Tag Archives: Panel for Educational Policy

DOE votes to bus more than 250 Woodside students to Astoria school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A group of Woodside parents have lost the fight to keep their children close to home.

The Department of Education (DOE) voted on Wednesday night to temporary relocate more than 250 students from P.S.11 in Woodside to P.S. 171 in Astoria for the next three years.

The relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I have maintained that the expansion of P.S. 11 is a necessary investment in our children’s education and is vitally important to alleviating our overcrowded schools,” Congressman Joseph Crowley said. “However, I am disappointed and troubled by the DOE’s lack of foresight to avoid this terrible situation.”

Crowley added, “The DOE’s poor planning and judgment will now place a significant burden on 250 of our youngest students and their families. Our children only get one real opportunity at a great education and it is unfortunate our city cannot do right by them.”

Seven members of the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted in favor of the proposal, while two were against and one abstained from voting.

Since December, parents and elected officials fought to keep the students closer to their Woodside homes and last month asked the DOE to consider renting space in the nearby former St. Teresa School building.

But P.S.11 parents say the DOE told them the former Catholic school would not be practical for the students due to lack of adequate resources at the site.

“Where there is a will there should be a way,” said Martin Connolly, whose youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year and faces being bused to Astoria. “We are just disappointed. At the moment we are just accepting the situation.”

“We are now looking very seriously at our son’s future,” the father of three said.

Connolly also has two other children currently at P.S. 11, a daughter in second grade and son in kindergarten.

“After extensive outreach to the community, we decided to move forward on delivering a state-of-the-art addition to P.S. 11 that will enrich student’s academic experience and reduce overcrowding,” DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said.

 

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Katz names Queens representative on Panel for Educational Policy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Borough President Melinda Katz

Borough President Melinda Katz has picked Deborah Dillingham of Forest Hills to serve on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP).

The 13-member board, with representatives from each borough, votes to approve school policies, many which are controversial. Each borough president appoints one member to the PEP and the mayor appoints eight.

“Through her extensive work with our city’s school system, Deborah has shown she has the knowledge, savvy and commitment necessary to be an outstanding member of the Panel for Educational Policy,” Katz said.

Dillingham was president of District 28’s Community Education Council and served on the Queens Borough President’s Parent Advisory Committee, the District 28 Leadership Team and the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee.

The mom of three was also president of the Parent’s Association of P.S. 101.

“She cares deeply about our children and the schooling they receive and has a track record of making sure our kids get the best education possible,” Katz said. “I know she will be a great asset to the PEP.”

Dillingham replaces Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s appointee, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who battled against school closures and co-location plans under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.

Fedkowskyj, of Middle Village, is mulling a run against incumbent State Senator Marge Markey.

 

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Queens school co-locations approved


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Two more schools may move into I.S. 59


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Make room – one Springfield Gardens school could be the home for hundreds of more students come next fall.

Intermediate School 59, located at 132-55 Ridgedale Street, is currently under capacity, utilizing about 60 percent of the building, according to enrollment statistics compiled by the Department of Education (DOE).

This year, the school will begin to house P.S. 176’s fourth and fifth grades for three years while its original site receives an addition. For the fall 2014, the Success Academy Charter School (SACS) has applied to gradually open up a kindergarten through eighth grade at I.S. 59 .

“I believe right now there’s room in the building based on their utilization, but when it gets to full capacity it’s questionable, and I think that’s the concern the community has right now,” said Dmytro Fedkowski, Queens representative on the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP).

If SACS’ proposal is approved, 150 to 210 kindergarten and first grade students will join the Ridgedale Street school. One grade will then be added each year until it reaches the eighth grade in the 2021 to 2022 school year. By then, the building will be at 88 to 101 percent capacity.

The PEP will vote to approve or reject the co-location at an October 30 meeting.

Historically, Fedkowski said, charter schools have been pegged as receiving better resources than public schools.

However, SACS said its principals prioritize the budget in a way that, for example, allows for fewer, but more effective, teachers and, in turn, better resources.

However, the community remains unconvinced.

“Things have a tendency to change when a charter comes in,” Fedkowski said. “They have this, they have that, and it creates that animosity and puts parents against parents. How do you fix that? I don’t know.”

Charter schools additionally do not get funding for a facility and seek to locate in under-utilized buildings, such as I.S. 59.

The well-reputed SACS operates 18 schools citywide. Four elementary schools were graded by the DOE for the 2011 to 2012 school year and all received an A.

“Success Academy is hopeful we can meet some of the overwhelming demand from local families for more high-quality public schools in their neighborhood,” said Kerri Lyon, SACS spokesperson.

Following the PEP vote, there is a 45-day period of public comment. The panel is made up of 13 members, eight appointed by the mayor and one chosen by each borough president.

I.S. 59 administration could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

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Vote dates set for co-locating Queens schools


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will vote on four proposals to co-locate multiple Queens schools at the end of October.

The PEP — made up of seven mayoral appointees and five representatives from each borough — will meet in Brooklyn on October 30 at 883 Classon Avenue to discuss a series of plans that would squeeze more than one school into a building.

In one proposal, the city’s Department of Education (DOE) wants to temporarily put P.S. 176 Cambria Heights and a new public elementary charter school inside I.S. 59 Springfield Gardens.

The charter school would be part of Success Academy, which operates 18 public city charter schools, and would open next year.

A public hearing before the plan goes to the PEP will be held on October 9 at 6 p.m. at 132-55 Ridgedale Street.

The city also wants to put another new Success Academy Charter School and a new transfer high school inside August Martin High School.

Officials will hear out the public at August Martin on October 3 at 6 p.m.

There are also plans to add another new elementary school inside P.S. 40 Samuel Huntington in Jamaica next year and co-locate Corona Arts and Sciences Academy with Civic Leadership Academy, Pan American International High School, Voyages Preparatory and Queens Transition Center in Elmhurst Educational Campus in 2015.

A public hearing for Samuel Huntington will be held at the 109-20 Union Hall Street school on October 9 at 6 p.m. and one will be held for Corona Arts on October 1 at 6 p.m. at 45-10 94th Street.

The PEP will vote on more than a dozen other co-locations proposed in other boroughs on October 15.

There were no notices scheduled for another city plan to add a new school within Martin Van Buren High School.

 

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Community concerned about crowded Cambria Heights’ Campus Magnet High School


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Parents and students worry that adding another school to Cambria Heights’ Campus Magnet High School could crowd artistic minds.

The high school is home to four separate schools, all geared towards enhancing students’ artistic and professional ambitions. There is the Humanities and Arts Magnet High School; Law-Government High School; Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship (BCAE) High School and a Mathematics, Science, Research and Technology High School.

“It can get crowded in there,” said one sophomore student. “Sometimes it’s hard to walk through the halls.”

Each school has a population of roughly 400, said Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens representative on the Department of Education (DOE) Panel for Educational Policy. This coming fall, BCAE and Law-Government will start to be phased out, and a fifth school will be added to the building. However, proposals for a sixth school to be added September 2014 has the community concerned about crowding.

The Panel for Educational Policy was set to vote on the addition of a sixth school in their June meeting, but tabled the matter until October.

Parents are reportedly attempting to block the plan to put in a new school and Fedkowskyj said groups at Campus Magnet proposed ideas to instead increase enrollment in the existing schools.

“It’s something the building desired and the counsel could work with,” he said.

The increased-enrollment proposal could theoretically give schools more opportunities to offer more programs for its students and also eliminate the administration fee of adding another principal and teachers to run another school.

“Adding another school and another administration is a lot of work,” Fedkowskyj said. “Principals have enough on their plate to deal with educational matters, they don’t need to deal with programming matters, too.”

“I guess it’s hard to say what [the DOE] will do,” he added. “The engagement they’ll make with the community will hopefully benefit the community and give them what they want.”

 

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UFT sues to prevent school closings


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators (CSA) are hoping to “turnaround” the city’s decision to close 24 schools in court.

The organizations filed suit today in State Supreme Court, seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction until issues surrounding the Department of Education’s (DOE) Turnaround plan can be resolved through arbitration, UFT officials said.

Under Turnaround, 24 city schools — including seven in Queens — will close at the end of the semester and reopen under a new name in the fall. While non-graduating students at each school will be guaranteed a seat, teachers will have to reapply for their jobs, according to the DOE. If 50 percent of the former teachers reapply, at least that amount will have to be rehired.

“These ‘sham closings’ are an attempt by the DOE to evade its duty to help these struggling schools succeed,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew and CSA President Ernest Logan in a joint statement.

The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) — made up of five representatives chosen by the borough presidents and seven others who are selected by Mayor Michael Bloomberg — voted 8-4 to close the schools on April 26.

The mayor’s appointees and the representative from Staten Island — which had no schools on the list — voted for the Turnaround plan, while the other four voted against the measure, according to published reports.

“We are asking the court to ensure that no final decisions are made on the staffing of these schools, pending an independent review by an arbitrator on the issue of whether the DOE is trying to get around its labor agreements,” the statement said.

According to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, preparations have already been made to open the new schools in September, including training leadership teams and holding meetings with the UFT to begin the process of staffing the new schools. He said the lawsuit “could have damaging consequences for that process, jeopardizing the creation of exciting new schools with new programs, teachers and leadership structures.”

“The UFT and CSA have shown that they would rather leave our students’ futures to the courts than do the difficult work of turning around failing schools and giving students the education they deserve,” Walcott said in a statement. “Our strategy of replacing failing schools has led to major gains in achievement and graduation rates, and we pledge to extend that progress no matter what special interest groups try to obstruct it.”

The seven closing Queens schools are August Martin, Bryant, Flushing, John Adams, Long Island City, Newtown and Richmond Hill High School. They were all on the state’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools, and were receiving federal Race to the Top funding before negotiations broke down between the city and the UFT on an evaluation system.

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

According to UFT and CSA officials, unless the DOE agrees that it has improperly identified the 24 schools, the issue will go before an independent arbitrator.

 

P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott in Queens slated to close


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP)  rang the final bell for 23 city schools including P.S. 215 in Far Rockaway.

The decision was made Thursday night at a vote by the PEP at Brooklyn Tech.  The PEP is composed of 13 members chosen by the mayor and the borough presidents.

P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott received an “F” on the most recent progress report released in September.  Minorities comprise over 96 percent of the student body and 90 percent of the students at P.S. 215 qualify for free lunch.

The school will not close immediately, it will instead be phased out — it will not accept any new students and officially close after the current classes graduate.

The 33 schools designated for turnaround will be voted in March or April.  There are eight Queens high schools on the list: Flushing, William Cullen Bryant, Long Island City, Newtown, Grover Cleveland, August Martin, Richmond Hill and John Adams.

Pols, parents push for increased school bus service


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

A member of an influential city panel is concerned about perilous pathways getting between kids and their education.

Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens representative for the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), is rallying parents across the borough to support a proposal that will eliminate ambiguity from the process of determining which children with dangerous intersections on their way to school will be provided with yellow bus service.

“I’m introducing something citywide that would create a committee formed by both the Department of Education (DOE) and Community Education Council (CEC) that would review what qualifies for hazard variance and approve applications for hazard variance,” said Fedkowskyj. “This would make the review process more transparent.”

According to Fedkowskyj, many children had hazard variances allowing them bus service to and from school, but the DOE rescinded numerous cases over the last 18 months.

“These kids that had these variances that are traveling on these dangerous intersections had the opportunity to take yellow buses two years ago,” he said. “But over the last 18 months the DOE reviewed their situation and deemed them not qualified because they were too close. But they didn’t tell anyone how they came to this conclusion.”

The city provides yellow bus service or MetroCards for kindergartners to second graders who live more than half a mile from their school, according to the DOE’s web site. Children in grades three through six can receive bus service or MetroCards if they live more than a mile from school.

Roughly 3,700 students currently receive city busing to schools under variances – with roughly 500 in Queens – according to DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg.

“Parents may request individual variances for their children,” Feinberg said. “These requests are reviewed by our Office of Pupil Transportation. The Queens Borough President’s Panel representative proposed a resolution making certain recommendations about the variance process. Several Panel members expressed a desire to learn more about the process, and DOE will be discussing it with them.”

Fedkowskyj’s proposal, called the Safety Hazard Advisory Review Program (SHARP), would create a committee in each of the city’s 32 school districts. To be approved, the policy will have to receive votes from seven of the 13 members of PEP, who are appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and each borough president. The voting will occur at a public hearing on February 9 at Brooklyn Tech High School.

Fedkowskyj says all seven CECs in Queens have expressed support for the proposal – including CEC District 24, which passed a resolution.

Nick Comaianni, president of CEC24, believes children who attend P.S. 229 and live in the Big Six Towers in Woodside should receive yellow bus service due to the traffic conditions at the intersection of Laurel Hill Boulevard and 61st Street – a nine-lane street near the off ramp for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“I think the condition is definitely hazardous,” said Comaianni, who claims Big Six had the most variances rejected from one particular location in the city. “When you look at that, you always have to ask yourself whether a 9 year old has enough sense to make that walk alone, and the answer is no.”

Parents from the Big Six, which is located roughly eight-tenths of a mile from P.S. 229, have expressed outrage that their children are expected to put their lives in danger to get school – particularly when nearly empty school buses visit the building complex each day.

“Our unique situation is that the bus we are discussing still comes to Big Six in the morning and afternoon for kindergarten through grade two, and the bus is about a third full,” said Thomas Haggerty, who pays for private busing for his son, a fourth grader at P.S. 229. “So we are talking about a virtually empty bus, and the older kids at P.S. 229 were put out in the cold and told their intersection was deemed safe.”

Other parents have witnessed the danger and destruction at the intersection firsthand.

“I was in a terrible accident in the exact spot where they want my kids to cross,” said Doris Stroman, who son is a first grader at P.S. 229. “The fear is beyond words. [The DOE] is justifying this by saying parents have to teach their kids how to cross safely. I’m an adult, but I couldn’t prevent getting into an accident when an 18-wheeler blew a red light. If the driver couldn’t see me, how can they see a kid? They are waiting for a tragedy to happen. I don’t know if they are waiting for someone to die.”