2005-04-08 / Front Page

PS 114 To Get New Principal

By Howard Schwach

Sometime next month, Brian O’Connell will leave his post as principal of Public School 114 in Belle Harbor, moving instead to take the reins of the new Scholar’s Academy at Middle School 180 in Rockaway Beach. He will be replaced by Steven Grill, who will be moving from his post as an assistant principal in a Brooklyn elementary school to take over the Belle Harbor school.

Moving O’Connell, a Belle Harbor resident to the new gifted program was discussed as early as last year, when Region Five Superintendent Kathleen Cashin announced that beginning with the 2005-2006 school year, Middle School 180 would no longer be a zoned middle school, but would house only a gifted program for Rockaway students to be called The Scholar’s Academy.

Parents have been looking for at least five years for such a transition for the troubled middle school, which not too long ago was called “The School of Champions.”

Many parents, especially those from PS 114 whose children were zoned to MS 180 sent their more advanced students to Brooklyn magnet schools rather than keeping them on the peninsula because they perceived that MS 180 was a dangerous school. Region Five officials have publicly stated that they hope that the new program entailing an advanced Regents program will keep those students off the buses and in Rockaway schools.

“This is going to be a very rigorous program,” Kathleen Cashin said this week. “It is going to be fully integrated in terms of curriculum and diversity.”

This coming school year only, however, the school will also house a traditional eighth grade made up of students who have the right to finish their terminal year at the school. The eighth grade unit will be housed on the third floor and segregated from the students who attend the Scholar’s Academy, one school expert who is conversent with the region’s plans told The Wave.

Grill, a widower who lives in Manalapan, New Jersey, with his 23-year-old son, Mark, told The Wave that he is looking forward to taking over the school, which is arguably the best in the district.

Grill has 19 years as an educator, the last 4 as an assistant principal in a Brooklyn school which includes grades 3 to 5. In addition, he told The Wave, he is an instructor in the Education Department at Touro College.

“I came to Rockaway many a summer when I was growing up in Brooklyn,” he says. “I don’t know Rockaway well, but I am certainly not a stranger.”

Grill said that he is looking forward to a “smooth transition” into his new slot in late May and has spoken many times with O’Connell over the telephone and in person.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with the community.”

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