2005-01-07 / Front Page

FRHS Off ‘Most Dangerous School’ List

UFT Rep Says
By Howard Schwach


Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (left) with Mayor Bloomberg at Far Rockaway High School last Monday. Over the mayor’s left shoulder is school chancellor Joel Klein. They were at the school to announce that it had been taken off the list of the city’s “most dangerous” schools.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (left) with Mayor Bloomberg at Far Rockaway High School last Monday. Over the mayor’s left shoulder is school chancellor Joel Klein. They were at the school to announce that it had been taken off the list of the city’s “most dangerous” schools.

Almost a year to the day that Far Rockaway High School (FRHS) was placed on the city’s infamous “The Most Dangerous Schools” list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, School Chancellor Joel Klein and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly traveled to the school to announce the removal of the school and four others from the list.

Chancellor Joel Klein and an aide leave Far Rockaway High School.
Chancellor Joel Klein and an aide leave Far Rockaway High School. During the time that FRHS was an “Operation Impact” school, major crime, robbery, weapons possession, and assault, as well as overall crime in the building fell 75 percent.

“Students have the right to go to school without worrying about their safety,” Mayor Bloomberg said at a press conference held nearby the school’s auditorium. “There was a culture of disorder, disrespect, and disregard for the rules that ruined the educational opportunities for everyone.”

“Students in the school have a new saying,” he added, “and that is ‘We are rock solid. You can’t shake the rock.’”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks with reporters in front of the school. 
Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks with reporters in front of the school. While Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters at the news conference that his officers would not totally abandon the schools coming off the impact list, there would be a diminution of officers responding from the safety task force. He added that the school would still have more officers in coming months than it did prior to going on the list.

Ray Taruskin, who is both the dean and the United Federation of Teacher’s chapter leader at the school thinks that being removed from the list might become a negative.

FRHS Principal Denise Hallett speaks with reporters of daily papers after the press conference. Repeated calls to Hallett from The Wave seeking comment went unreturned.
FRHS Principal Denise Hallett speaks with reporters of daily papers after the press conference. Repeated calls to Hallett from The Wave seeking comment went unreturned. “Nothing comes without a price,” Taruskin told The Wave. “This is nothing to rejoice about.”

He admits that things are better at the school than they were last year at this time, when the school was added to the list. He points out that the extra funding and security that came with the designation made all the difference.

“We have more police officers, more school security officers now,” he says. “We have a twilight program that brings disruptive kids to school at 2:30 p.m., when the other kids are gone. We have an after-school detention program, which we never had before.”

He worries that all of those programs will disappear with the reduced funding that comes with moving off the list. He fears that things might already be changing.

On Wednesday, the day The Wave spoke with Taruskin, there were two girls arrested in the school for a disruptive fight and a boy arrested for possession of marijuana.

The dean says that many of the more experienced teachers are still looking to leave the school. He argues that the school’s Local Instructional Supervisor (LIS), Phyllis Marino has ordered the new principal to give Unsatisfactory (U) ratings to the more experienced teachers.

“The LIS is running the school,” he charged. “All of the supervisors simply do what Kathleen Cashin tells them to do.”

“Teachers once had the feeling that this school was a family,” he added. “Now, the only feeling among teachers is fear.”

While FRHS and four others came off the list, six schools were added, including John Bowne High School and Springfield Gardens High School in Queens.

A number of Democratic politicians reacted to Bloomberg’s FRHS press conference.

Manhattan Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, who heads the council’s Education Committee, said that the mayor’s focus on putting police in the schools ignores the roots of the problem.

“Putting more police in the schools is not a long-term solution,” she said.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum added, “More cops in the schools does not sound like crime is down. It sounds like we’re turning our schools into armed camps. We need to fix the gross overcrowding in large high schools,” she added. “That will bring down crime and keep it down. What our kids need is not a cop at every corner.”

The day after his visit to Far Rockaway High School, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the school had been added to the state’s list of schools under register review (SURR). Those schools face closure after three years should they not improve student scores on standardized tests.

The DOE was contacted on Tuesday for permission to speak with the school’s principal. That permission was granted and several calls were made to the school for the principal’s comment on this story. None of the calls were returned by press time.

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