

Alleged racist comments by an Elmhurst principal have left three teachers without jobs, with one deciding to leave the education system for good.

Lisa-Erika James, a tenured theater teacher, Heather Hightower, an ESL-science teacher, and John Flanagan, a Spanish teacher from Pan American International High School have filed a discrimination claim with the Department of Education (DOE)’s Office of Equal Opportunity against Principal Minerva Zanca.

According to details released by Assistant Principal Anthony Riccardo — who is also filing a harassment claim against Zanca — the principal allegedly referred to Hightower as looking like a “gorilla in a sweater” and having “nappy hair” and said Flanagan had “big lips” during post-observation conferences this past school year.
Riccardo also said that in various cases, Zanca insisted on giving both teachers unsatisfactory grades before observing class lessons.

“This whole experience has made me question whether or not I want to stay in a system that is designed to treat people with such malicious intent,” said Riccardo. “I am completely sickened by the unethical behavior my fellow colleague has displayed and I believe this to be a truly sad time to be an administrator in a NYC public school.”

According to Flanagan’s complaint, while there are eight untenured teachers out of a total of 27, both he and Hightower are the only African American untenured teachers. The complaint also states Flanagan and Hightower were the only ones that Zanca did not recommended for tenure.

“Just how you [the DOE] are very critical with teachers in New York City, you have to be with administrators,” said Kevin Powell, president of BK Nation, a non-profit organization that is working with the teachers on this case. “No form of discrimination should be allowed. They’re not activists — they’re teachers. They didn’t want to be in this. They had to say something.”

According to Powell, Hightower has decided to completely leave teaching and will pursue another career path.

“The most egregious act is that [Zanca] is allowed to run a school where many of the children are of Afro-Latino descent,” James said in her complaint. “And her hurtful racial epithets have been thrown around with no recourse or consequences.”

James said she was hired to create a theater program for the high school by former principal Marcella Barros, but alleges the program was then cut by Zanca because she is African American.

“It is abundantly clear that Mrs. Zanca has done everything in her power to get rid of every African American teacher on this staff,” said James.

The teachers, along with Powell and other supporters, rallied in front of the DOE on July 8 to call for authorities to investigate the case. A petition on www.change.org to fire Zanca had gathered 1,332 signatures as of press time.

Zanca could not be reached and it was unclear as of press time whether she had acquired legal representation.

The DOE said the complaints are under investigation.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Op-Ed: School buildings need adequate funding


| oped@queenscourier.com


BY COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS

Long before I was elected to office, I was the Beacon Program director at P.S. 19 in Corona, known at the time as the most overcrowded school in the country. My years of work engaging our neighborhood children helped me understand the effect of school building conditions on their academic performance.

Because their classrooms were overcrowded, the students received less attention to their individual learning needs and more distraction readily intruded upon their focus. I’ve since learned that overcrowded schools are only part of a bigger problem. Chronic underfunding of our school buildings has left too many of our children learning in less than adequate environments.

Cutbacks in school facilities funding over the years have led to widespread school overcrowding and crumbling schools across aging school buildings in many of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. More schools can relieve the overcrowding, but appropriate funding for their operation and maintenance is necessary to keep them all in good, working order. Our children deserve to learn under the best possible conditions in the greatest city in the world.

I’m proud to say I’ve launched an Education Task Force with the help of Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, the School Construction Authority and our community partners to not only improve communication between our schools and parents, but also advocate for better funding of our school facilities and develop long-term solutions.

New York City spends a smaller percentage of its total education budget on building maintenance and operations than most other large school districts in the country, and the percentage of the city’s education budget dedicated to facilities keeps shrinking by millions of dollars, according to a report published in early May by 32BJ SEIU. The union represents 5,000 public school cleaners and handypersons.

According to that report, there are thousands of open building code violations in hundreds of school buildings across the city. As these violations are repaired, the number of building code violations changes, but there seems to be a constant and exorbitant number of them left unaddressed. I worry that in overcrowded schools, the large student populations place an overwhelming demand on dwindling resources and supplies, exacerbating school conditions at a rapid pace.

When toilets don’t work or the heat doesn’t stay on, we place an undue burden on our children and it falls disproportionately on poorer neighborhoods. These are basic things that any one of us would take care of in the privacy of our own home, and the city needs to give the same priority to these issues at our children’s schools. This should increase the urgency of our endeavor.

The City of New York and the Department of Education must allocate sufficient funding to address these problems in our school buildings. School cleaners and handypersons need the right resources and manpower to keep school buildings operating. And just as years of advocacy by parents, students and community organizations got the city to cut the timeline in half to remove toxic PCBs from public school lights, we must focus as a community on the improvement of our children’s school buildings and give them the learning environment they deserve.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is the Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee and is a member of the Committees on Parks and Recreation, Civil Rights, Consumer Affairs, Economic Development, Finance and Health.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES