Tag Archives: United Federation of Teachers

Eight Queens schools chosen for new program


| editorial@queenscourier.com

JANAE HUNTER

Eight Queens public schools have been named to participate in an innovative redesign that bends the traditional protocols, officials announced on Monday.

School Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), announced that 62 schools citywide were selected to participate in the Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) program for the 2014-2015 school year.

The PROSE program was created as part of a new contract between the UFT and the Department of Education (DOE). The program allows participating schools to deviate from the rules and regulations of the UFT and DOE, and allows them to implement their innovative plans, such as staggering the school days to meet student needs, changing the contractually required student-to-teacher ratio, and using a new teacher rating system.

“Real change happens when educators are empowered to develop the best, tailored strategies to help their students succeed,” Fariña said. “At dozens of schools across the city, these educators have come forward with new, innovative practices that can serve as a guide for all of our school communities and brighten the classroom experience for every child.”

Fariña and Mulgrew, along with First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris, launched PROSE by inviting all public schools to apply. By May 1, 107 schools had applied and after being reviewed by a panel of representatives, 62 schools were chosen. Support teams at the DOE will closely monitor the selected schools to make sure that proposed plans will be implemented successfully, and that any proposed plans benefit the teachers and students and comply with relevant state regulations.

“I’m proud of the New York City public school system and all the schools that took part in the PROSE program,” said Mulgrew. “Innovations like this will move education forward not just in New York, but around the country. Teachers, principals, parents and the entire school community working together will truly advance education.”

The Queens schools selected are:

  • Academy for Careers in Television and Film
  • International High School
  • Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College
  • North Queens Community High School
  • PS71 Forest Elementary
  • The Flushing International High School
  • The International High School for Health Sciences
  • Voyages Preparatory South Queens

 

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Op-ed: UFT contract solves problems, ignores others


| oped@queenscourier.com

APRIL ROSE

Why one teacher is reluctantly supporting the new contract

Like most of my colleagues, I joined the teaching profession to make a difference in children’s lives. Yet I find that the current conversation about education — and specifically the proposed teachers’ contract — is not always focused on what’s best for kids. Instead, the discussion has largely been about the money that comes with the new contract. That’s understandable as educators like me need to support our families, and we need to know that our profession is taken seriously. But I’d hate for anyone to walk away without a clear picture of teachers’ number one priority: our students. As a result, there are many important aspects of the contract beyond compensation that also deserve careful examination.

It has been over four years since our contact expired and over six years since we have had a chance to vote on a new contract. With this upcoming vote, we will be able to share our views about the items outlined in this proposed contract. That’s why I recently worked with a team of fellow teachers at Educators for Excellence – New York — a teacher-led organization that seeks to elevate the voices of classroom teachers in policy discussions — to give the contract an overall grade by creating a detailed report card. Our approach was to judge this deal against one where all stakeholders — parents, students, teachers and the City — would feel the goals of a good contract had been met.

After extensive review, we gave the contract a C. In my class, that’s a passing grade, and so I’ll be voting yes.

Let me start with the positives. When I first learned the details of the new contract, I was thrilled that those at the negotiating table shared many of the priorities that most teachers like myself have. This contract makes several positive steps toward recognizing teachers as professionals, which will in turn help students by keeping the best teachers in the classroom. The contract broke new ground by creating three teacher leadership positions that will provide opportunities for great educators to advance and take on additional responsibilities in our schools for additional compensation. There will be the first-ever bonuses for teachers working in hard-to-staff schools, which will help recruit and retain great teachers for the students who need them most. Additional professional development time has been incorporated into the day to provide educators with ongoing support and training. Finally, the contract includes retroactive pay and a base salary increase.

But there were many missed opportunities here, and the conversation can’t end with this vote. Tenure remains a complicated, often opaque process that is still unconnected to the new teacher evaluation system. The approach to class size was incomplete, as no changes were made. The contract also remains an incomprehensible and lengthy document that is inaccessible to teachers, parents and other stakeholders.

On the issue of performance pay we awarded a middling grade. Teachers deserve a comprehensive pay system that rewards excellence for all teachers, but what we got was a career ladder system that applies only to a small fraction of the teaching force. It’s a start, and while laudable, it is far from sufficient. Similarly, we found positive aspects in the Absent Teacher Reserve, but many questions remain unanswered.

A long-term contract like this one should have been an opportunity to look deeply into our school system, and see what needs to be changed to strengthen the profession and elevate student learning. On several issues, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT)  and New York City have done just that. But our schools need great strides forward, not just baby steps.

So as I vote yes, it’s with the understanding that this contract isn’t perfect — it’s just the beginning of an effort to get one that is.

April Rose is a third-grade teacher at P.S. 132 and member of Educators for Excellence – New York.

 

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Decision to keep NYC public schools open despite snow creates more controversy


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Updated 4:30 p.m. 

Parents of public school students are telling city officials, they failed.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday night that the Department of Education will keep all public schools open Thursday, despite the forecast of 8 to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow.

The total attendance at city schools was only 44.65 percent, according to a preliminary report from the DOE released Thursday afternoon.

Although, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the snow came down “heavier and faster” than what was predicted by the National Weather Service, he said the right decision was made.

“Based on our knowledge, we were convinced kids could get to schools this morning,” de Blasio said. “So many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day.”

Schools have been canceled only a total of 11 times since 1978, according to de Blasio.

“It’s a rarity and it’s something we do not do lightly,” he said.

Both the mayor and schools chancellor said they want to open up communication so parents understand the thinking that goes into making the decision to keep schools open.

“It’s our obligation to run a school system,” he said. “Given what we knew, we knew our children could get to school safely.”

Yet, even as Fariña said it had turned into a “beautiful day” after the morning snow, parents were outraged with the idea that their children’s lives were put in danger.

“I decided to not send my kids to school because it is too dangerous out there. The roads, at least by me are bad, buses are getting stuck and I don’t want to risk it,” said Michelle Rojas, mother of two from Flushing. “[City officials] are not thinking. They can make the days up.”

Sara Alvarez, mother of three, said she learned her lesson from the last snowstorm and did not want to go through the “chaos” once again.

“One day less of class doesn’t matter, what’s most important is the security of our children,” she said. “The last snowstorm was chaos and can you imagine when it comes to dismissal? It’ll be a whole other chaos.”

One local school bus operator, who wished to remain anonymous, said that although all her “dedicated” workers made it in and every bus went out on its route to pick up students, she is still concerned about the conditions on the road.

“I am livid. This is a very dangerous storm,” she said. “I am very concerned about school buses driving in this condition. I will not be happy until all the buses come back today.”

Fariña said students and staff would have excused lateness during such snow emergencies, but absences would still not be excused.

“I understand the desire to keep schools open. The only thing that trumps that is safety,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. “Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted. It was a mistake to open schools today.”

Field trips, after-school programs and PSAL activities, however, are all cancelled today.

 

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Some Queens students eligible for up to $1K in scholarships


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A total of up to $9,000 in scholarships is on the table for some community-minded Queens students.

School District 26 scholars, from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, have until March 28 to enter a contest to compete for $250 to $1,000 in prizes.

Elementary youngsters are asked to draw pictures of their favorite school activity, while high school students from Benjamin Cardozo, Francis Lewis, Bayside, Queens High School of Teaching and Martin Van Buren write essays, describing inspirational, fictional characters.

“Some of the essays that come in are really moving,” said Mary Vaccaro, the district’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative. “And in the elementary grades, we’ve seen some truly gifted people. We’ve seen some really amazing things.”

This is the eighth year of the contest, headed by the UFT and the (CSA). It is judged by a panel of 30 district parents, teachers and principals.

In the last two years, 1,450 students applied and $15,500 in scholarships were given away, Vaccaro said.

“When this started, we felt we really wanted to be involved in the community,” she said. “We thought it would be a good idea to honor those students who are really trying hard.”

Applications and rules can be found at http://www.uft.org/news/district-26-scholarship-application-available.

Those interested can also call 718-275-4400 for more information.

Checks will be distributed May 22 to winners, during the district’s annual scholarship dinner dance.

 

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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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Graziano crosses lines, endorses Republican candidate Saffran in District 19 race


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

That’s the proverbial message a northeast Queens Democrat is sending by crossing party lines to endorse the Republican candidate over the one who beat him at the polls last month.

Paul Graziano, who came in third in the Democratic primary for District 19 to Paul Vallone, publicly endorsed Vallone’s general election opponent, Dennis Saffran, on Tuesday.

“Voting for the best person in the race is more important than voting for your party,” Graziano said.

The Flushing urban planner said the decision was not made lightly, but the move is not entirely surprising to spectators of the closely watched contest.

Graziano had slammed Vallone multiple times in forums for being a registered lobbyist. He was also one of three primary foes targeted in accusatory hit pieces paid for by a political action committee called Jobs for New York, which endorsed Vallone.

The fuming trio, who included Chrissy Voskerichian and Austin Shafran, took turns grilling Vallone during a televised debate and at a press conference they held to call on him to denounce the mailers.

“During the campaign, Paul Vallone refused to take responsibility for any of these acts,” Graziano said.

“We’ve had four years of not having an adult in the room,” Graziano added, referring to the sitting but scandal-scarred incumbent, Councilmember Dan Halloran. “To me, this is just a continuation, if not worse.”

Runner-up Shafran, who narrowly lost by less than 200 votes, said he would not support either candidate. Voskerichian said she would not endorse Vallone and was not endorsing Saffran at this time.

Vallone did get the backing of John Duane, however, who finished second to last. Duane was not attacked in the mailers but had a hand in calling Vallone out for them.

The endorsement was not public and Duane did not give a reason for it.

“Whatever differences Paul [Graziano] and I have is pale next to our differences with Paul Vallone,” Saffran said.

Vallone’s campaign fired back, saying Saffran “has been missing in action in this community for over a decade.”

“That probably explains why the leaders we know and trust have endorsed Paul Vallone, including Senator Chuck Schumer, the United Federation of Teachers and countless others,” said Vallone spokesperson Austin Finan.

Vallone and Saffran will face off on November 5.

 

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Survey says overcrowding problem at Queens schools


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Queens schools are failing in at least one subject– classroom sizes.

Hillcrest High School in Jamaica ranked highest in the number of oversized classrooms, 400, and Bayside’s Benjamin Cardozo High School follows with 385, according to a recent United Federation of Teachers (UFT) survey.

More than 230,000 students citywide spent some of the first few weeks back to school in crowded classes, the study found. About 6,313 classes were overcrowded, up almost 200 from last year, but more than 1,000 of those classes were found in Queens high schools alone.

Overcrowding is a problem throughout the entire city school system, but “Queens high schools have been hit the worst,” the UFT said.

Class sizes around the city in grades 1 through 3 have now reached a 14-year high. Although they have not reached the classroom size limit of 32 seats, first and second grade has grown to an average of 24 seats per class, with 25 in third grade.

“It is time to take this issue seriously,” said Michael Mulgrew, UFT president. “All our students, especially our youngest children, desperately need smaller class sizes.”

Recently Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that under his administration New York City schools had improved outstandingly on the academic side.

During his time in office many schools were shuttered, but more than new 650 schools were created. Bloomberg said 22 of the top 25 schools in the state are from New York City, and none were on that list before his administration.

“After 12 years reforming our once-broken school system, it’s clear that our hard work has paid huge dividends for our students,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.

In fact, three Queens elementary schools, P.S. 46 in Oakland Gardens, P.S. 66 in Richmond Hill and P.S. 221 in Little Neck,  Richmond Hillwere named to the prestigious national Blue Ribbon award for excellence in education on September 24.

Despite the academic improvements, the UFT said children shouldn’t have to try to learn in overcrowded classrooms.

“Twelve years of Michael Bloomberg, and hundreds of thousands of students start the school year in oversize classes,” Mulgrew said. “There is no excuse for letting students stay in an oversize class.”

 

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DOE says enrollment cuts reflect trend at LIC High School


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Rosa Kim

The Department of Education (DOE) has come under harsh criticism from members of Long Island City High School after announcing plans to cut enrollment.

According to Ken Achiron, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader at LIC High School, the DOE plans to cut the incoming ninth grade class from 1,000 to 440 students. He added the plan would entail $3 million in cuts to the school’s budget and the loss of 30 staff members.

“They have capped our incoming class below the numbers needed to maintain our quality programs,” said Achiron.

“The budget will hurt all grades, including seniors who expected courses to be available when they were scheduled to take them.”

The high school was in danger of closing last year when officials put it on a turnaround list alongside Flushing High School and 22 other city schools. Members of the LIC High School community believe the planned cut in enrollment is an attempt to close the school through other methods.

“It’s a good school, it’s a proficient school. They are doing very well and they survived the turnaround,” said James Vasquez, UFT representative for Queens high schools. “This isn’t about teachers losing their jobs; the issue is what it does to that school community. What’s happening here is the destruction of the school community.”

Yet, according to the DOE, the enrollment cuts are only a response to what has already been occurring at the school for years.

“Since 2007-2008, we have seen a 34 percent decrease in ninth grade enrollment and we’re expecting further drops next year,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia. “That’s as neighborhood parents have clamored for new, smaller, high-performing school options.”

The reduction would not be expected to take place until the 2014-2015 school year. LIC High School will have around 2,000 students after the decrease.

“An enrollment reduction would reflect what’s already occurring: lower parent demand for Long Island City High School and higher demand for alternatives,” said Puglia.

The DOE said it has been in communication with the community and that it might open a new school with a smaller student body. The department added that such a center would likely be a career and technical education school in the LIC High School building.

 

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Endorsement roundup


| editorial@queenscourier.com

MAYOR

United Federation of Teachers, The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators endorsed Bill Thompson.

Assemblymembers Edward Braunstein, Michael DenDekker, Aravella Simotas, Catherine Nolan, Margeret Markey, David Weprin, Michael Simanowitz, Andrew Hevesi and Francisco Moya endorsed Christine Quinn.

Teamsters Joint Council 16 endorsed Christine Quinn.

 

BOROUGH PRESIDENT

The Working Families Party endorsed Melinda Katz.

Organization of Staff Analysts endorsed Councilmember Leroy Comrie.

 

PUBLIC ADVOCATE

Senator Charles Schumer endorsed State Senator Daniel Squadron.

 

CITY COUNCIL

Congressmember Grace Meng and Assemblymember Ron Kim endorsed Paul Vallone for District 19.

Former Public Advocate Mark Green endorsed Austin Shafran for District 19.

Millions lost after teacher evaluation talks fail


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

City school students just got a hard lesson in how not to compromise.

Millions of dollars in education money was lost after Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) failed to agree on a teacher evaluation system.

They had until midnight on January 18 to reach a deal or schools would forfeit $250 million in state education aid and be ineligible for $200 million in education grant funds.

“Since we established one of the strongest teacher evaluation models in the nation last year, 98 percent of school districts have successfully implemented them,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo as the deadline approached. “The remaining districts and their unions have until midnight tonight to do the same or they will forfeit the increase in education aid they have been counting on and both parties will have failed the children they serve.”

Each side of the negotiation table blamed the other for the stalemate.

The UFT said that Bloomberg had blown the teacher evaluation deal after they had reached an agreement in the early hours of January 17.

“Despite long nights of negotiation and a willingness on the part of teachers to meet the Department of Education halfway — the intransigence of the Bloomberg administration on key issues has made it impossible to reach an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

“Thousands of parents have gotten a lesson this week, as the mayor’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach has left thousands of schoolchildren stranded at curbs across the city by the school bus strike,” he added.

Bloomberg, on the other hand, said that every time the two parties approached a deal, the UFT “moved the finish line back.”

“Instead of working with us to tie up the loose ends of this agreement, they continued to insert unrelated, extraneous issues into these negotiations. The effect was to set the talks back, time and time again,” said the mayor.

According to Bloomberg, there were three areas of disagreement.

The UFT wanted the agreement to end in June 2015. That condition would have made the evaluation system “meaningless,” said the mayor, because the process of removing ineffective teachers takes two years.

Also, the union wanted to double the number of arbitration hearings for teachers who file grievances over the evaluation process and wanted to change the method of scoring the evaluations.

If he had agreed to those stipulations, said Bloomberg, then it would more difficult to “weed out ineffective teachers.”

What both sides did agree on was that the students have suffered the biggest loss.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Partly cloudy. High of 45. Winds from the NNW at 10 to 15 mph. Monday night: Clear in the evening, then partly cloudy. Low of 34. Winds less than 5 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Japanese Classical Dance for Kids at Resobox

This workshop for kids ages 8-11 at Resobox in Long Island City teaches the 400-year-old nichibu dance popularized in kabuki. Performer and writer Helen Moss leads the class in the elegant Soke Fujima style. All experience levels are welcome, and all materials, including fans and kimonos, are provided. Starts at 5:30 p.m. Classes for ages 12 and above follow at 6:30pm. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

NYC school bus drivers will not strike Monday: union

New York City school bus drivers will not strike on Monday, a union spokesperson told NBC New York Sunday night, but that doesn’t mean a work stoppage still isn’t possible in the days ahead. Read more: NBC New York

Marketing campaign targets Sandy victims with threats of hefty fines

A firm that cleans up oils spills is preying on Sandy-battered homeowners by circulating an official looking letter threatening hefty fines, angry residents said. Read more: New York Daily News

Teachers irate as Bloomberg likens union to the N.R.A.

Of all the polarizing things Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has said and done over the years, from banning large sugary drinks to supporting congestion pricing, few have generated the sort of viral backlash that has unexpectedly mounted after his weekly radio show on Friday. Read more: New York Times

Obama signs bill for federal flood insurance for Sandy victims

President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that releases $9.7 billion for a flood insurance program for Hurricane Sandy victims. Read more: NY1

Storm panel recommends major changes in New York

A new commission formed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, charged with figuring out how New York should adapt in the long term to cope with worsening storms amid climate change and population growth, has recommended an extensive menu of programs: it includes turning some of the state’s industrial shoreline back into oyster beds, hardening the electric and natural gas systems, and improving the scope and availability of insurance coverage, according to a draft version obtained by The New York Times. Read more: New York Times

Business interest group takes on New York’s run-down airports

Business leaders embarrassed by the sorry state of the city’s airports have formed a new advocacy group to press for improvements. Read more: New York Daily News

Obama taps Hagel for Pentagon, Brennan for CIA

President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, two potentially controversial picks for his second-term national security team. Read more: AP

 

 

Queen’s Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’s FORECAST 

Monday: Overcast with a chance of rain. High of 54. Winds from the ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Monday night: Overcast with rain. Fog overnight. Low of 48. Winds from the ESE at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 80% with rainfall amounts near 0.9 in. possible.

EVENT of the DAY: “How Much Do I Owe You?”

No Longer Empty is proud to announce its 14th exhibition in the Clock Tower in Long Island City. The iconic former Bank of Manhattan building has opened its doors, vaults and even illuminate The Clock Tower to host an immersive and ambitious site-specific exhibition. As the title implies, “How Much Do I Owe You?” is a personal and conversational exploration into the new iterations of currency, value and exchange at this time of financial flux, growing debt and job insecurity. Open now, Monday-Thursday, 1-7 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Triumph of Civic Virtue is moved to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn

The Triumph of Civic Virtue, the controversial Queens statue that has divided local lawmakers and residents for decades, has moved to greener pastures. Read more: New York Daily News

Cuomo delivers $154 million in federal Sandy aid

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered the first federal aid since Superstorm Sandy hit New York – more than $114 million for New York University Langone Medical Center and $40 million to help remove debris on Long Island. Read more: ABC New York

Report: City to offer ‘bounty’ to landlords to ban smoking in apartments

Smoking has been banned in New York City restaurants since 1995, in bars since 2002, and in parks and beaches since last year. Read more: CBS New York

Teachers say they don’t feel prepared to teach new Common Core standards before April state exams

Teachers across the city do not feel adequately trained to prepare students for upcoming state exams aligned with new, more rigorous standards called Common Core, according to a survey conducted last month by the United Federation of Teachers. Read more: New York Daily News

Extell’s chief thinking tall for Midtown

Gary Barnett, one of New York’s leading developers, is planning a new Midtown skyscraper that could rise 300 feet higher than the Empire State Building, and he’s has hired the architect who designed the world’s tallest tower. Read more: Wall Street Journal

‘These tragedies must end,’ Obama says

President Obama vowed on Sunday to “use whatever power this office holds” to stop massacres like the slaughter at the school here that shocked the nation, hinting at a fresh effort to curb the spread of guns as he declared that there was no “excuse for inaction.” Read more: New York Times

Gun control debate begins to simmer after massacre

Democrats say meaningful action in the wake of last week’s elementary school shooting must include a ban on military-style assault weapons and a look at how the nation deals with individuals suffering from serious mental illness. Read more: AP

 

 

 

DOE announces Sandy school makeup days


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

After missing a full week of school because of Superstorm Sandy, the city’s public school students will make up those days from February 20-22 and on June 4, the Department of Education (DOE), announced Monday evening.

The first three dates were taken from the five days schools students normally have off for Mid-Winter Recess, and the June date was a scheduled half-day that will now be a full day of classes

“We are pleased that the city, the CSA [Council of School Supervisors and Administrators] and the UFT [United Federation of Teachers] reached an agreement on making up school days lost as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Teachers, principals and the school community made an extraordinary effort to get our schools back online after the storm, and by working together, we were able to open most schools with minimal disruption. It is just as important that we recover the time lost, and this agreement will provide students with additional class instruction,” a statement released from the DOE, CAS and UFT said.

 

Endorsements, cash flow in 15th District Senate race


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

ulrich addabbo

Things are heating up in one of the most contentious state races in Queens this fall.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich topped the list of those required to file a 10 Day Post Primary Campaign Disclosure Report with a war chest that boasted six-figures.

The first time state senate candidate, running in District 15, took in nearly $400,000 during September, according to the report.

The New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee wired in $329,200 between September 6 and September 18 to Ulrich’s campaign against incumbent State Senator Joseph Addabbo. Individual contributions to his campaign, however, were a stark contrast: $25,970.

Ulrich for Senate, during the filing period, shelled out $421,023 that mostly went to wages, advertising and campaign literature.

In total, Ulrich for Senate has raised — through individual, corporate and other donations — $871,054 since the beginning of 2012, according to Board of Elections (BOE) data.

Ulrich for Senate spokesperson Jessica Proud said the campaign was excited about the amount of money it has brought in. Proud said the range of donors gave the campaign optimism with just weeks to go until the election.

“We’re thrilled with how the fundraising’s been going. It’s a broad range from individuals that are very excited about Eric’s candidacy,” she said. “This show’s his strength going into the election.”

Juan Reyes, who lost to Ulrich in the district’s Republican primary, does not have a report filed on the BOE’s website.

Addabbo, whose campaign will soon file the 32-day pre-primary report, said that while his campaign is raising money and getting support, he is more focused on the issues at hand and reaching out to constituents.

“When the time comes when I have to get out there and talk to people, that’s what I do,” he said. “We’re going to raise enough money to run a successful, positive campaign. [Voters] want to know your vision, what you can do for them and how you can address their concerns.”

The Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFA) on Tuesday, October 2 endorsed Urlich, who picked up a slew of endorsements during primary season.

President Stephen Cassidy said the UFA was proud to endorse Ulrich, and said the first-term councilmember would fight for the middle class and firefighters.

“His record of fighting for the middle class and working to make sure our firefighters have the resources to keep New York City safe is exactly what we need in the senate,” Cassidy said.

The day before, the Tenants Political Action Campaign (Tenants PAC) endorsed Addabbo based on his past actions to fight for tenants’ rights and affordable housing.

Michael Mckee, treasurer of the Tenants PAC, noted Tenants PAC endorsed Addabbo in 2008 and 2010, and said Addabbo’s re-election meant he would continue fighting for tenants and their rights.

A week earlier, the United Federation of Teachers endorsed the three-term incumbent based on his record of securing and allotting funds to education.

DOE’s ‘temporary’ fix to classroom overcrowding


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Sweetina Kakar

Freshmen at Richmond Hill High School may soon have to don their jackets just to get to class.

Across the borough, Temporary Classroom Units (TCUs) are used to supplement classroom space to accommodate the massive number of students coming in.

Richmond Hill High School, one of these schools, currently has 11 TCUs, a Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson said, and eight of those have recently been replaced due to wear and tear.

While students find only some problems with the units, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) says the trailers do not provide the right atmosphere for learning.

“The UFT has received numerous complaints about these trailers and their current conditions — most of them are over 10 years old,” a May report read. “Providing instruction under sub-standard conditions compromises children’s education. Parents need to know what is going on in their schools and the earlier in the school year, the better.”

The study concluded that the number of these temporary classrooms had dropped little over a 10-year period, from 2001 through 2011. Ten years ago 3.9 percent of permanent students — at elementary and high schools — were in temporary classrooms, according to the UFT report. Since then, the number has only dropped by about 1,000 students, to 2.9 percent.

Because of poor conditions in the trailers boroughwide, the facilities had been failing over time, affecting the quality of education.

James Vasquez, the Queens high school district representative for the UFT, said the problem with these trailers was the notion that they were a temporary correction to a larger problem. Although referred to as temporary, Vasquez said trailers have been at some high schools for up to 15 years.

“These trailers are not holding up well, so what do they do over the summer? They replace them with new trailers,” he said. “These temporary trailers have really become permanent fixtures in many of these schools.”

The DOE was not able to respond for comment regarding the department’s time frame on how long these classrooms would be there.

Students at the school don’t seem to mind the trailers, with the exception of a few complaints.

Suraia Munia, now a senior, said she had classes in these units as a freshman, and didn’t mind the conditions, only that transferring from place to place could be a hassle.

“I think the condition was not bad,” said Munia, 18. “It was kind of hard because afterward I had to go to the third floor and it takes time to go to the third floor from outside. [When it was winter] we had to get our jackets and everything when we were going to the trailers. Right now they’re making changes in the classrooms in the trailer. I think they’re trying to make it better.”

Other students, like Chris Leom, a sophomore who was in one of the units last year, said that while conditions are bad, the difference in education does not have much of a difference, possibly even better.

“[Teachers] will actually say ‘Chris why aren’t you doing your work.’ They actually care about their students,” he said. “You can actually learn something and have a teacher that makes you want to actually do work. The only downside about classes outside that it was cold, snowing or it’s a rainy day, but other than that I loved the trailers. The trailers were better in technology; they have air-conditioning and they had smart-boards and the same thing they have inside.”

— With additional reporting by Sweetina Kakar