Tag Archives: public hearing

Ridgewood high school improving but still faces state takeover

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Although Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood has seen improving graduation rates and student performance over the last few years, it remains vulnerable to a possible state takeover, educators said during a public hearing at the school Saturday.

Parents, students and teachers filled the Grover Cleveland auditorium on Saturday morning to talk about the performance of the struggling school and the possibility of the school’s receivership, while providing recommendations on how to improve the high school.

Earlier this year Grover Cleveland High School, along with 61 other New York City schools, was identified as struggling or persistently struggling by the New York State Education Department (DOE). If the school does not improve student performance and graduation rates, Grover Cleveland may fall into receivership, meaning that the school will be taken over by an outside entity and divided into several smaller schools.

At the public hearing, Grover Cleveland High School’s principal, Denise Vittor, acknowledged the school’s troubles, but pointed to recent improvements in graduation rates and attendance as signs of hope.

The four-year graduation rate for Grover Cleveland High School for June graduation was at 53 percent in the 2012-13 school year, and 51 percent in the 2013-14 school year. By the August graduation for those students who did not graduate in June, those numbers increased to 60.2 percent in 2012-13 and 58 percent in 2013-14.

“As you see, in June we did not reach 60 percent [graduation rate], which is the benchmark for all New York State schools,” Vittor said. “But by August, we were at 60.2 graduation rate. In 2013-14 we missed a lot. But I am proud to say, this year we had 60.7 graduation rate in June and 62.5 by August.”

Grover Cleveland’s goals for graduation rates for the 2015-16 school year are 63 percent for the June graduation and 65 percent in August, above the required 60 percent.

“As you saw when Principal Vittor presented the data, Grover Cleveland is on the fast-track for coming off of the struggling list,” said Elaine Lindsey, DOE high school superintendent. “So we are believing that by the end of this school year, that Grover Cleveland should not be considered a struggling school based on the data that we saw presented today.”

To keep these numbers rising, Vittor explained her school’s use of “six elements of the framework for great schools”: rigorous instruction, a supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family and community ties, and trust.

One area of concern for parents was the amount of funding the school receives for electronic resources. Vittor explained that the school receives approximately $20,000.

“We are a smartboard school, which means we have smartboards in every classroom, that’s the goal,” Vittor said. “Each smartboard is $6,500, so $20,000 doesn’t go very far … we will ask our elected officials to assist us again.”

State Senator Joseph Addabbo made it clear that he intends to continually support Grover Cleveland and help it get off the struggling list.

“I am ready and willing to work with the entire Grover Cleveland High School community to help protect this school from receivership, improve its graduation rates and increase parental participation,” Addabbo said in a statement. “Engaging more parents in the education of their children is key to improving outcomes for students, as well as creating stronger families and communities. I look forward to working towards protecting Grover Cleveland for generations of students to come.”

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, a graduate of Grover Cleveland, vowed to lend her support for her former school.

“As the elected representative of the 37th Assembly district and a 1976 graduate of Grover Cleveland High school, I want to voice my support for the school,” Nolan said in a statement. “Cleveland has struggled, but under the leadership of Principal Vittor it is getting back on track and has a lot to offer. With the right support and resources, I believe the school can be the best version of itself … I will continue to support and advocate for Cleveland, a Ridgewood institution that is so incredibly important to us.”

During the public comment period, some parents suggested that the school send home a syllabus so parents can become more involved with their children’s work. Others suggested increasing the number of guidance counselors at the school to better prepare college-bound students, and several students suggested creating more sports teams and afterschool clubs so students will become more interested in their school.

To provide input on improving Grover Cleveland High School, send an email to receivership@schools.nyc.gov.


Public hearing to be held in Ridgewood for struggling Grover Cleveland HS

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

COURIER/File photo

The future of the struggling Grover Cleveland High School will be the focus of a special public hearing next Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Ridgewood institution.

The school, located at 21-27 Himrod St., has been listed as one of 62 New York City schools that have been identified by the state Department of Education (DOE) as either struggling or persistently struggling. These schools are in danger of being placed under receivership by the state without quick improvement in academic performance in the next year.

The purpose of the public hearings is for the DOE to solicit input through public engagement regarding recommendations for improving the school.

The public is encouraged to sign up to speak at the hearing to voice their concerns and ideas for the school. Written comments will also be collected on the day of the hearing and can be submitted via the online feedback form as well.

The hearing will take place on Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For those who cannot attend the hearing, they may submit comments by mail to the NYC Department of Education, State/Federal Education Policy and School Improvement Programs, 52 Chambers St., Room 320, New York, NY 10007, or through email to Receivership@schools.nyc.gov.


Bayside Village BID to hold April 14 hearing on local parking woes

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Those having a hard time finding parking near Bayside’s Bell Boulevard can vent their frustrations at a special public hearing the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) will hold on the topic on Tuesday, April 14.

Residents, drivers and merchants alike are invited to attend the session scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at Bayside United Methodist Church, located at 38-20 Bell Blvd.

The Bayside Village BID, with the assistance of Councilman Paul Vallone, recently hired an engineering firm to examine parking problems in the area around Bell Boulevard and form potential short- and long-term solutions. It is reportedly part of a revived attempt to fix parking problems in the area launched more than a decade ago.

In a letter, Bayside Village BID Executive Director Lyle Sclair said that attendees will learn information on some of the “best practices from across the region.” BID members and residents can also share their ideas and input on how to ease the pain for all drivers.

Meanwhile, Sclair urged local businesses to sign a pledge that they would keep spots in front of their shops free as much as possible.

“Many of the business owners signed a pledge that they and their workers would not park on Bell Boulevard in the metered spots that are designed for customers,” Sclair wrote. “We understand that you may need to use the parking in front of your business for pickups and deliveries. The pledge is not meant to discourage you from using the space in front of your store for business operations, but once you are done, please move your car to the surrounding side streets.”

BID members who cannot attend the April 14 meeting may schedule one-on-one consultations regarding the plan earlier that day from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the BID’s office located at 213-39 39th Ave., Suite 310.

For more information, click here or call 718-423-2434.


NYC water rates set to go up again this July

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com


In what’s become an annual rite of spring in New York City, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommended a water rate increase Friday.

Calling it the lowest suggested increase in a decade, the DEP formally requested that the New York City Water Board raise rates by 3.24 percent, even lower than the 4.9 percent increase projected last year.

For owners of single-family homes, their yearly water bills will climb about $33 per year, from $1,025 to $1,058, based on the average consumption of 80,000 gallons per year. Multi-family homeowners will pay, on average, about $23 more per unit annually, from $666 to $689 based on an average annual water consumption of 52,000 gallons.

The DEP will also ask the Water Board to continue freezing the minimum charge for homeowners who use approximately 100 gallons or less per day; these customers are charged $1.27 per day, or $463.55 per year.

“By implementing effective costs controls, refinancing higher interest debt and reducing the rental payment, we are able to deliver the lowest water rate increase in a decade, and the 25 percent of single family homeowners who use the least water will not receive any increase at all,” DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd said. “In addition, we have put together a package of initiatives to provide relief to nearly 50,000 additional low-income, senior and disabled customers.”

The package Lloyd mentioned includes the proposed expansion of the Home Water Assistance Program, which provides annual credits to low-income families who qualify for the federal Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP); credits for those who enroll in the DEP’s monthly e-billing program; and $100 credits for those who participate in the lead and cooper monitoring program.

Though the DEP touted the reduced increase, one elected official — Councilman Donovan Richards, who chairs the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee — said the city needed to ease homeowners’ burdens even further.

“The financial burden of offsetting the costs of maintaining the city’s vast sewer and water system cannot be placed on single-family homeowners, many of whom are seniors,” Richards said. “Considering the hardships that many lower-income families are facing, it is important to retain reduction measures — including a minimum $1.27 daily flat rate and expanding the Home Water Payment Assistant Program to absorb these increased costs.”

Queens residents will get their chance to speak for or against the water rate increase on Thursday, April 30, at the Water Board’s public hearing in Long Island City. The hearing will take place at 7 p.m. at LaGuardia Community College, 45-50 Van Dam St., Conference Room E-242. Click here for more details.

The Water Board is expected to formally adopt water rates for the city’s 2016 fiscal year on May 8; the new rates will take effect on July 1.


Parents, teachers, students fight to keep new schools out of Flushing HS

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Parents, teachers and students at an embattled Flushing school are fighting to keep the city out of their space.

Scores of supporters gathered at Flushing High School to have their voices heard by the Department of Education (DOE) during an agency-hosted public hearing on February 28.

The city plans to add a small district high school and a Chinese bilingual school inside the storied institution. The two new schools would share the building — including the gym, cafeteria and auditorium — with Flushing High School students.

“Our goal is to create a system of great schools that prepare all students for college,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia. “Designed to meet the needs of individual communities, our new, small schools have delivered resounding results.”

Math teacher Jessica Dimech said the proposal was just another blow to the struggling school after the city unsuccessfully tried closing it less than a year ago.

“You gave us another six months with a stacked deck [and] cut our funding,” said Dimech, also a member of the school’s leadership team. “The DOE time and time again pulls the carpet from underneath us. Please just let me do my job.”

The Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) is largely expected to vote in favor of the proposal on March 11, sources said. The panel supported the city’s attempt to shutter dozens of city schools last April before a court order reversed the approval.

But the Queens representative on the panel, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, said he would vote against the plans.
“Enough is enough. Flushing High School doesn’t want to be part of a chance experiment,” he said.

According to Juan Mendez, superintendent of Queens high schools, the change would decrease enrollment by 850 students at the crowded school. Flushing would take in fewer incoming freshman under the plan.

There is also a proposal to place an international school, serving English language learners, inside Newtown High School in Elmhurst. The new institution would prepare recently arrived immigrant students for college.

Newtown improved from a “C” to a “B” on its last DOE progress report. Flushing received a “D” in the last two years, recently failing both student progress and performance.

Flushing High freshman Stephanie Kouboulas vouched for “the best teachers” at the school as she broke down in tears.

“You want us just to fade out into the dust and never be here,” said Kouboulas, 14. “Flushing High School has been here a long time. It shouldn’t go anywhere.”



Advocacy group angry with timing of soda ban public hearing

| brennison@queenscourier.com

As city residents descend on Long Island City to attend the public hearing on the proposed ban of sugary drinks, New Yorkers for Beverage Choices questioned the timing of the meeting.

The hearing at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s headquarters began at 1 p.m., a time New Yorkers for Beverage Choices believes prevents many from attending.

“By scheduling this hearing in the middle of a business day during many restaurants’ and delis’ busy lunch periods, the Department of Health is sending a clear message that they are not interested in hearing what real New Yorkers have to say about this proposal,” the group said in a statement.

The organization said they have collected signatures from more than 91,000 residents and 1,500 businesses in the city opposing the ban.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his plan to ban sugary drinks above 16 ounces in May.

Today is the lone public hearing. The city’s Board of Health will vote on the measure in September.