(This letter is in response to a letter in the November 28, 2003 letter to the editor section titled "Cashin can do it")
Ms. Sammon, no one is questioning that the Rockaway schools need an overhaul. The questions being posed to Dr Cashin and her supporters that remain unanswered are...
1. Why are you targeting the only MS not on the state SURR list? Which so happens to be a Magnet School already zoned for the same population of children that you have said you want to focus on bringing back to MS 180.
2. Why have the parents and children of PS 114 been allowed to break the law and the Chancellor's zoning laws for over 15 years?
3. Why do Rockaway Westenders (Belle Harbor) parents feel that it is unsafe for their kids to come to school at MS 180, but it is just fine to send them to the school after-hours (6-8pm) for use of the gym and on weekends to utilize various programs?
4. What will happen to the current MS 180Q students who do meet her criteria for admission to her "scholars program"? A criteria that still remains unclear. The only thing that is clear of her admission policy is that the majority of the current students at MS 180Q cannot pass her test. By her own admission on November 17 the only school she is not concerned about getting accepted is PS 114.
5. What does she plan to do to prepare the current MS 180Q students for academic improvement?
6. When will she take action to reduce class sizes at 180Q, at present their as many as 34 children in a class?
7. What does Dr. Cashin mean by "phase out"? I ask you Ms. Sammon: who will be impacted in September 2004 and how will they be impacted? The plan as it is now is that MS 180Q current students will be tossed to the academic wayside and the PS 114 students will continue to outpace our children. Ms. Sammon, I as a minority parent of a child at MS 180Q pose this to you...
1. Why not let the graduating class of PS 114 for 2004 go to Beach Channel High School with the MS 180Q- ALPS Program? That is correct the ALPS program according to the Cashin Plan will be moved to a wing of Beach Channel High School. As the mother of a 6th grader, moving her into BCHS is not an option for me. ALPS is considered "the scholars program" at 180, so why are they not being offered admission to Dr. Cashin's "scholars program"?
2. Why are the schools in the Rockaways, with mostly minority students, in the academic shape they are in? Perhaps you need to look within yourself for that answer. We love and support our children and we have been short changed for many years by both NYC Dept. of Education and the Westend of the Rockaway Peninsula.
3. Why not use the money being lost to PS 114 graduates being bused to Brooklyn Magnet Schools to acquire the vacant land/building and create an MS 180Q annex? That is correct there is a building and land for lease or sale right across the street from MS 180Q. Can you answer these questions honestly? Can you still look in the mirror and say that Dr. Cashin's plan is best for "all of our children"? How can you when you will not even let your children share a building in the daylight hours with our children?I guess Ms. Sammon you and Dr. Cashin must see from the same eyes.
Shocking Cover Story
On the front page of the wave on November 21st, a picture was published accompanying the article on the shooting of Jonathan Rhodes. I was shocked when I looked closely at the picture: a pool of blood on the ground and, as Brain Magoolaghan describes it, "a large piece of brain matter splattered in front of the steps" were displayed in brilliant color, surely catching the eye of everyone. We all know that terrible things like this happen, but to put it out there for all to see is wrong and disrespectful. I'm sure the family and friends of the man killed are having a hard enough time dealing with their loss as it is, but to pick up the paper and see your loved one's blood and brains on the ground is beyond hurtful. It is insulting. Rest in peace, Jonathan, and all the best to his family.
In a democracy anyone has the right to change political parties. I regret that Tom Lynch chose to leave the Democratic Party based on the false impressions spread by the Bush administration.
The Bush administration has used the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 as an excuse to initiate and continue a war in Iraq. Although the administration found no Iraqi involvement in the events, they have by timing statements and implication convinced many good Americans that Iraq was the culprit.
There are many practical ways short of war to conduct diplomacy. When President Harry Truman sent an airlift to Berlin, he chose not to send American tanks on the ground. When President Kennedy was faced with Soviet missiles in Cube, he chose to blockade the island, but also negotiated removal of the missiles along with U.S. missiles in Turkey. George W. Bush negotiated the return of an American plane shot down in China.
If voters are to choose candidates based on their presidential biographies, we should compare what Dr. Howard Dean and George Bush did with their lives between ages 20 and 40.
If we are to judge our leaders on their military records, we would choose Senator John Kerry, who served in Vietnam and came home to lead Vietnam Veterans Against the War, rather than Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perl who avoided service, but made plans to attack Iraq before 9/11/01.
Robert Kennedy had won a Democratic primary for President in California based on his opposition to the war in Vietnam on the night he was assassinated. Dr. Martin Luther King told a huge anti-war rally at the United Nations that the U.S. should get out of Vietnam.
The Democratic Party has a long tradition of open primaries where registered Democrats can discuss the issues and choose candidates of their choice. Republicans in New York have evaded contested primaries, forcing Senator John McCain to go to court to get on the ballot in 2002.
I urge all voters to participate in the primary process, select the best candidate, and help choose a new president.
Schumer CronyismDear Editor,
An article in November 22's Newsday says the mayor wants a probe of patronage at the Staten Island Ferry. It's about time - employees in authority giving family members jobs and in some cases tripling their salaries over time. I say the cleanup should start at the top, by discharging the Commissioner of Transportation - Iris Weinshall - who happens to be the wife of the senior senator of New York - Charles Schumer.
She was appointed to the $163,000 post by then Mayor Rudy Giuliani and is the only commissioner held over by current Mayor Michael Bloomberg; all other city commissioners were replaced by the current mayor except her. She most likely keeps her maiden name as an attempt to hide this obvious attempt at impropriety and cronyism. The senator and his wife have a good thing going, all at the expense of the taxpayers. Having held this job through the better part of two administrations, she should have known what was going on in her department. She should have corrected it years ago, and since she didn't, she must be the first to go and she must be held responsible for the activities of those under her. Like I said, boy, does this stink. Wow. How can the commissioner be part of the solution when she is part of the problem?
ANTHONY P BORRELLO
Supports School Restructuring
To the Editor:
My purpose for writing today is to urge everyone in the Rockaway community to support our Department of Education Regional Superintendent, Dr. Kathleen Cashin, and her staff in Region 5 in their efforts to bring quality educational programming back to our local public schools.
As most of us are painfully aware, many Rockaway schools have performed quite dismally in terms of reading and math scores. For example, 2 years ago, 16% of M.S. 180 students were meeting or exceeding New York State Language Arts Standards. Although I have heard that this number has improved slightly, it is still under 25%. This middle school crisis is not unique to the Rockaways; people all over the city have sought out alternatives to their zoned middle schools for the same reason. This has been a source of frustration for many parents on this peninsula who have, somewhat reluctantly, sent their children out of our community in search of the best education possible, rather than send them to a failing middle school for which they are zoned.
For years, parents have been talking about bringing our children back to attend school in the community. Many of us believe, as Dr. Cashin does, that with careful planning and strong parental support, we can easily create educational programming equal in quality to those programs in existence in District 20, 21 and 22 in Brooklyn.
In her short tenure as Regional Superintendent, Dr. Cashin has been extraordinarily responsive to the needs of our community schools; she has made our unique situation in Rockaway a priority - tell me, when was the last time Rockaway was a "real" priority in anyone's administration? I have seen the commitment and willingness of this administration to work with us in the best interest of all the children in Rockaway. Dr. Cashin has laid out a bold plan for our schools, a plan in which all of our kids will have choices. Not only would a Scholar's Academy be created at M.S. 180, but Frederick Douglass Academy would be created in Far Rockaway High School, Channel View Academy would revitalize Beach Channel High School's program, and several elementary schools would expand to include grades K-8, including a P.S. 114 upper school annex at M.S. 180. I am urging every parent, indeed every resident, who has been concerned with the performance of the public schools on our peninsula, to actively support this restructuring initiative.
As a parent who has one child currently attending a middle school in District 21 (as well as a fourth grader who would be part of the restructuring plan), I have come to realize that the schools in District 21 do not have a magic formula for success. What they do have, however, are some of the most academically successful students in the city, whose numbers are bolstered by several hundred children from Rockaway! It doesn't take a genius to figure out what would happen if we kept our children in their neighborhood schools. In the case of M.S. 180, which is my children's zoned school, a high percentage of Rockaway students would stay on this side of the bridge and choose to attend one of the program options in 180, Beach Channel (6-12 Channel View) or choose to remain in their elementary school until grade 8. The application programs would flourish, and would soon attract students from all over Brooklyn and Queens, just as the Brooklyn districts do now.
Some have expressed concerns over certain aspects of this plan, and that is as it should be. Dr. Cashin and her staff have expressed the desire to work with parents and teachers to look at all options. They want our children to enjoy what most kids take for granted: going to school in their own neighborhood. I don't believe there is any sort of political agenda, as the PTA president of M.S. 180 has suggested, to push out any principal, teacher or other staff member, although with sweeping changes like those being proposed, it would be naive to think that personnel changes wouldn't be a by-product. I do believe that the motivation for these changes came from the many parents who communicated their desires to the local school district to stop sending their kids away from their community schools at 10 & 11 years old! With reading scores like those in M.S.180, however, parents (including myself) felt that 180 was just not a viable option for their children. Many of us who have experience with the District 21 middle schools understand that there is nothing different about those schools that we could not replicate in Rockaway. Remember, Mark Twain, Bay Academy, Boody, Hudde and the like all started the same way: with vision and careful planning. They weren't always the "jewels" in Brooklyn's crown. In fact, those "jewels" still have their fair share of incidents just like any other middle school in the city.
I have seen strong evidence of both vision and planning in Dr. Cashin's proposal. We can accomplish this goal, but we will need active and immediate support from parents and residents in the form of e-mails to Chancellor Joel Klein (JKlein@nycboe.net), and Dr. Kathleen Cashin (KCashin@nycboe.net) to let them know that you support this plan and you would like the applications to be made available ASAP. Dr. Cashin is willing to continue the dialogue with parents of this community to assure that we will be satisfied with the plans for restructuring.
This is one of the most important times for Rockaway schools in terms of educational reform. We must act together, or Rockaway will be standing alone once again. Never has a school administration offered us such an opportunity; I'm pretty sure that it will never be laid before us again. This is the most well-crafted, thoughtful plan I've heard with regard to Rockaway's schools - we can not let this ship sail without us. We've all talked about this reform for years; the time has come to act, to take the leap of faith, to make a profound difference in our community. Change can be scary, but it can also be inspiring and invigorating. As a community, I have seen how we pulled together to help each other in good times and in bad. We can do this, but we must have a majority of parents willing to take the leap together to ensure success. Personally, I'm confident that Dr. Cashin and her staff will come through for this community. If you've listened to her ideas or talked with her and her staff, you understand why.
Help to shape the future of Rockaway. Keep our children where they belong - on our beautiful peninsula- enriching and being enriched by their own diverse community.
Don't forget: e-mail Chancellor Klein, cc Dr. Cashin, today in support of the restructuring. Thank you.
A Duane Reade Christmas
Twas a few days before Thanksgiving
In the middle of the night
A crane suddenly appeared
With a whole bunch of lights
The workers hurried up the ladder
With their plans in tow
Hoping no one would see them
No one would know
Most of the residents were sleeping
A few were having beer
But all were unaware of
The sign going up again
Announcing: DUANE READE IS HERE!
The workers were all happy
Making all that extra dough
The store won't be making any
AS WE ALL KNOW!
The site is a disaster
There's been accidents galore
They only have one register
In that arrogant store
So, as I drove off in my Lincoln
I made a promise for sure
That I will never, ever buy anything
From that arrogant store