FRHS Off One List, On Another, More Change Needed
With much ado, Far Rockaway High School was removed from one of the Department of Education’s most notorious lists on Monday. After a year on the “Most Dangerous Schools” list, FRHS was removed at a news conference at the school attended by all the usual suspects – Mayor Michael Bloomberg, School Chancellor Joel Klein, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and a myriad of others, including Region Five Superintendent Kathleen Cashin and the school’s new principal, Denise Hallett. After touring the school, the mayor and his entourage gave a 30-minute press conference outside the school’s auditorium with nearly 40 media representatives in attendance. One might call it a media circus. Far Rockaway High School deserved to come off the list. After all, both serious crime (assaults, weapons possession, robbery) and crime in general decreased by 75 percent from last year. Does that mean the school is free from crime, from deadly weapons? Of course not. There is not a school in the city that does not suffer from those kinds of transgressions. What this means, however, is that much of the extra safety services that the school received will slowly be taken away, including extra police officers and extra school security agents. We hope that next year will not find the school being put back on the list, which is more formally called “The Impact Schools List.” At the same time, and with much less fanfare, Far Rockaway High School was placed on another, less-notorious list. It is now officially a “School Under Register Review” or SURR School. What that means is that scores on standardized tests are low and have remained low for the past few years. The school now has three years to come up with a plan, implement it and get scores up, at least fractionally. If not, the school could be closed and reorganized as a passel of smaller schools. That would be a shame, because the schools proud name, with more than 100 years of alumni, would disappear forever. Perhaps that is the reason for the designation. The Department of Education is not talking about the possibility. The SURR designation will bring new educational resources to the school at the same time is it losing safety sources, although safety and educational prowess are so closely entwined that the are really one and the same. More change is needed to bring FRHS back to where it becomes a respected member of the community. The region must open a Second Opportunity School to house disruptive students. It must take discipline seriously. That is the key to revitalizing a once-great school.