2004-01-30 / Community

Cashin On Scholars Academy: ‘We Need To Act Now’

By Brian Magoolaghan
Cashin On Scholars Academy: ‘We Need To Act Now’ By Brian Magoolaghan

Parents applauded as the region‘s top school official re vealed more of her tentative plans to establish a gifted program, to be called "The Rock away Scholar’s Academy," at a meeting held at P.S. 114 last week.

Region Five Superin tendent Dr. Kathleen Cash in told parents that she has done a lot of listening at several local schools and that it is now time to start making changes. Cashin said the plan has been refined many times and that she hopes parents will now "embrace" it.

The scholar’s program, Cash in said, would start off slowly under the direct supervision of P.S. 114 Principal Brian O’Connell. A lengthy application period could start very soon, she said, with the program beginning in the 2004-05 school year at P.S. 114 in Belle Harbor, and in P.S. 105, in Far Rockaway. "Children from all over the Rockaways will apply," Cashin anticipates.

The academy would move permanently to M.S. 180, Rockaway Park, in time for the 2005-06 school year. Meanwhile, P.S. 114 and P.S. 105 would become K-8 schools for "zoned students."

That would create, as Cashin said, a "tricky transition year in terms of space" for the 2004-05 year. In both P.S. 114 and P.S. 105 – wherein the graduating fifth grade class traditionally moves on for sixth grade at M.S. 180, it would stay put for that one year. Cashin and O’Connell told parents that this could work because, while class size will increase, classes at P.S. 114 are smaller than average. Any potential impact on class size at P.S. 105, which Cashin called "a well-run school that has turned around," was not discussed.

"Everything will be contractually kosher" in terms of the number of children per classroom at P.S. 114, Cashin told teachers and parents.

This latest meeting has apparently helped Cashin warm parents to the plan.

"I have been on the fence but this is definitely the first time that I’m moving Dr. Cashin’s way," said Cora Nelson, who has children in the first, second and third grades at P.S. 114. Nelson said she was impressed that Cashin was willing to make changes that could have long lasting effects on public education in the Rockaways.

Cashin did not portray the plan as being set in stone but said that she had been authorized by the city’s Depart ment of Education to discuss the details with the more than 100 parents who attended. She also listened to some of their concerns.

Some parents at the meeting said that expanding P.S. 114 to K-8 would flood it with children who might otherwise attend private schools.

Cashin told parents they should seize the opportunity for change and deal with any problems if and when they arise. "I’m not going to stop forging ahead on this because we think that might happen," she said.

Parents also applauded as Cashin reminded them of her frequent visits to the peninsula’s schools and proclaimed herself a good listener.

By the 2005-06 school year, MS 180 would house some eighth graders, an unspecified number of students from District 75 (special education) and the Scholar’s Academy, which could be expanded to include fifth-graders as well, according to Cashin.

O’Connell, who will supervise the Scholar’s Academy from the start and become principal of M.S. 180, according to the plan, likened the coming years to a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end. "Part of the arch must be climbed.

"If we don’t make these changes now it’s never going to happen," O’Connell told parents.

Cashin said she would make an Executive Summary of the program available to parents. Applications for the Scholar’s Academy were not ready in time for the meeting.

It was not clear at press time what the change would mean for the present M.S. 180 principal, George Giberti, who recently won accolades for taking a loaded gun away from a student.

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