2004-02-13 / Front Page

Suspension Program Opens At Beach 115 St.

By Howard Schwach
Suspension Program Opens At Beach 115 St.

Suspension Program Opens At Beach 115 St.

The Department of Education and The Action Center, a local CBO, will soon open a “New Beginnings” school for disruptive students in this storefront left of Job Lot on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 115 Street.The Department of Education and The Action Center, a local CBO, will soon open a “New Beginnings” school for disruptive students in this storefront left of Job Lot on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 115 Street.

By Howard Schwach

A "New Beginnings" program for 30 students who have been suspended from the two Rockaway high schools will begin as early as next week on Beach 115 Street and Rockaway Beach Boule vard, according to sources at the Depart ment of Education.

New Beginnings programs are conducted by community-based organizations in partnership with the Department of Education, which provides instruction in literacy, mathematics and social studies.

The Rockaway New Beginnings School, which is run by The After – School Corporation and the local Action Center For Education and Community Devel opment, will be located at 115-07 Rock away Beach Boulevard in Rockaway Park, the former site of a restaurant and billiards parlor.

Larry Tretotola will be the principal of the new site, one of only three in Queens.

Tretotola told The Wave that he expects the new site, which will be in operation right after the school system’s winter recess, will house fifteen suspended students from Far Rockaway High School and a like number from Beach Channel High School.

Department of Education sources say that those students will be from 15 to 18 years of age, will have "problems with attendance, behavior or learning and have been identified by school administrators as interfering with other students’ ability to learn effectively."

The typical student is expected to stay at New Beginnings for approximately 90 days before returning to his or her home school, but Joy Ferguson, a spokesperson for the After-School Corporation says that many teenagers remain in the program for up to a year.

While the program is designed for truants as well as disruptive students, Tretotola, says that he does not want to focus on students who are truants in the Rockaway program.

"I don’t want to waste a seat on a kid who won’t show up," he said. He also promised the community that the students in the program would be "disruptive, but not violent."

There will be a staff of three Department of Education teachers on the site, making for a student-teacher ratio of 10:1. There will also be a part-time guidance counselor and an assistant principal at the site.

The Action Center, the Community-Based Organization (CBO) responsible for the local program, will supply a site director and up to three counselors as well.

"This is not a dumping ground program," says Aria Doe, a spokesperson for The Action Center. "These are non-violent kids, including truants, who need some individual help."

"We believe that we are a CBO that can make a difference in the Rockaway community," Doe added.

A member of the local high school community, who asked not to be identified, however, says that there are problems with the program.

"The Department of Education has asked for $3 thousand a student from our school budget," the informant said. "They also want one school security agent taken from the school full time to work at the new facility."

He added that the security agent would probably be missed more than the money.

"With all of our problems, we can’t afford to lose a security agent," he said, adding that the program will leave the violent kids in the home school.

Doe says that she has concerns about security as well.

"Bloomberg says that he wants to take these kids out of their home schools and put them in the New Beginnings program, but he won’t allow us to use wands to see if they have weapons on their person and won’t supply the level of security necessary for our staff or for the students," Doe says.

Ferguson says that the first group of students who entered the program in April have begun to "transition out" of the program and go back to their previous schools.

"Some of those students were success stories," she says. "they had a chance for counseling and some direction and they will do well in their home schools."

"Others," she adds, "were not that affected by the experience."

"The Rockaway program should be interesting," she concluded. "There is a good community space and a good staff put in place by the CBO."

Jonathan Rhoads, the program director for After-School, said that he wants to point out the difference between his program, which admits disruptive students and students who are truant and cut class and the new suspension centers, which take violent students.

"I want to insure the community that our students will not be violent," he concluded. "They will not be a problem for the community."

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