Optimism About an Uncertain Education Outlook
Brought together by their dedication to improving the quality of education in Rockaway, members of the Community United For Better Education (CUBE) the Region 5 Superintendent and local residents met last Tuesday night in order to discuss the current state of the public school educational system. Due to the current "phase out" of community school boards such as Community School Board 27, a "Region 5" was set up, designed to encompass Rockaway’s District 27, as well as Districts 19 and 23 (both in Brooklyn) in early July.
Region 5 Superintendent Kathleen Cashin greeted local residents, who gathered in the Blanche Community Day Care Center on Beach Channel Drive ask questions of the new educational leader.
What they got were smiles and encouraging words.
Citing the inspirational tale of Seabiscuit (an assumed underdog racehorse who later became America’s sweetheart during the Depression), Cashin immediately asked her constituents for optimism and support in the transformation of the education system.
"I will make waves—in a professional way," Cashin stated. In addition, the former principal pleaded with parents and residents "not to bail" on her attempts to improve the Rockaway education.
According to the Superintendent, "Whatever we do, there has to be substance. Whatever we do, there has to be truth." Thus, Cashin declared her dedication to the improvement of teaching within the classrooms and raising the standards of educational programs within Region 5.
In line with many residents’ views, Cashin maintained that the reduction of class size is Region 5’s number one priority. In regards to ASTRE (the elementary school gifted program that has run in the district for many years) and other specialized programs, the Superintendent called for an earlier implementation period, primarily so that children within these programs can aspire to attend further specialized schools, such as Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech High Schools.
Cashin also discussed the possibility of setting up regular meetings to deal with the building of new schools here in Rockaway. However, such meetings would have to be held along with the Borough President and other school officials. No definite plan regarding new schools has been implemented at this time. Nevertheless, Cashin continued to ask her constituents’ help in order to "shake things up" so that effective change will come.
When the floor opened to questions from residents, many parents showed concern over the dispersal of ASTRE programs within various Rockaway schools and between grades.
Also, the lack of Kindergarten ASTRE programs and K-8 schools in Rockaway communities was a big concern among parents with small children. According to Cashin, a great deal of planning and strategizing is needed in order to determine how and where a K-8 program can be implemented.
In reference to the lack of current Kindergarten ASTRE programs, residents were told that when testing was provided earlier this year, only nine children qualified in Rockaway and they were zoned to P.S. 106.
As a result, P.S. 106 will host the only Kindergarten ASTRE program in the upcoming ’03-’04 school year. To prevent this same problem from happening next year, Cashin and instructional supervisor Michele Lloyd-Bey are looking to take a more "proactive" approach so that more information regarding ASTRE testing will reach all Rockaway communities sooner.
For parents worrying about poor math standardized test scores in Rockaway high schools, Cashin proclaimed, "Education is not about taking an exam." Instead, the Superintendent’s solution was to improve math instruction beginning in Pre-Kindergarten and not just providing test-prepping when students get older.
Despite the fact that a great deal of work needs to be done to improve Rockaway’s current education system, Cashin, and Jesse Velez, CUBE’s Chairperson, were both impressed by 65 people who showed up for the meeting. That total, according to Velez, was more than three times the anticipated amount of participants.