2004-06-04 / Columnists

From the

By Howard Schwach

If Borough President Helen Marshall and Community Superintendent Kathleen Cashin have their way, MS 180 in Rockaway Beach may morph in two years not only into a school for gifted students, but into a laboratory school for young teachers as well.

Under the plan, which Marshall announced broadly at the opening of Arverne By The Sea last week, the school would train interns and perspective teachers during the day and working teachers who want to move towards a higher degree or towards becoming a supervisor in the evening, all under the aegis of The City University of New York (CUNY).

Cashin filled in the blanks that Marshall had left out during a meeting with The Wave last week.

"We want MS 180 to become a magnet for people who live in Rockaway and want to become teachers," Cashin said. "We want them working and learning with the students who will be drawn to the school for the gifted program."

"Too many young teachers come to Rockaway schools and run away screaming," she added. "We want to stop that by nurturing the young teachers, teaching them their craft."

CUNY and Region Five would provide the school with the staff development experts that would run the two-faceted program.

During the day, Region Five staff developers and administrators would join CUNY professors as mentors both to interns and to college students who are pursing a degree in teaching. The classes in the building would serve as a "laboratory" for those young prospective teachers to learn how to teach.

In the evening, the school would address those students who are working in other careers during the daytime hours but who want to become teachers.

It would also address those teachers who want to get an advanced degree from CUNY and who want to become administrators.

"Now, those teachers who want to advance their careers have to go to central Queens or to Brooklyn to take the university credits they need," says District 27 Superintendent Rita Gariameta. "Under the new plan, they will be able to complete their university work right here on the peninsula."

Borough President Helen Marshall wants to take the plan one step further.

She wants to turn the unused courthouse on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 92 Street into a full-scale unit of the CUNY system.

Marshall says that she has a large percentage of the money necessary to restore the historic courthouse and to make it into a university setting.

She envisions a university that would provide remedial work to students who want to get into college but cannot do so, as well as a catalogue of standard undergraduate and graduate courses to those who want to pursue a college degree or an advanced degree.

"The Borough President may envision the program at MS 180 as a temporary one, until the courthouse comes on line," Cashin said. "We envision it as a permanent component of the school’s organization."

This coming school year, the gifted program, which will move to MS 180 for the 2005-2006 school year, will begin at two sites – PS 105 in Edgemere and PS 114 in Rockaway Park.

Each of those schools will retain their terminal grade this year and continue to do so until they both become K-8 schools.

A year from September, however, all of the gifted classes in those two schools will move to the MS 180 "Scholar’s Academy, and be joined by gifted grade 5 to 8 students from all over the peninsula.

MS 198, perhaps the most-troubled middle school in Rockaway, will become a K-8 school as well next September, with a Astre Program (elementary gifted program) added on.

The ALPS Program that has run at MS 180 as a separate entity for a number of years will move to Beach Channel High School and morph into the "Channel View School For Research, a grades 6-12 program.

What does it all mean?

Parents at PS 114 love the new program because it will allow the smartest kids at the school to stay on the peninsula for middle school rather than taking the long trek to Brooklyn’s District 21 each day.

Minority parents at schools such as PS 225 and PS 183, who normally would send their mainstream children to MS 180, a school that they considered to be better than their home elementary schools, now would have their kids in that same school for two more years. Many of them look at the plan as a device for giving the west end parents a middle school that is made up only of high-performing, non-min-ority children.

Then, there are people such as me who are ambivalent about taking the best students from each school in Rockaway to make one "super-school."

I still think that it is bad policy to denude several schools of their best students to make one really good school.

On the other hand, I can understand the angst of those parents who have gifted students and want them addressed educationally in the best setting possible – and that includes both minority and non-minority parents.

I am still opposed to putting sixth graders – eleven-year-olds – in a school such as Beach Channel with all of its attendant problems and its sixteen and seventeen-year-old students.

Would you want to put your eleven-year-old child in a building alongside a seventeen-year-old? I didn’t think so.

In any case, the change is coming and coming quickly.

The old Community School Board will be leaving in June. The new Community Education Councils, which will have few Rockaway representatives, will begin its work (whatever work the DOE will allow it to have) in July.

In September, the year begins anew. This will be an interesting and somewhat pivotal year for both the system and the parents.

I will enjoy watching it unfold from the outside. After 33 years, it is nicer being on the outside when it comes to our schools.

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