Tag Archives: PTA

EXCLUSIVE: P.S. 117 finds its heroes, $7K donated by community organizations


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


 

P.S. 117 may not need to wait for Superman any longer to save graduation.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Briarwood Latchkey Generation Facebook group stepped up to contribute about $7,000 together to help save the cash-strapped school.

Nearly 170 graduating fifth-graders were in danger of losing caps and gowns, yearbooks and a senior prom, which are usually sponsored by the school’s PTA, because the Department of Education is investigating $30,000 missing from the accounts of the school’s Parent Teacher Association. While the investigation is ongoing, the organization is not allowed to fundraise and is barred from all financial dealings.

At a school meeting on Monday, Jack Friedman, the executive director of the Chamber, and Nick Tomizawa, who represented the Facebook group made of Briarwood residents and alums of P.S. 117, announced the donations to a room full of parents and teachers.

“I feel ecstatic,” said Nicole Lopez, a parent from the school. “If I could go to the top of a mountain and scream, ‘Thank you,’ I would. I think it’ll get done in time for them to have a nice prom and ceremony.”

The money will pay for expenses for the senior items and dance. Parents are currently creating a list of needs, which they will present to principal Paula Cunningham for approval.

However, because of the short time the children may still not receive physical yearbooks. Instead, the school is considering CD yearbooks with class pictures, and getting autograph books for the children.

The members of the Briarwood Facebook group donated more than $1,000 through the crowdfunding site Giveforward.com.

The Chamber collected $6,000 in donations from Melrose Credit Union, New York Community Bank, TD Bank, Plaza College, Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association and Thermos & Thomiavia, PC.

The Chamber will hold a press conference to officially announce the donation on Friday.

 

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Parents of P.S. 117 students seeking donations to fund school’s graduation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Parents at P.S. 117 in Briarwood are asking for donations so their children can have the full graduation experience. 

They started a crowd funding page on giveforward.com, hoping to raise about $4,500, which is needed so the nearly 170  graduating fifth-graders can receive caps and gowns, yearbooks and a senior prom.

The graduation items and senior dance are usually sponsored by the school’s PTA. However, because the Department of Education is investigating $30,000 missing from the accounts of the school’s PTA—which The Courier first reported earlier this month—the current PTA is barred from fundraising and any other financial dealings, officials said.

Parents are organizing the school dance and the buying of the yearbook, and caps and gowns by themselves. They have received more than $1,000 already.

To donate, click here.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: P.S. 117 PTA missing $30K, graduation ruined for students


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Nearly 170 graduating students of P.S. 117 in Briarwood may not receive their caps and gowns and may miss out on senior events at the end of their elementary school experience because $30,000 is missing from the accounts of the school’s PTA, The Courier has learned.

The Department of Education (DOE) has launched a probe into the missing money, and the current PTA is barred from fundraising and any other financial dealings, officials said.

Parents learned earlier this year there may not be a senior dance, a school yearbook or graduation regalia because those items were all funded by the now-penniless parent teacher organization.

“I feel hurt, because it’s not right that our kids don’t get these things,” said Nicole Lopez, a parent from Jamaica whose son, Justice, is in the graduating class. “Other kids got them and they take them for granted, but it’s a memory and memories last forever.”

Graduating seniors will receive T-shirts and go on a senior trip, for which parents are required to pay
$65 per child to offset costs. They will also have a graduation ceremony with awards, but without wearing traditional garbs.

The school’s principal, Paula Cunningham, refused to comment on the situation and directed calls to the DOE. The DOE confirmed the audit, but wouldn’t answer further questions.

“This  matter is currently under review  internally, we are  unable to  provide additional  information at  this time due to the pendency of the ongoing investigation,” a DOE spokesman wrote in an email.

During a recent meeting at the  school led by the  new PTA  leadership,  Cunningham  told   parents  that   her hands are  tied  in  the  situation, even  as  parents suggested  increasing senior dues  to cover  the nearly  $6,000 needed to make the  graduation special.

The  dance is  estimated to  cost about $2,000, the yearbook could be  about $1,650 and  caps  and  gowns would be $13.50 per student, or more  than $2,200 total, according to parents’ estimates.

“We  as  a building, as  a school, are  allowed to  have one  fundraiser for  the  entire year.  That  fundraiser was supposed to be for the entire school,” Cunningham said. “We  don’t  have  funds that  we  can  spend on  caps  and gowns. We  don’t  have  funds that  we  can  spend on  a prom. We sent  out  letters explaining that  the  PTA paid for things that  cost  a lot of money.”

Parents and  students are  outraged and  they  feel their kids  are  being  thrown under the  “school” bus  because not  much is being  done to remedy the  situation.

“I think [the  school is] being  selfish and  that  they just want to do what they  want, and  they  aren’t  thinking of the  kids,”  Lopez said.

Dozens of parents have  begun to hold weekly  senior committee meetings, sacrificing time  on  busy  weekday nights to  figure  out  how  raise  the  necessary money to create a yearbook and  senior dance.

But time is against them:  the “Moving Up Ceremony” is scheduled for June  25.

While  parents are  scrambling, kids  are  hoping they don’t  lose  out  of their  full graduation celebration after years  of hard work.

“I want to  be  able  to  remember fifth  grade,” Justice said,  “because it’s the  only  year [in elementary school] that  I’m actually going  to be able  to graduate.”

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Hundreds to sign safety pledge in honor of Flushing 3-year-old killed by SUV


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The family of the 3-year-old girl tragically killed by an SUV in Flushing will watch hundreds stand to take a pledge against reckless driving Friday to honor the toddler.

“This is actually pretty amazing,” said Hsi-Pei Liao, whose daughter, Allison, was fatally struck while crossing Main St. at Cherry Ave. last October. “It’s very personal.”

Nearly 2,000 people are expected to take a safety oath at P.S. 173, promising to “value the preservation of life above all else” while behind the wheel.

It couldn’t come at a better time.

The Fresh Meadows elementary school, which Allison’s 5-year-old brother Preston attends, has been the site of daily, dangerous drop-offs during the morning rush, civic leaders said.

Police even stepped in last month to stop short-tempered drivers from double parking, blocking the school bus stop and letting students run across the street, The Queens Courier reported.

“Our traffic conditions outside of our school are so severe,” said PTA President Italia Augienello. “We don’t need another tragedy. I’m afraid because, next time, it could be my kid.”

The driver who hit Allison remained at the scene and was not charged with a crime, police said. He was issued two summonses for failing to exercise due care and failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

The irreversible tragedy has led Hsi-Pei and his wife, Amy, who works as a social worker, to turn their pain into progress.

“We can’t save her,” said Hsi-Pei, a 36-year-old software technician. “There’s a feeling of helplessness and we can’t do that anymore. We can’t do that to ourselves anymore.”

The couple, in February, helped create Families for Safe Streets, a New York City-based group fighting for an end to traffic deaths.

They also meet monthly with local precincts and the PTA, drive to Albany to plead with elected officials and rally with a local advocacy group, Make Queens Safer.

“Something needs to be changed,” Hsi-Pei said. “Even if it constantly brings up the topic of why I lost my daughter, I feel like we’re proactively doing something.”

The family’s resilience has inspired hundreds on a local and citywide level. All 940 students in the school are expected to take the pledge to be careful on the streets and at least 1,000 parents, staff and residents plan to do the same.

“It’s amazing — the strength they have after what they’ve been through,” Augienello said. “They’re humble and quiet, yet they’re strong and their voices are heard.”

All are welcome to join the assembly March 21 at 1:10 p.m., inside the school’s auditorium at 174-10 67th Ave.

“They’re healing by helping other people understand what their actions can cause,” said Parent Coordinator Jean Mendler, “and that’s wonderful.”

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Star of Queens: Vita Leone, P.S./M.S. 207 PTA vice president


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Vita Leone

COMMUNITY SERVICE: As vice president of P.S./M.S. 207’s PTA in Howard Beach, Leone is always working on a project. She has helped put together various events such as the school’s kindergarten graduation, blood drive, health fair, fundraisers and more. This holiday season, she helped with a new project, “Cookies with Santa.” She also puts together the fall carnival, complete with rides and games for the students and neighborhood.

BACKGROUND: Leone, a Queens native, was born in Astoria but moved to Howard Beach when she was in the third grade. She went to St. Helen’s, then graduated to St. John’s Prep in Astoria. Leone is also very proud of her Italian heritage and travels to the homeland every summer. She met her now-husband in Italy, and the pair will celebrate 23 years together this May. Together, they have a 20-year-old son who went to P.S. 207 but now is at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice studying criminal law, and an 11-year-old daughter who is in the sixth grade at the Howard Beach school.

FAVORITE MEMORY: During her time on the PTA, Leone said her favorite memory was the first year they did the fall carnival, two days before Sandy hit.

“It was one of the best feelings,” she said. “I was so happy the kids had Halloween and could go home with goody bags.”

The students each had a free 45-minute period to go out and enjoy the fall carnival, where they could play carnival games, go on rides and play in inflatable play structures.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: For the PTA Vice President, her biggest challenge has yet to come. Once her sixth grader graduates, Leone doesn’t want to have to leave the school of which she has “made part of her life.” When her daughter leaves, Leone said she still wants to be involved with the school, whether it’s as a volunteer or as a full-time employee.

INSPIRATION: Leone’s biggest inspiration in doing all of the work she does for the school lies within a love to help people and give back.

“It makes me happy when I accomplish something and when I see those kids’ smiles,” she said. “That’s my high of the day.”

 

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College Point principal resigns after protests and allegations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jones-Rogers could not be reached for comment.

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

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

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

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

 

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Parents fight against gifted and talented cuts


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Don’t fix what’s not broken.

That was the message echoed through P.S. 122’s auditorium on Wednesday, March 6, by concerned parents, school officials and local politicians looking to stop the gutting of the school’s prestigious gifted and talented classes.

The “emergency meeting,” which brought over 500 attendees, was organized by the school’s PTA in response to the Department of Education’s proposal last month to eliminate classes at the prestigious middle school program known as The Academy at P.S. 122. The cuts will happen in order to expand the general education population into the eighth grade.

“This is a meeting to show we’re united,” said Claudia Lieto-McKenna, co-president of the PTA. “It is our issue together.”
In order to extend P.S. 122 into the eighth grade, by 2019 there will be room for only one class per grade in The Academy, down from the three to four classes offered now.

“You’re not worried just about your kids, you are worried about everyone else’s kids,” said Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. “We started this fight together and we’ll end it together.”

Two DOE representatives were present at the meeting to take down comments and concerns from the community, yet were met with a hostile reception from parents who felt their questions were being ignored and unanswered.

“We’re being bullied about our kid’s education,” said Nikos Kantzoglou, 47, a P.S. 122 parent. “We’re not going to stand for it.”

According to Lieto-McKenna, the reduction of classes at The Academy will result in the loss of the school’s art and music rooms, computer and science labs and library, as they will all be turned into classrooms. The overcrowding at the school will also cause lunch periods to begin as early as 9:30 a.m.

“We can never give up, to do so is to give up on our children,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

Along with parents and officials, P.S. 122 alumni were also in attendance, including a graduate from the class of 1939, and some made their voices heard on stopping the “attack” on their “model school.”

“I don’t like seeing this school being attacked,” said Linday James Soto, 20, who attended P.S. 122. “This school has helped me get where I am.” Soto also stood up during the meeting to express his anger to the DOE representatives, saying the proposal would turn the school into a “compulsory prison.”

Although negative uproars were heard in the auditorium, some speakers hoped to be able to work with the DOE to reach a plan that would benefit the community.

“We’ll work with you,” said Jeffrey Guyton of Community District Education Council 30 to the DOE representatives. “You will succeed beyond your wildest expectations.”

According to Deborah Alexander, a District 30 parent, as of Friday, March 8, the District 30 Education Coalition has retained counsel and will be filing an injunction against the DOE.

 

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Star of Queens: Shani Faure, P.S. 140 PTA president


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

star of queens

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Shani Faure became the PTA president of P.S. 140 only a year ago, but her community advocacy dates all the way back to her teenage years. Faure is one of the project managers at Life Camp Incorporated, a nonprofit organization aiming to save teens from gun violence, and is also a life coach for single mothers. As PTA President, Faure focuses on fundraising through social events and school sales and also on increasing parent involvement in the school. “I try to think about creative and unique ways to get the parents out there,” she said. “Not only just to know what’s going on in the school, but also different wa ys to build better relationships between parents and students.”

PERSONAL BACKGROUND: Faure is a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn, but moved around as a child. However, despite her location, one thing remained constant – her advocacy for the community. She began as a Girl Scout, and said she worked in hospitality ever since she was 14 years old. During her college years, she worked with children in low-income neighborhoods. “I always spent my time volunteering and mentoring those less fortunate,” she said.

FAVORITE MEMORY: In her position, Faure said her favorite memories involve “just seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, because they really do appreciate the little things.” All of the P.S. 140 students and parents have come to know her friendly face, and they enjoy seeing her in the school every day. “It’s a very family-oriented school, and I think that’s what I love,” she said. “Everybody pitches in and does their part.”

INSPIRATION: Through all of Faure’s volunteer work, she has encountered many different people, mainly children. In college, she recalled seeing kids that go home to negligent parents, and it made her want to be there for them “Some kids just don’t have anybody at home,” she said. “So at least they now know that at school they have other people to talk to, and I think that makes the difference.” Faure said that a lot of students in the area are at a “disadvantage,” and she wants to be there, along with others, to help them.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Getting parents more involved is a perpetual problem for Faure, but aside from that, she wants upgraded technology in the school. Currently, the school has very few storyboards, which can help individual students do anything from lay out a storyline in English or break apart a word equation in math. Faure would like to get a storyboard for every student, and also update their computer center with Apple equipment.

 

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Parents oppose P.S. 140 phase out


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

The Department of Education (DOE) has issued a proposal to phase out a Jamaica elementary school – but the community will not go quietly.

“My daughter is heartbroken,” said Lashawna Colliard, whose daughter, Alexis, is in the fourth grade at P.S. 140.

The school, due to consistently bad grades on its yearly progress reports, has been on the looming chopping block since last October, and administrators and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) have been working feverishly to improve conditions. A final decision whether to phase out the school or not will be made in March.

“It’s extremely disheartening,” said Wydia Gavin, PTA vice president. “The principal has done a lot of revamping and placing people strategically where they would be effective; this proposal hasn’t allowed him to prove that there have been significant changes made.”

Principal David Norment joined the P.S. 140 staff in February 2012, becoming the school’s fourth principal within just one year. According to PTA members, Norment came into a “messy situation.”

“Since he came in, he’s been working diligently with his staff to produce the proper scores that they need to see changes and improvement,” said Gavin. “You won’t get to see the progress because [the DOE] deadline doesn’t factor in his changes.”

This school year, P.S. 140 credits itself with a 50 percent reduction in suspensions, a 93.8 percent attendance rate – the highest in 12 years – building improvements and multiple new school sports and art programs.

The school’s superintendent, Beverly Ffolkes-Bryant, held an assembly Tuesday, January 8 with the students and explained the situation, along with the phasing out process.

“[Alexis] called me as soon as the assembly was over,” said Colliard. “She said, ‘Mommy, they’re closing my school!’ [The DOE] shouldn’t do it, not yet.”

A new administration would take over the P.S. 140 building this September, if the DOE approves the plan, and take charge of Pre-K through second grade. Third through fifth grade would still be a part of P.S. 140. The new administration would gradually phase out P.S. 140 by taking over a grade a year, so that all grades are incorporated by September 2016.
Bryant also held a parent information session, and there will be a public hearing in February. The DOE will consider all parent testimonies, and will hold a final vote in March.

The PTA has rallied parents and encourages them to call or email the DOE, voicing their concerns. They will continue to hold workshops, put out phone blasts, and keep the community informed.

Other Queens schools set to possibly be phased out include the Law, Government and Community Service High School as well as Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School; P.S. 156 faces a truncation of its middle school.

 

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Smart students at I.S. 204 will learn on smart boards


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

In today’s evolving world, advancements in education come hand-in-hand with technological innovations, and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer is assuring that the students of I.S. 204 are not left behind.

The councilmember attended I.S. 204’s first PTA meeting of the year on September 27 and announced that he is allocating $50,000 of his capital funding to improving technology at the school, including providing each classroom with a new smart board.

Through Van Bramer’s efforts, I.S. 204, located at 36-41 28th Street in Long Island City, also received $40,000 over the past two years to fund its Cultural After School Adventure program with the Intrepid Museum.

“I.S. 204 is a vital school in the community of Dutch Kills and Long Island City,” said the councilmember. “The students deserve to have a nurturing environment, rigorous coursework and current technology that will give them the skills to transition smoothly into high school and be a productive member of society. I am pleased to have been able to provide these resources.”