Tag Archives: Students

Sandy leaves students, parents scrambling


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY ALEXA ALTMAN AND MAGGIE HAYES

Kids may have received an unscheduled week-long vacation from school after Sandy, but they returned to a system turned upside down.

Roughly 79 schools across Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island suffered structural damage, 13 lost power and nearly 70 boilers required repairs.

Students from 43 damaged schools citywide were relocated, some further from home than parents would have preferred.

P.S. 146 PTA President Terri Fonal was still without a temporary facility for her two children, third grader Kasey and sixth grader Matthew, a week-and-a-half after the storm hit and damaged their Howard Beach school. Late on the night of Wednesday, November 7, Fonal received a call from the Department of Education (DOE), alerting her that her children could attend classes at Spring Creek Educational Campus in Brooklyn the following day. Fonal said it was a lack of information that caused parents to panic.

“That’s why a lot of parents were so up in arms because [the DOE was] telling us one thing and doing something else,” said Fonal. “From the beginning we were told they were [trying] to fix the school but there was a possibility they may be relocated. There were a lot of parents who didn’t know what was happening.”

According to Fonal, only 90 kids attended class at their temporary school at Spring Creek Educational Campus on Thursday, a significantly steep decline from their typical student body of about 600. She decided against sending her kids to school, saying the storm caused too much confusion already.

Published reports show 200,000 students citywide were absent that same Thursday.

Of the 8,000-bus fleet serving the New York City school system, 700 were out of service in the week after the storm, affecting students’ commutes to school. Last week, the DOE began distributing MetroCards to displaced students and their parents to smooth their journey to their new location.

“We will continue to work hard to make sure schools are back online and get kids back to their home schools,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott at a meeting to brief faculty and parents about changes due to Sandy at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Long Island City.

Some schools acted as shelters for Sandy victims, including Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, which had over 100 refugees staying on campus full time as of last week. Some of these shelters had sanitary and hygiene problems. Brooklyn’s John Jay High School was plagued by a brief bout of stomach virus that was quickly eliminated. The school has since undergone a thorough cleansing and been signed off on by the Department of Health (DOHMH).

To help get damaged schools back to normal, the City Council approved a $200 million grant to city schools. P.S. 207 in Howard Beach — one of 23 school buildings housing 37 schools closed for repairs – requires new oil tanks and electrical wiring.

After missing two weeks of classes, P.S. 146 students were eager to return to their home school.

“The kids were very excited to go back,” said Fonal. “They missed their friends, they missed their teachers. They needed to go back to the routine.”

The DOE is undecided as to how students will make up days missed due to the storm.

Sleep smarts: Sleep is an important part of back-to-school preparation


| ara@queenscourier.com

(ARA) – Does your list of school supplies include sleep? Studies say it should, especially for teens.

Only 8 percent of American teenagers are getting the required nine or more hours of sleep needed, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In fact, a recent study published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health” found that more than 60 percent of high school students get less than seven hours of sleep per night. The situation does not improve in college, either. A 2010 study conducted at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota revealed, not surprisingly, that 70 percent of college students get less than the 8 recommended hours of sleep.

While most people have, at times, battled sleep issues, poor sleep habits plague college campuses. Let’s face it – most college kids do not place a premium on a good night’s rest. In addition to sleep falling low on the priority list, most students are sleeping on cheap dorm mattresses and worn out pillows – which can affect sleep quality.

Perhaps reminding your student that there is a proven relationship between healthy sleep habits and academic success might help encourage healthier habits. In 2010, a University of Minnesota study found a significant positive correlation between the amount of sleep per night and GPA. Additionally, as the average number of days per week a student got less than five hours of sleep increased, GPA decreased.

Once a pattern of bad sleep has developed, is it possible for teens and college students to “reset” their internal clocks? Researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine say it is. Suggest that your students try following these tips, a little bit at a time, over several weeks:

* Try your best to avoid caffeine, smoking, alcohol, heavy exercise and heavy snacking (pizza included) at least three hours before bedtime.

* Don’t pull all-nighters or cram for exams late at night. Specifically schedule studying for when you’re most alert so your performance won’t be affected.

* Be as consistent as possible with your sleep habits, ideally aiming to go to bed at the same time each evening and get at least eight hours of sleep per night.

* Wake up at the same time every morning and head outside. Sunlight helps reset circadian rhythms, the body’s internal biological process that rotates around a 24-hour schedule.

* Turn off your cell phone and laptop at night. Besides being a distraction, exposure to light can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that aids sleep.

* Make sure your bedroom is set up for sleep. If you are a light sleeper or your dorm is noisy, try wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Keep the room cool and dark. Make your bed as comfortable as possible. Consider investing in a foam mattress pad and a quality pillow. For example, for around $100, you can purchase a mattress topper and a waterbase pillow, both of which greatly improve head, neck and back support while you sleep.

Countless studies have shown that people who get the right amount of sleep are physically and emotionally healthier – which is of course is something we all want for our children. Getting better grades is just the icing on the cake.

 

Chalk up more back-to-school savings by shopping online


| ara@queenscourier.com

(ARA) – As the end of summer nears, the flashing red lights of yellow school buses will caution drivers to stop as students board. College students will pull out of driveways with cars filled to the brim with dorm room supplies. And the school bells will echo across the playground, signaling the start and end of classroom learning.

Of course, before school starts in the fall, parents will tackle the task of back-to-school shopping. The “must-buy” list often doesn’t change much from year to year. Students of all ages and schooling levels will need pencils, notebooks, new clothes, backpacks and folders. As you develop a shopping list for your children this year, consider making the back-to-school shopping experience a bit easier by staying home, shopping online and saving money. Use these tips for better back-to-school savings.

* Regular school supplies like pencils, pens, rulers and notebooks are best found via big box retailers. But often in the stores, the back-to-school aisles look as if a whirlwind trashed the place. Instead, calmly sit at home with your list in front of you and order the supplies your children need via the retailers’ websites. In addition, use cash back sites like Ebates.com, to find extra savings, both on shopping list items and shipping costs. By having all the supplies delivered to your home, you’ll have saved yourself the time and stress of taking the children to the store.

* Shop the back-to-school sales online. Many retailers will designate a day, week or even month promoting their back-to-school discounts, and some states will designate a tax-free shopping day for school items and clothing. Take advantage of these savings, and look for “buy one, get one free” offers (very helpful if you have more than one child heading back to school) or free shipping coupon codes to add even more savings.

* Some online coupon sites offer cash back on your purchases. For example, when shopping for school supplies online, visit your favorite retail stores through Ebates.com, make your purchases and receive cash back rewards based on a percentage of your purchase. Plus, the back-to-school shopping season will bring increased cash back from dozens of popular stores, so take a little time to compare the best cash back rates with each store’s coupon codes and discounts to make the most of any available savings.

* College students often qualify for student discounts when using a valid student ID. Electronics like laptop computers and smartphones are typically the biggest budget items on a college student’s back-to-school shopping list. Search for seasonal discounts and coupon codes at computer and mobile brand online stores, like HP, Dell, AT&T and Verizon, where additional savings can be gleaned with a student ID.

Staying home and accomplishing the entire shopping list for your student’s back-to-school supplies without having to drive all over town will leave everyone in your family a bit happier and better prepared for the first day of school. Plus, the extra savings you can find while shopping online will help your budget.

 

What it takes to make school a safe place for students with diabetes


| brennison@queenscourier.com

(ARA) – When children head off to school, it’s assumed that they’ll be in a safe place where they’ll be well taken care of. For the most part, that’s the truth. But for children with diabetes, the school environment can pose a serious health risk if there’s no one on site to help them manage their disease.

It’s important for schools to make diabetes safety a priority, as 215,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 20 are living with diabetes. Safe schools are those that have staff who are properly trained in caring for children with diabetes and work with parents and students to manage their disease.

“It’s not only important for a child’s health to have a plan in place that designates a school nurse and other trained staff to help manage his or her diabetes at school, but it’s also essential in ensuring children with diabetes are treated fairly and have the same educational opportunities as their peers,” says Linda M. Siminerio, RN, Ph.D., co-chairperson, American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School Working Group.

The American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School campaign works to educate and train school personnel and parents on how to effectively help children manage their disease at school. According to the Association, effective school-based diabetes management requires three things:

1. Basic diabetes training for all staff

All school staff members who have responsibility for a child with diabetes should receive training that provides a basic understanding of the disease and the child’s needs, how to identify medical emergencies, and which school staff members to contact with questions or in case of an emergency.

2. Shared responsibilities for care, with leadership by school nurses

The school nurse holds the primary role of coordinating, monitoring and supervising the care of a student with diabetes. However, in addition to a school nurse, a small group of school staff members should receive training to provide routine and emergency diabetes care, so that someone is always available for younger or less experienced students who require assistance with their diabetes management and for all children with diabetes in case of an emergency, including administration of glucagon.

3. Self management is allowed in all school settings for students with capacity

Children possessing the necessary skills to do so should be permitted to self-manage their disease in the classroom or wherever they are in conjunction with a school-related activity. Such self-management should include monitoring blood glucose and responding to blood glucose levels with needed food and medication.

Safe at School offers many resources for both school personnel and parents that can help in formulating a care plan for children with diabetes and individual expert help in resolving school diabetes care problems when they occur at www.diabetes.org/sas, or by calling 1-800-DIABETES.

In addition to providing educational resources though the Safe at School campaign, the American Diabetes Association also works to advocate for better policies to help children with diabetes. For example, the Association recently successfully advocated for the passage of laws in Connecticut, Louisiana and Georgia that ensure that children get the care they need, whether it’s provided by the school nurse or another trained school staff member. In addition, these new laws permit capable students to self-manage their diabetes.

The Association also provides assistance to families whose children are not getting care at school – such as Latesha Taylor’s nine year old daughter Loretta, a Washington, D.C., public school student, who was made to stay home whenever the school nurse was absent. The Association is now in the process of resolving the Taylor complaint and working with her school system to develop a district-wide policy to ensure that D.C. Public School students with diabetes will be able to attend and receive care at school even when the school nurse isn’t there.

Before parents of children with diabetes send them off to school, it’s important to communicate with school staff to make sure written plans are in place. The American Diabetes Association is ready to help parents to develop care plans to make certain that your child is getting the proper care and treated fairly at school, which will provide your child the best chance for good health and educational success.

 

Stupendous student scores scholarship


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

IMG_0047

Stellar scholar Sarah Gafur snagged an award from the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing competition – the country’s longest-running and most prestigious academic scholarship program for those who excel in the visual and literary arts.

Gafur, an eighth grader at P.S. 232 in Howard Beach, won a $6,000 scholarship to attend a three-week program at Wellesley College this summer, specialized for gifted students seeking a collegiate experience early in their academic careers. She is one of eight students throughout New York City who was chosen for this educational honor.

Since the program’s start in 1923, over nine million students have received recognition for their artistic achievements, sharing in more than $25 million in scholarships. Many distinguished members of the creative world were recipients of this award including Andy Warhol, Robert Redford, Richard Avedon, Zac Posen, Sylvia Plath and John Lithgow.

$1 Trillion in Student Debt


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photo by Billy Rennison

Here is what you can buy with $1 trillion: 5 million Lamborghinis, 15,000 private jets, 140 private islands and every team in baseball 16 times. Simply put, it is a lot of money.

The number — which is much more jarring when written out, 1,000,000,000,000 — is also the amount of debt students in this country collectively hold from their college loans. It is a backbreaking number, and an amount many feel is devastating their future.
A degree has become a prerequisite for employment, and rising tuitions means, for many, that debt is a precondition for entry into the workforce, so students have decided to fight back.

A rally was held on April 25 in Union Square to coincide with 1T Day — the day student loan debt hit $1 trillion — to raise awareness about the crisis and to begin a movement toward free college education.

Hundreds of protesters wore placards around their neck declaring the size of their debt, from relatively small amounts, like Jessica K.’s $13,000, to immense amounts, like Francis Rogers’ $108,000.

“Trillion dollar day is a reminder that private banks are still very much in the predatory lending business; this time it’s students not homeowners,” said Professor Andrew Ross, an organizer with the Occupy Student Debt 1TDay campaign.
The histrionics of the event — there were super heroes and choruses and even “Sallie May” showed up — did not overshadow the frustration of the hundreds of thousands of students drowning in debt.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college,” said Annie Spencer, a CUNY graduate student. “I’m now $80,000 in debt and don’t see a day when I won’t struggle to make ends meet. Those of us who took on this trillion dollar debt were sold the promise of a better life in exchange for carrying the burden, but the deck was stacked against us from the start.”

More than two-thirds of graduates leave college with student loan debt, according to a 2008 study. The average debt for these 1.4 million students is more than $27,000.
The students at the Union Square protest — and many other groups that have taken up similar fights — do not believe all college should be free or that, as a rule, loans should not be repaid. Their tenets are that public college should be free — as it had been in New York until the 1970s — and that student loans should be repaid interest free.
“The goal of these protests isn’t to renege on our responsibilities, it is to make the institutions making billions of dollars on the backs of students take some responsibility,” said Stephanie, a New York University graduate with $90,000 in debt. “They want us to default.”

More than 40 percent of students from the class of 2005 have faced default and/or delinquency, according to the Occupy Student Debt Campaign.
The demonstrations eventually made their way toward Wall Street, though not before parking itself in front of a bastion for tuition-free — for now — education, Cooper Union, where one dissenter, who identified himself as Jesse, stood atop the Peter Cooper Memorial.

For students that dream of a tuition-free college education, Copper Union is their Shangri-la — well, it was. From 1902 until today the college charged no tuition, instead relying on a generous endowment providing each student a scholarship — furthering the school’s founder Peter Cooper’s belief that education should be free, and for more than a century his ideal held true at the school bearing his name.

But, in April, the school announced that it would begin charging tuition for select graduate programs. This flew in the face of what many students felt the school stood for.
So, Jesse stood atop the school’s founder’s memorial with a sign reading, “No tuition, it’s our mission,” leading to a two hour standoff with police before he was taken down in a cherry picker and arrested.

Cooper Union’s shift toward tuition mirrors the nation-wide trend of exploding college costs. In the past five years tuition at public universities has increased 24 percent, and 17 percent at private colleges.

This has led — obviously — to a steep incline in the amount of debt students leave college with. Thirty years ago the number was $2,000, a full $25,000 below today’s amount. Inflation makes up only a small amount of the difference; $2,000 in today’s value is just under $5,000.
“I’m pretty much carrying a mortgage, I guess the American dream of owning your own home is out the window for me,” said Valerie Young, a 23-year-old with more than $100,000 in loans. “I can’t live in my degree.”

Indebted student’s plight has reached Capitol Hill where politicians are debating bills that would prevent student’s interest rates from doubling in July, an issue President Barack Obama has been speaking out against.

“When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. “Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.”

Burning Mad

“My future is going up in flames with each loan bill I’m getting and can’t repay because I don’t have a job, and the interest just keeps pushing the bill higher,” said Frederick Iman after he lit his student loan bill on fire. “So I might as well burn my bill, too.”
Iman was not the only protestor to turn their bills to ashes, others joined in sending smoke signals that they are here to end predatory loan practices.
Though the economy shows signs of recovery, college graduates unemployment rate is still well above the average and a recent Rutgers University study found that only half of graduates between 2006 and 2010 graduates have found full-time jobs.
“[Lenders] are making money off every graduate and even more money when we can’t find jobs,” said Mark, an unemployed graduate of Miami (Ohio) University who lit his loan bill. “Someone has to stand up for us, it might as well be us.”
It is not only the Occupy Student Debt Campaign and its supporters that are attempting to reform lending practices for students.
Student Loan Justice (www.studentloanjustice.org) is another organization that is dedicated to returning standard consumer protections to student loans. The group has created a Student Borrower Bill of Rights that aims to bring these standard protections back. Currently, student loans are not forgiven in bankruptcy proceedings — the only type of loan that applies to.

The EDU Debtors Union (www.edudebtorsunion.org) believes that students in debt are akin to factory workers.
“Factory workers go to work every day and transform capital into profit by making products,” EDU says. “Students transform capital into profit when interest and penalties are added to a principle loan.”

This method becomes unacceptable, they say, “when there are abuses to the many for the benefit of the few without a method of recourse.”
So EDU has started a union. They believe debtors can benefit from union representation. Large numbers, they believe, represents a better chance for students to negotiate better repayment methods with lenders.

This is a tactic that the Occupy Student Debt Campaign also believes holds power.
The campaign is circulating a petition that students pledge to stop making loan payments in hopes of restoring free public college education if 1 million students sign the pledge.

No End in Sight

Marches, protests and refusals to pay aid in shining a light on student’s plight, but the bills will continue to come. Without government intervention, change will be difficult. There are bills in Congress that aim to help students, but according to govtrack.us, they have little hope of passing.

“Because there are so many student loan lenders and types of loans, a general debt strike will not necessarily hit the heart of the beast,” EDU wrote in a blog entry. “To organize a debt strike effectively, you have to start with specific lenders otherwise the impact of the strike will not be felt.”

Only a few thousand have signed the Occupy campaign’s petition, well short of the million they need before the debt strike, and some are concerned about ruined credit.
I don’t want to pay back these loans — and honestly I can’t — but I’m worried that not paying anything will just ruin my credit for life,” said Michelle Condon. “[Lenders] practices must change and I will continue to fight, but unless we all band together and refuse to pay, what difference will be made?”

These campaigns are lighting the fire, but if the flame is suffocated with default notices and compounding interest, what is the next step?

“We just need to get the word out,” said Ryan Lindner, a graduate of Cortland University. “My credit is already crap, they can’t make it worse. I refuse to recognize them until they recognize my basic rights. I will not pay.”

Class in session: City to get 54 new schools, two in Queens


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Spring may signify new beginnings, but schools will be “bloom”ing this fall.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on April 17 to announce the opening of 54 new schools across the city for the 2012-2013 school year. The new schools – 30 of which will be run by the district, along with 24 charters – will serve more than 7,000 students from kindergarten through high school next year, and over 21,000 kids when they grow to full size.

Of the 54 schools, two will be in Queens – Wave Preparatory School, an elementary school in District 27, will replace P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott, located at 535 Briar Place in Far Rockaway, and Central Queens Academy Charter School will open in District 24.

Including those slated to open this fall, 589 new schools have now been created in the five boroughs since 2002.

“Our children deserve great schools, our parents deserve great options, and our administration is committed to delivering them to families in every neighborhood in the five boroughs,” Bloomberg said. “The 54 new schools that will open next year reflect our commitment to children and parents, and they will build on the successful records established by the hundreds of new small schools we have already created. These new schools, including our new Academy for Software Engineering, which will train students not just in the language of computers but also in the language of innovation, will help prepare our students to succeed in the new global economy.”

According to the mayor’s office, evidence has indicated that new schools rank higher on parent satisfaction surveys than other schools across the city and perform better on state math and reading exams and graduate students at considerably higher rates than schools they replace. New schools also serve similar percentages of black and Latino students, English language learners and students with disabilities compared to the schools they replace.

Many of the new schools opened during the Bloomberg administration have followed the model of smaller schools – a strategy MDRC, a nonpartisan education and social policy research group, says “markedly improves graduation rates for a large population of low-income, disadvantaged students of color.”

“As we’ve seen over the past decade, new schools have changed thousands of lives in New York City for the better, helping more students graduate and prepare for college and careers,” Walcott said. “I want to thank all 54 new school principals, who have taken the bold step of building a new school community and offering families high quality options. Every child and every neighborhood deserve a great school, and we are proud to continue a strategy that has delivered just that for the past 10 years.”

Queens Teaching Aide Charged With Sexual Abuse Of Six Female Students


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens Teaching Aide Charged With Sexual Abuse Of Six Female Students

A full-time paraprofessional working in an art class at P.S. 52 in Springfield Gardens, Queens has been arrested and charged with sexual conduct with six female students. Brett Picou, 30, who worked as a teacher’s aide and a substitute at P.S. 52 since 2008, was awaiting arraignment Thursday on seven counts of first-degree sexual abuse, seven counts of forcible touching, one count of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and six counts of endangering the welfare of a child, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. Read More: NY1

 

11 people, including 3 kids, escape from house fires in Queens and Manhattan

Eleven people, including three children, escaped two separate blazes in Queens and downtown Manhattan early Thursday — and one may have been the result of a firebomb. The first fire ignited in a Rockaway Blvd. apartment in South Jamaica just before 3 a.m., and the flames trapped the residents inside their homes. Witnesses later told fire investigators that a Molotov cocktail was tossed near the apartment, setting the home ablaze, sources said. Six people on the second floor suffered minor injuries along with three firefighters who were taken to Jamaica Hospital Center for evaluation, officials said. Read More: Daily News

 

Disgraced former Governor returning to national politics with fund-raiser

The Love Gov is climbing back into bed — with lawmakers. For the first time since a tawdry hooker scandal trashed his political career, Eliot Spitzer is holding a fund-raiser for a politician looking to make a national splash. The former governor is hosting the event at his Fifth Avenue home for Washington state gubernatorial hopeful Jay Inslee on March 5. Inslee, currently a Democrat in the House of Representatives, shares many of Spitzer’s left-leaning political stances. Insiders believe Spitzer’s soiree shows he’s trying to become a political mover and shaker once again — this time as a national kingmaker. Read More: New York Post

 

Not-so-Finest moment as cop caught napping on F train

A hero cop has been disciplined for catching Z’s on the F rain while armed and in uniform. Officer Matthew Sobota, 43, was caught snoozing on the subway by a straphanger, who snapped photos with his cell phone camera and emailed them to NYPD brass. “I thought maybe a teenager could take (Sobota’s) gun and sell it or use it. I felt like it was a potentially unsafe thing,” said Martin Bisi, 51, of Brooklyn, who took the photos of the sleepy cop on Feb. 16. Read More: Daily News

 

Knicks lose to Heat; Lin plays poorly

Jeremy Lin finally met his match last night, and it was ugly. In by far his worst performance during this 12-game surreal surge, Lin fell apart under the South Beach spotlight and the Knicks caved with him in a disappointing 102-88 loss to the mighty Heat last night at rabid AmericanAirlines Arena. “He can’t be Peter Pan every night,’’ Mike D’Antoni said. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and point guard Mario Chalmers made sure Linsanity calmed down as the Heat (27-7) won their eighth straight game by 12 or more points — one short of an NBA record. Read More: New York Post
19K taxi drivers accused of ripping off passengers won’t face charges

It was one of the biggest scandals in the taxi industry’s history, but nearly 90 percent of the 21,819 cabbies accused of ripping off passengers with inflated fares will get off scot-free, The Post has learned. In a stunning move, the Taxi & Limousine Commission is giving a free ride to 19,515 yellow-cab drivers caught setting their meters to the higher, out-of-town rate while traveling around the city. Overall, officials estimated that unwary passengers were fleeced for $1.1 million between 2008 and 2010. Of that, $238,854 in overcharges was attributed to the cabbies who will escape penalties. Read More: New York Post

Jimmy Fallon sings ode to Knicks guard Jeremy Lin on Late Night

Jeremy Lin’s game has spoken so loudly that comic Jimmy Fallon performed a Pearl Jam parody to honor the Knicks point guard. With a scraggly wig on his head, Fallon sang a tribute to the Harvard grad to the tune of the band’s 1992 hit “Jeremy.” “At home, shooting free throws and three point shots, waiting for a job/name not yet a pun/Carmelo injury,” he croons. “Came out of nowhere like an Asian Tebow.” Read More: Daily News

 

5 injured in Long Island house fire

Authorities on Long Island are investigating an early morning house fire in which five people were injured. Nassau County arson bomb squad detectives say the fire broke out at the Levittown house on Prentice Lane at 12:30 a.m. today. The four occupants — a 46-year-old woman and three 11-year-old children — managed to get out of the house quickly. They suffered smoke inhalation and were transported to a hospital for treatment. Read More: New York Post

Woman dragged into Hunters Point parking lot and raped by group of men


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Woman dragged into Hunters Point parking lot and raped by group of men

Cops are hunting for a group of men they say raped a woman on a dark Queens street early Sunday. The 20-year-old woman was walking near Vernon Boulevard and 10th Street in Hunters Point when two men grabbed her and dragged her into a parking lot at about 3:45 a.m., police said. As the two suspects held her down between two cars, a third man — who is in his late 20s and about 5-foot-10 with blond hair and blue eyes — raped her, cops said.  Read More: Daily News

Queens rape victim was falsely imprisoned for robberies; now she sues city cops for falling for her attacker’s story

A QUEENS rape victim who was locked up for robberies she didn’t commit is suing city and Long Island cops for falling for her attacker’s “preposterous hoax” of a revenge plot. In a federal lawsuit, Seemona Sumasar claims NYPD cops protected her attacker, Jerry Ramrattan, because he was secretly funneling them information about other crimes while working as an informant. Read More: Daily News

Parents and officials say Department of Education has turned back on Jamaica High School

Even though the Department of Education’s (DOE) decision to close Jamaica High School was finalized in February, current students are still hoping for a quality education. Currently in the process of being phased out, Jamaica High School no longer accepts new students and is expected to close its doors for good in 2014. Read More: Queens Courier

At Top Public Schools, the Arts Replace Recess

All of this concentrated learning — activities parents commonly think of as enrichment — was taking place not after school hours, but during recess, the once-unstructured midday break that for some elementary school students is slowly being squeezed out of the day. Jump rope, freeze tag and the jungle gym have some new competition. At some of the city’s highest-rated public elementary schools, recess is now being seen by parents and educators as a time to pack in extra learning. Read More: New York Times

Giants, Mets Trade: New York Trades Angel Pagan To San Francisco For Andres Torres, Ramon Ramirez

Walking across the hotel lobby, New York Mets manager Terry Collins smiled. “We rebuilt our bullpen in one day,” he said. In a rapid-fire series of moves at the winter meetings that took 1 1/2 days to put together and 1 1/2 hours to finalize, the Mets agreed to trade center fielder Angel Pagan to San Francisco for outfielder Andres Torres and pitcher Ramon Ramirez, and reached agreements with free-agent relievers Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Read More: Huffington Post

Ex-corrections officer acquitted of attempted murder charges in Queens

A former correction officer who was facing up to 25 years in prison for shooting two men outside of a Queens bowling alley was acquitted of double attempted murder and assault charges. “His defense was one of self-defense,” said Michael Lavecchio’s trial attorney, Stephen Worth, after a jury cleared his client of all charges on Monday night. Lavecchio, 55, was working as a security guard at the AMF bowling alley on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights on February 6, 2010 when he asked Justin Donaghy and Gerard Hourigan to leave the building.  Read More: New York Post

MTA forgot about stranded blizzard train

The MTA’s subway boss admitted yesterday that transit officials got so overwhelmed during last year’s Christmas-time blizzard they “forgot” about an A train stuck on the tracks for nine agonizing hours with 500 passengers on board. Read More: New York Post

South Ozone Park students using iPads


| aasperin@queenscourier.com

Goodbye bulky social studies textbook. Hello slim, sleek iPad2.

Students at Our Lady’s Catholic Academy in South Ozone Park are closing their “old-fashioned” textbooks and notebooks as they enter the touch-screen world of Apple for assignments, note taking, tutorials and more.

“I’m so emotional,” said 11-year-old Katherine Duarte of South Ozone Park. “I think I’m going to be able to learn a lot more things than with a regular book because it’s interactive.”
Thirty-one students of Ricky Sosa’s sixth-grade class traded in their Mead paper notebooks for iPads last week, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Alive in Hope Foundation and Futures in Education. Additional funding was acquired through school fundraisers, increased enrollment and cost savings from the discontinued use of paper textbooks.

Principal Kevin Coyne, 32, of Rockaway Park, said this year’s sixth grade class had the greatest gain in standardized test scores, especially in the reading area. As a result, he decided to write a grant to the Alive in Hope Foundation to help students move forward with a new approach.

“Education is limited by traditional technology,” Coyne said. “With an iPad, children can access vocabulary by tapping on a word and instantly seeing the definition or explore geography with 3-D maps.”

Coyne added that with the use of an iPad, the child becomes more active in effective learning. He said although many think Catholic schools are “stuck in the 20th century,” OLCA is breaking boundaries by becoming the first school in the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens to introduce iPads to students.

“I wanted to do this not because it’s the ‘cool thing’ but because this is going to be a tool that will maximize a student’s learning experience,” he said. “We’re bringing kids to the present.”

Priscilla Uy of Futures in Education, an organization providing tuition assistance and program support to students of Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens, said the introduction of the iPad to the classroom is priceless.

“It’s going to help kids keep up with the world and be up-to-date with technology,” said Uy, 30, of Oakwood in Staten Island. “It’s a great gift of education. We’re giving a lot of kids in this neighborhood an opportunity they might not otherwise have.”

Children in Sosa’s class will ditch their heavy textbooks and opt for iBooks, which will enable them to highlight, take notes, and even look up words in a built-in dictionary. The iPad even has the ability to read back to them.

“These students have the tools right in front of them,” said Sosa, 26, of Kew Garden Hills. “You’re presenting the information and letting them explore it themselves.”

However, there will be restrictions as to what his students can access. Educational-based applications in geography, science, math and anatomy are all acceptable but students do not have access to the Apple App Store and the iPads can only be used in the classroom.

But what about hard-copy textbooks? Sosa said the class isn’t completely exiling books, pens and notebooks from the classroom, but that the iPad is simply an additional tool that will be integrated in the curriculum to help students on a more personal level.

“If a student has a question about a word or something they don’t understand, they have the ability to go on Google and look it up themselves,” Sosa said. “We do the research together and learn together.”

Ananda Persaud, 40, mother of 11-year-old Kayla, who received an iPad, has mixed feelings toward the new technology being introduced to her daughter.

“I’m a little wary because I wonder, what about manuals and textbooks,” said the mother of three from Ozone Park. “But my kids know a lot about technology, they even teach me, so I’m supportive.

Sebastian Araya, 11, of South Ozone Park, admitted he would probably take fewer notes with a pen and paper but that the iPad would still do more good than harm for him.

“I need more help in math, so I can use the iPad to play math games,” Araya said. “It’s different because I’ m learning in a fun way.”

Stabbing leaves L.I.C students feeling unsafe


| jlane@queenscourier.com

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Last week’s altercation on the fifth floor of Long Island City High School, which left one student in the hospital with a stab wound in his back, has frayed the nerves of many students and their parents.

“Towards the end of seventh period, a broadcast came over the system telling everyone to stay in their classrooms and not leave,” said Chris, a sophomore at L.I.C High School. “We all knew something was going on.”

According to the NYPD, four Queens teenagers – 19-year-old Louis Giron, 18-year-old Daniel Nicholas, 17-year-old Jerome Davis and a 15-year-old unknown Hispanic male – have been arrested and charged with gang assault and harassment for stabbing a 16-year-old schoolmate at approximately 12:50 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21.

EMS arrived at the school, located at 14-30 Broadway, and transported the victim to Elmhurst Hospital. He is in stable condition, and the wound is not considered life-threatning. The police have yet to recover a weapon in connection with the incident.

“The fact that someone got heated and stabbed somebody doesn’t surprise me,” Chris continued. “I’m aware that there are violent people in the school, and I’m aware that there is gang activity in the school. I’m surprised it took this long for something like this to happen.”

Other students are now gripped by debilitating fear each time they walk the halls of their high school.

“I don’t feel safe at all,” said Diriana, a senior who believes the school is grossly disorganized. “I’m scared because the kid could have stabbed me and others also. He was on the fifth floor and so was I. I definitely don’t feel safe, and I’m looking into transferring to another school.”

According to a survey conducted by the New York City Department of Education (DOE), 34 percent of responding students said they do not feel safe in the school, and 69 percent said gang activity occurs. Eighty-three percent also said students are threatened or bullied by schoolmates, and 93 percent said students get in physical fights at school.

When asked if students are “harassed or threatened based on race, color, creed, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or disability,” 68 percent of students answered in the affirmative.

While the attack has been cause for concern for many, the school’s faculty is remaining calm due to the unprecedented nature of the occurrence.

“It’s an isolated incident,” said a current teacher at the high school, who says she feels safe at work. “It could happen anywhere in the nation. For the most part, security is good, and it is a safe environment.”

Despite the assurances of the administration, some parents are not convinced their children are being properly protected.

“The school’s security should be more aware,” said Segundo, the parent of a freshman at L.I.C. “I’ve seen that sometimes they don’t really check kids when they go to school. They just let them in. I don’t think security is doing a good job. They need to get more serious. I told my son to be more aware, and not to get involved in anything, because there are gangs here. I’m definitely going to be more on top of things and make sure I’m around.”

L.I.C received an overall grade of C on its most recent progress report, placing it in the bottom third of city high schools. The school’s graduation rate is roughly 60 percent, falling below the citywide average. According to published reports, the city considered closing L.I.C last year, but chose instead to allocate $5 million in federal funds to a three-year plan aimed at saving the troubled school.