I am a parent of a PS 106 student, an MS 180 student and a Mid-wood High School Medical-Science student. I am also Executive Director of The Action Center for Education and Com munity Development Inc., a non-profit corporation founded by parents to ensue all Rockaway students get the education and opportunities they need to better their lives.
The Action Center was created in 2001 by parents frustrated with promises made to this area by the previous school administration.
We currently provide band, chorus, fencing, soccer, karate, step, academic enrichment, tutoring, television prod uction (we have our own cable show), website building, woodworking, trips, entrepreneurial education and a host of none traditional ways to get students learning. In addition to our after-school and parents programs we have the only program on the Peninsula where residents from all racial and economic backgrounds come together in mass to recreate. On any given Saturday at MS 180 and Beach Channel High school you’ll see students and their parents from 12 of the 15 area schools, baking cookies, taking parent aerobics or receiving fencing, karate, soccer, choir, parent aerobics, step, etc., free of charge. Everyone gets along with no animosity, and violence, but mutual regard as residents living together. It is a shinning example of the fact that this community has the ability to be united and work together. It is also important that any proposed change in the community is sensitive to the fact that there are divisions and every effort is made to ensure that we do not become further divided.
In regards to the Rockaway School’s revitalization plan, I don’t believe it is or was Dr. Cashin’s intent to present a plan that was divisive to the community, however that has been a clear result. In particular as an MS 180 parent we had concerns about Dr. Cashin’s plan. However, after a rocky start we felt that they had been addressed and only recently learned through the Wave and not from the Region that they had not been. We still feel, despite a tumultuous week that our parental concerns are reasonable, and our differences not un bridgeable.
During the night of the CSB meeting I had my time cut by a full min ute and was unable to specifically state where we agreed with the plan, where we disagreed and how we felt it could be fixed so that the community would not be further divided by racial lines, or lines between the haves and have not’s
We do support a Scholars Academy. The application and admissions criteria was a concern but we worked with the Region to make sure it is fair and balanced. The actual admissions process remains a concern, which I am sure can be worked out.
That is however where my support at this time ends because of the following: The plan does not include even one specialized program for levels 1 & 2 students. The request is reasonable: 80% of the Rockaway students are levels 1 & 2, only 20% are levels 3 & 4. The Cashin plan calls for a minimum of 5 specific programs for academic rigor; Scholars Acad emy’s at PS 114, PS 105, Channel View Academy, Dolphin fast track program, and Advanced Reg ents modules. While the programs are wonderful they account for only 20% of our students. It just doesn’t seem fair. We do believe and have said from the beginning of this process that all students gifts are not wrapped in academics, other talents such as singing, dancing, fencing, soccer, writing, web development etc are seen in all levels. We are fairly certain that many of the people who have made it today, would not have but for none traditional methods. A significant number of the students in Action Center programs display special talents and gifts. Multiply this by all schools and you have at minimum 300 students with these unique talents. These students have hopes for a better life as well and a Gifted and Talented Academy at MS 180 as we have requested would afford them this opportunity. In addition it would help reduce class sizes at the K-8 programs helping to ensure NCLB regulations are met. It would also allow the Region to focus area specific specialized teachers in one main area rather than diluting their effect by spreading them throughout the region. They are already few and far in between as we know. We were told that we would come to the table again to negotiate including such a program into the 2nd year of the revitalization plan, the Region then left us completely out of the planning for the 2nd year, leaving us to find out about their plans in The Wave.
Dr. Cashin explained to one angry parent that she could only concentrate on a few things at one time—since over 5 programs are planned for 20% of our students perhaps she can leave one of them off, and give the majority of our students (the 80% remaining) at least one specialized program, such as the Gifted & Talented Academy? It is a reasonable request. Inclusion rather than exclusion would carry the day and heal many of the wounds in the community as a result of this exercise.
After meeting with 11 PTA boards on January 27, 2004 we were concerned to find that 9 of the boards did not agree with the plan or had concerns and questions they felt were not adequately addressed or had been brushed aside by the region. Their specific areas of concern re garding K-8 schools are classroom sizes, the lack of an academic im prove ment plan, what curriculum will be used, and the K-8 school safety and reconstruction plan. In addition what about special education students, as well as a plan for kids who do not adjust to a K-8 program. What are parents transfer options? Reasonable questions whose answers should be a part of any revitalization plan. They have certainly been an swered for 20% of the population and the academically rigorous programs. How about for the balance 80%? Again reasonable concerns, which require reasonable concrete answers, not sound-bites.
We have serious concerns about the impact of the plan on NCLB legislation and continue to work with the State and Federal Government to ensure that any gaps leading to a violation are closed. It is reasonable from both our prospective that any plan is not open to civil rights violations under NCLB laws. It is prudent for the Region, for the State and for the best interest of our children. An swers to the questions above would go a long way to eliminate those concerns.
Our parental concerns are reasonable, our differences not unbridgeable. We felt that if the Region continued to worked with us in good faith we could work out a plan ac cept able to all so that the plan was unifying rather than divisive. My preference was that rather than embarrass the Region no vote be held and we work things out. However the decision to vote was out of our control and we were left with no choice but to express our opposition and concerns publicly. Please take note a close re view of the speakers records will show nearly 80% of speakers in support of the plan came from PS 114 or PS 105 both schools set to benefit the most from the plan. There was no broad base of support from the balance of the schools whose boards still do not have their concerns addressed.
While we feel our concerns and response are reasonable, the Regions response following the meeting has been interesting.
Rather than addressing parents, specifically PA board members questions and concerns, on Thursday and Friday following the no vote—PA board members were informed that their kids were guaranteed a spot in the Scholars Academy or Channel View academy. Parents believe the in tended purpose was that the PA boards would fall behind the plan as long as they knew that their biological kids were taken care of. However no less than 5 boards called to let us know about the conversations and they are now further incensed that rather than answering their questions, back room deals were trying to be cut. Instead if this is truly about all our kids and what is best for them, why not just answer the boards questions, put viable planning in place and include this planning in the final proposal? Parents deserve something more than sounds-bites that a K-8 program will nurture kids ect. They need to understand the true affects. Face it—if a doctor were to give a child a pill and say oh it will make you feel good. Parents might buy it—but if the long term effect is that eyes would grow from the back of their heads in two years, then again parents would not. Parents need and want to fully understand what they are being sold.
In addition following the meeting the Region shut down the New Beginnings program they had asked the Action Center to run. This is a program to move disruptive youth from schools and give them closer supervision and assistance. It also allows teachers to teach without having to worry about disruptive students. I am sure that there is not a person on the Peninsula who does not believe that if I as a parent had voted yes and supported the plan, and had not gone with my conscience and voiced my deep reservations and concerns that the New Beginnings program would still be intact. As expressed by the Region at a Sun shine meeting not even a week before the vote, The Action Center has some of the best programs around and they were looking forward to doing wonderful things with us. What a difference a week makes . At the end of the day we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and integrity is high on my list of priorities. I spoke as a parent, we parents have valid concerns and questions need to be answered. At the end of the day it should always be about what is best for our children.
I am a parent not a politician. I have no doubts that something will be worked out either through the Community School board or a system put into place to go around it to get the plan passed. I am hopeful that our questions, programs and concerns will be included in any final plan that is passed. Our community will be better for it. In the mean time if the answers can’t come from the Region we have to continue to seek answers and support from the State and Federal government as well as the impact study we commissioned to answer parents questions and concerns.
We want to see a revitalization plan passed. However, the goal should be to pass the best plan possible, not one which will blow up our community with the aftershocks and effects in years to come, but one that is in the best interest of the 80% as well as the 20% of the students we serve.
Stop by MS 180 or Beach Channel High School on any given Saturday... it is an example of what we are, and can be as a community when no child or family is truly left behind.
Backs The ACLU
I have decided to contribute to the ACLU for the first time. Besides being a good organization, although I don’t always agree with their choice of causes, they are certainly even-handed in their approach. To wit their decision to represent Rush Lim baugh even though I’m sure he has disparaged them in the past. Most im portantly, though, they have decided to represent Patrick Clark, a Rock awayite, in his defense against a libel lawsuit initiated by Duane Reade.
Patrick Clark is the past president and one of the founders of the Rock away Artists Alliance, an organization that has brought a wealth of cultural and educational programs to the Rockaways and to other neighborhoods. Most especially, the RAA has benefited the NYC school system by bringing back art studies and appreciation to schoolchildren through their programs in the schools and in after school and summer programs. Patrick Clark also runs a stained glass studio with an apprenticeship program, reviving the lost art of stained glass works for practical and decorative purposes. A0A0Mr. Clark was recently commission ed by the Vatican to design a work of art to commemorate the pope’s visit. A0And he was also commissioned to design a work of art for the memorial park adjacent to the Duane Reade store on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 116 Street.
When Patrick learned of the huge sign that Duane Reade was going to build above their store, blocking the view of Memorial Park, he used his constitutional right of free speech to speak against it. Apparently,A0that did not sit well with management; so, instead of trying to accommodate the community in which they are located, they decided to sue him instead.
So, I’ve decided to vote with my feet and my wallet and I am sending a contribution to the ACLU and hopping in local drugstores rather than in that huge, overbearing chain.A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0A0
Dems Do It BetterDear Editor:
In a letter to the editor of this paper, Norman Silverman recently statedA0that Democrats are better than Rep ub licans. In one sense, I feel obligated to acknowledge he’s right. They are betterA0in regard to organizational and promotion issues. If Republicans ever wish to have a say in local issues, they had better take a look at what Democrats like District leader Lew Simon and his small organized organization in this community ac complish. These Democrats meet and actively engage in local issues. But what about Republicans?
Recently, a few of my neighbors and I began the process ofA0restarting a Republican club in the Rockaways. We eagerly contacted our local Rep ub lican leaders, Theresa Ariola (in Howard Beach) and Ed O’Hare (in Broad Channel) to inform them of our interest. That was back in the first week in December. We asked to meet with them and posed a simple question: how can we obtain a list of registered Republicans for Rock away? The response to our inquiries has been a resounding SILENCE.
They did say, initially,A0that they might have a "non-current" list but, as the holidays were approaching, they suggested we wait for this until after the New Year. Well, the holidays came and went and, after re peated calls and emails to them, we still haven’t received any kind of answer from them.
In the end, of course,A0we got the answers we neededA0ourselves. But all they had to do, if they really had no interest in meeting with us,A0was direct us, as political novices,A0to the Board of Elections where we could purchase the neededA0list of registered Republicans for our 23rd District. After more than two months of silence from our local leaders, weA0 figuredA0we’d go directly to the larger Queens organization. So we contacted the office of Queens County Rep ublican Party. You’d think they’d have been jumping for joy to hear about a new Republican group forming in south Queens, wouldn’t you? You’d think they’d have been delighted to have new members in Queens County and a new organization here to work with them to develop and support Republican candidates for public office. But we got the same kind of response from them that we got from the Howard Beach and Broad Channel leadership. TheyA0neither returned phone calls nor lived up to promises to meet with us.A0We finally did get a meeting with City Councilman Den nis Gallagher, one ofA0four Republican City Councilmen for all of New York City. He, at least, was interested in assisting us.
So what gives with the Queens leadership? Are they really interested in leading a vital Queens County Rep ublican party? It seems strange that the Queens Republican organization would give us the cold shoulder in our efforts to rebuild a Rockaway Rep ublican presence. Don’t they want to build up Republicans in this town? Don’tA0they want to be competitiveA0withA0Democrats? Can it possibly be in their interests to ignore other Rep ublicans and remain a perpetual min ority party in the city? SuchA0thinking canA0only stifle the Republican Party. Worse, it’s a disservice to theA04,500 reg istered Rockaway Rebublicans we’ve learned are out here, and it’s certainly one of the reasonsA0our city is so misrepresented.
If Republicans in this town want to get anywhere they have to shake this narrowA0insularity which confines them to ineffectual pockets throughout the city and leaves them inA0permanentA0minority status. They have to start thinking like Lew Simon and the Democrats and reach out to like-minded people in the community. Most of all, they have to stop being afraid of losing the perqsA0that come with being a protected minority.A0A0
Writers Not Representative
In the February 6 issue of The Wave, I forwarded a copy of letter I sent to Councilman Addabbo voicing my opposition of the parking ban on Rock away Beach Boulevard.
In last week’s issue, I was appalled to read several letters in response the letter and an article written in the same issue. The quotes are as follows: "Why don’t residents of the west end just stop complaining and find a place for their cars?", "As a tax-payer I am not concerned as to the problems this will create for the few renters in the neighborhood." and, "As far as congestion is concerned the DFD’s (down-for-the-days) will realize that parking is NOT available and they will no longer be able to litter our beaches."
Are you kidding? They are not OUR beaches, folks. Like it or not, they are public beaches, and the public will flock to them if they do not have to pay $5 at Riis Park, even if they have to walk a bit further. As far as "just finding a place to put our cars", that would be simple if homeowners did in fact use their driveways. Most do not, and, if this parking ban is implemented, they definitely will not. Residents who need the spaces will not have them.
You are living in a fantasy world if you think the "DFD’s" will stop coming to our beach if parking on the boulevard is eliminated. A0As Palmer Doyle correctly indicated, this will have a "mushrooming effect". Visitors will park on the 200, 400, and even the bay blocks. This is still not a far walk to enjoy the sun, sand and surf. They will take up parking spaces on your street and litter in front of your homes. If you live on the beach block, as I suspect these letter-writers do, then you will have the same amount of "DFD’s", along with increased traffic on your block because they will un load their cars at the beach wall then find a space further toward the bay.
I am a renter, but I am also a lifelong resident of Belle Harbor. I love this community and its people. I am your neighbor and your friend. If you make it more difficult for renters to park, it will drive down rents for owners who depend on this income. Thus, you will lose the quality of tenants in Belle Harbor, ultimately decreasing property values for these homes and the homes around them (you may have...GASP...an OUTSIDER renting the apartment next door...a fate far worse than DFD’s!).
I just hope that people who read these letters who are not from Belle Harbor do not think these attitudes are representative of the entire community. Every resident enjoys the relative privacy we have on the Rockaway beaches. I am very much in favor of keeping the restrictions on the weekends. However, if we allow parking in some parts of the community during the week, and restrict it in others, we are in for a long and arduous summer. I can already see the BHPA calling an emergency meeting of Community Board 14 after the first week of warm weather demanding the same rules that Neponsit has (No Parking ANYTIME from 5/15-9/30). If I were a betting man, I would put money on the fact that the BHPA is already planning to present this plan to the board. Judging from the response in last week’s issue, I am not alone in my opposition. I am more than willing to organize with others who feel the same way.
MATTHEW E. MCLEAN
End Of A Rockaway Era
I come from a long line of summer bungalow renters. I am 26 years old and have spent every summer of my life at the 101 Street courts (between Rockaway Beach Blvd and Shore Front Parkway).
Without these courts, I would not have met my husband. We have grown up together in the summer time and were friends for many years before we realized how we felt about one another, but this letter is not about my feelings for my husband.
I am writing because we were recently told that the court would not be opening this year. All of the renters in court were contacted this week and told we had to go and remove all of our belongings by next Saturday 2/21/04. We were also told that if it were not done it would be to late because the bungalows would be getting bull dozed the following week.
I am not quite sure where to go from here. I know there is an organization for preserving bungalows in the Rockaways, but I don’t know if we would qualify to get help from them since we were renting. I would like to see if I could help in keeping the bungalows alive. They mean so much to so many people, we were all a family in the court and without them we would all be torn apart.
I am sure that you are aware that these bungalows have been around for a very long time. I can remember being told by my grandfather, that they were built to help heal the soldiers in World War I. I don’t know if this is completely true or a just another one of my Poppy’s stories. If it holds any truth it means the bungalows date back almost 90 years, if not more.
New Play, The Love Channel
Congratulation to Della Doherty and her play, "The Love Channel," now being performed at the Rock away Park Playhouse.
This seven-character play is to me a parody of musicals with a plot that has no derailments. The action is extremely spirited and moves beautifully like a summer breeze. The characters are real and likeable. The songs are especially foot-stomping and lively. The set construction equals anything off Broadway. Two stars of the show: Joe Sonenshein and Liz Lord have futures on Broadway and in Hollywood. Mace McCarthy, whose career includes an incredible 150 stage productions, pompously plays the producer, Mr. Snodgrass, with command. Martha White-Caccia as Ellen draws the most laughs. Finally, John Baxter is an immensely talented musician-minstrel having an alter ego as a television director. I know of no theatre like this one from Long Beach to Sheepshead Bay.
CHARLES M. BRINGE
Angels on the Boulevard
The preacher said, "there are everyday Angels all over town"
To see them you just have to look around.
It didn’t take any time nor was it hard
To find two Angels on the Boulevard.
There is a haven on 90th Street
Where people of age gather to meet
It is here you will find two ladies of grace
Who can help with the problems you are given to face
Their key is a smile and a soft word
A welcome as warm
As a summer’s morn
Yes the good Padre knows his world well
And I’m sure you may have an angel story to tell.
So Come In. You’ll be welcomed by Janet or Pat
Once you witness the goodness they weave
From the Hammel Center you will not want to leave.
It appears that Tom Hannan, like many good Americans, Democrat and Republican, is disturbed that leading democrats do not accept this administration’s word on the reasons for the war in Iraq.
I believe this is issue is not that weapons of mass destruction have not been found, but that the administration adopted a policy of preemptive war, that is attacking another nation which has not attacked us, without clear evidence that there was an imminent danger to the United States. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said he might have spoken differently at the United Nations and not have recommended war if he knew then what he knows now.
Warm as many have said, should be the policy of last resort, rather than a policy based on convenience, comfort and expense. We should remember that U.N. inspectors were busy making unannounced inspections in the weeks before the bombing started. They were withdrawn only to avoid being bombed in the U.S. attack.
The Bush administration spoke of concern for avoiding warfare during the hot Iraqi desert summer and the difficulty and cost of keeping troops in the region for an extended period. The policy Bush adopted brought us all the problems the administration said they wanted to avoid.
Saddam Hussein has no American supporters, but he was not an imminent threat to the United States. The suicide bombers who are at the heart of the 9/11 attack and in many nations in the Muslim world were strongly opposed to the Saddam regime. Our attack has pushed the groups somewhat closer. This does not contribute to our long-term security.
Some courageous Democrats such as Senator Ted Kennedy, Carl Levin, Robert Byrd, the late Paul Wellstone and Rockaway’s own, Rep. Gregory Meeks recognized the fallacies in the administration’s policy before the bombing began. I do not agree with Gov ernor Howard Dean’s criticism of Democrats who supported the war based on the alleged evidence we were shown. As this evidence was shown to be either false or questionable, they changed their opinion.
We must welcome them now as all Americans seek an honorable withdrawal from Iraq. Only then will we be free to seek solutions to our health care, job, development and budget deficit crises. We will be free to create jobs for Americans in the U.S., not in Iraq.
George Bush has yet to acknowledge that he made any mistake in his war policy with Iraq. I believe that if Tom Hannan, Tom Lynch and other concerned voters continue to examine all the available evidence they will join the majority of American voters in retiring George W. Bush.