Two Jamaica high schools off ‘dangerous’ list


By Queens Courier Staff |

Jamaica High School and the Queens School for Career Development, also in Jamaica, have been removed from the New York State list of dangerous schools after implementing a variety of safety improvement programs.
A school is designated “persistently dangerous” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act if for two consecutive years it has “approximately six” serious criminal incidents per 100 students such as murders, sexual offenses, robberies, arsons, kidnappings and possession, use or threatened use of a weapon.
During the 2007-2008 academic year, when Jamaica High School, with 1,600 students, was placed on the list, its rate of criminal infractions went down by about 70 percent from the year before, said Walter Acham, principal of the school.
That same year, non-criminal violations such as lateness and lack of hall passes went down by about 40 percent from the previous year, Acham added.
He attributed these numbers to the fact that although the school did not expand its 19-member security team, its entire staff of 180 people became stricter in enforcing school regulations.
One safety measure the school took was to put in a detention program, which required students who committed non-criminal violations to attend after-school classes on proper behavior, Acham said.
Also, the school implemented an intervention program. Counselors would step in to prevent problematic student behavior from getting out of hand, Acham said. “We had very few fights. The students knew that there are other ways to solve problems - but if you decided to go to blows, you would be suspended,” Acham explained.
Like all schools on the dangerous schools list, Jamaica High, at 167-01 Gothic Drive, received financial help from the state with these programs.
Now Jamaica High also needs to work on increasing enrollment, which last year fell by about 20 percent due to the designation, Acham said.
“We want the community to reinvest in Jamaica High School. The state is affirming the fact that the school is safe,” Acham said, adding that the institution has also enriched its curriculum.
Queens School for Career Development, a special education high school with a population of approximately 400 students, is the other Queens school that is off the dangerous list this academic year.
The principal of the school, Ilisa Sulner, located on 142-10 Linden Boulevard, had not received permission to comment about her school’s removal from the dangerous list at press time.
This academic year, New York City has 16 “persistently dangerous” schools, six of which are newly identified, down from 25 last year, according to data from New York State Education Department.
Only one of this year’s dangerous schools is in Queens - P.S. 9 Walter Reed School, a special education elementary-middle school in Maspeth with over 400 students.
In accordance with federal requirements, the department releases the list of dangerous schools before the beginning of every school year so that parents can make enrollment choices.
In the fall, the state will audit schools’ safety reporting and if cases of underreporting are discovered, the dangerous schools list will get longer, said State Education Commissioner Richard Mills.