2004-03-05 / Columnists


There are a few stories running around the community to explain why the educational facility that was scheduled to open last week at 115-07 Rockaway Beach Boule vard did not open, and probably will not open. The first of those posits that the community killed the plan that would have placed 30 "disruptive" students in the facility. There was, in fact, a lot of comment about bringing that type of student to the shopping street without the proper security measures first being put in place. The fact is, that the program was killed by Region Five school chief Kathleen Cashin, who was reportedly outraged by the two local women who run the CBO that contracted for the program because they spoke out in opposition to her school reorganization plan at a CSB 27 meeting last month. Where will those 30 kids, culled from both FRHS and BCHS go now? For the time being, they are going to re main in their home schools, disrupting other students and generally raising hell with the school staff. By the way, a local resident who called Region Five this week was told by the region’s parent coordinator that the building was never slated to become a New Beginnings School.

The battle over the use of public money to further particular religions is in the news again, thanks to Pres ident Bush’s "Faith-Based Initiative" and to the Salvation Army. Bush has pushed his plan to give lots of public money to religious groups (particularly Christian groups) who work "in the public good." The Salvation Army is one of those groups that get a large chunk of money to work with at risk adults. That was fine, as long as the organization did not push its religious ideals as part of the package. Now, however, the Salvation Army is forcing those who work in the initiative to reveal their religions and how active they are in their churches. Those who do not provide the information are considered to be "insubordinate" and are fired. The Salvation Army and the others who take public money to run their programs cannot have it both ways. They can demand anything they want of their employees as long as they are a private charity. Once they take public funds, however, they can no longer make religion an issue with either their employees or those they serve.

There are a lot of rumors swirling about the future of Congressman Gregory Meeks. One rumor has Chuck Schumer running for governor and winning. He would then, the word goes, appoint Meeks to his empty Congressional slot. Another rumor has Meeks, who has supported Presidential Candidate John Kerry from the beginning (bucking the Queens Democratic machine to do so) will get a high cabinet slot should Kerry win. In any case, Meeks seems to be "sitting in the catbird seat."

The city has identified 135 schools, both public and private, that have the worst records for accidents within a 700-foot radius of the school. The only Rockaway school on the list is MS 198 in Arverne. We are surprised that Beach Channel High School is not on the list as well. Both schools have had a spate of accidents involving students leaving the school since the school year began in September.

Don’t forget the annual Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will step off tomorrow, March 6 at 1 p.m. from Beach 130 Street and Newport Avenue. There are a number of parking re strictions for the parade. New port Avenue will be closed beginning at 8 a.m., from Beach 140 Street to Beach 116 Street. Beach 129 Street will be closed from New port Avenue to Rockaway Beach Boulevard. All of Beach 116 Street, from Beach Channel Drive to the boardwalk will be closed and, finally, Rockaway Beach Boulevard will be closed from Beach 116 Street to Beach 84 Street. The reviewing stand for officials will once again be located at Beach 105 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

We have to congratulate Laurie Shapiro, the principal of PS 105 and her staff, who have helped to raise the fourth grade math scores at the school by 56.2 percent since 1999. The school, which was once considered one of the worst in Rockaway, and which was taken over by the chancellor only a few years ago, is now considered one of the best.

ACORN, a community activist group that usually has little re gard for the truth if that truth gets in the way of its activism, is at it again. The group is supporting students at Far Rockaway High School who have formed a new group called "New Voices Heard." The student’s point is that the violence at the school that brought it notoriety, as one of the 12 worst schools in the city, has nothing to do with the students. New Voices Heard claims that all of the violence is a result of "harassment and aggression perpetrated by the police." The group says it has formed to "fight police aggression in the high schools." We have to wonder how a group of adults have bought into this teenage fantasy.

With great fanfare, the mayor and his commissioner in charge of the city’s Environmental Protection Agency an nounced that a number of water treatment plants now have new technology that will keep them from smelling up the environment. Those who live nearby Rockaway’s water treatment plant on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 105 Street will understand immediately how important that technology is to the community? According to the announcement, the new technology is present in a number of plants in Brooklyn, Staten Island and The Bronx. Guess which plant will probably be the last to get that new technology? You got it. It’s the Rock away plant.

Lew Simon spoke at the annual installation for the Broad Chan nel Volunteer Fire Department last weekend, promising the volies that he had lined up six unions that were willing to build the organization’s new firehouse for free. I hope that the volies can hold Lew to his promise, because that would guarantee that the new Cross Bay Boulevard facility would be built.

The school Chancellor recently took the local school board’s power to rezone schools away on the grounds that those organizations are "lame ducks" that were not elected by more than four percent of the electorate. That leaves the Regional Superin tendents such as Kathleen Cashin with the authority to rezone schools. The Chancellor said that the new Education Councils would be given that power when they are seated in July, but the DOE’s brochure to candidates says that council members can "approve zone lines submitted by the community superintendent." Sounds like "rubber stamp" time to those who have long been involved with education. Why have a parent council without giving it power?

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