2005-04-15 / Front Page

FRHS On ‘Fast Track’ for Reorganization

By Howard Schwach


This file photo, taken in the 1950’s, shows school principal Monica D. Ryan with auto shop teacher Fred Rathjen at the school. The newly reorganized school will reportedly b ring back vocational subjects such as auto shop.This file photo, taken in the 1950’s, shows school principal Monica D. Ryan with auto shop teacher Fred Rathjen at the school. The newly reorganized school will reportedly b ring back vocational subjects such as auto shop. Far Rockaway High School, which first opened its doors to Rockaway students in 1897, faces Department of Education (DOE) reorganization in September that would see the school broken into four smaller parts and more than half of its present teachers reassigned to other buildings.

While many public high schools that have been reorganized over the past several years have been given new names as well as new programs, it is not clear whether that is going to be the fate of Far Rockaway High School as well.

Far Rockaway High School Principal Denise Hallett speaks with reporters earlier in the year, when the school came off the city’s “Most Dangerous Schools” list.Far Rockaway High School Principal Denise Hallett speaks with reporters earlier in the year, when the school came off the city’s “Most Dangerous Schools” list. “Far Rockaway High School will be redesigned in September because it has been failing for years and is a School Under Register Review (SURR),” a Department of Education Spokesperson told The Wave this week. “It is not, however, going to be renamed.”

Sources close to the school, however, say that the plans include renaming the school to more closely represent the new organization and to “wipe out the poor reputation the school has had over the past decade.”

The high school will reportedly be broken into four smaller “learning communities,” around a theme that will include vocational as well as academic programs, according to a source close to the school, who asked not to be named.

Teachers at the school, many of whom are at risk of being transferred involuntarily under a reorganization plan, first heard of the plan on Monday, April 4, at a hastily-called after school meeting.

“Phyllis Marino, our Local Instructional Supervisor, called us together to tell us that the school had officially been put on the reorganization fast track,” one teacher said. “The rhetoric was that [Region Five] did not want to do this to us, but that the state was insisting.”

Ray Taruskin, the school’s United Federation of Teachers Chapter Chairman, says that the teachers were given no plan, nothing in writing.

“We are so frustrated about this,” Taruskin says. “Teachers are walking around like zombies, trying to find new places to go. They are applying for school-based option (SBO) transfers, waiting for the transfer list to come out. They are scared.”

Under Department of Education guidelines, half of the teachers presently at the school could be reassigned after an application process is completed.

“All of the teachers who want to stay at the school must apply,” Taruskin says. “Half of them may be rehired, but there is no surety that anybody will be rehired.”

Taruskin feels that the teachers are being unfairly targeted and believes that it is not the teachers’ fault that the school is on the SURR list.

“There are a lot of factors that make up a failing school. We had open school day recently,” he said, “and 141 parents showed up for the evening conferences, only 10 for the daytime conferences.”

“Where is parental accountability in all of this,” the UFT chair asks.

A source close to the school told The Wave that the curriculum at the new learning communities would include health careers and other “vocational subjects.”

Taruskin says that he heard the same.

“We are going back to the time where there were vocational and commercial diplomas as well as Regents or academic diplomas,” he says. “Back to the shops.”

He adds that all of the shops with the exception of one wood shop were closed over past years. All of the tools and equipment are gone. At one time, the school had one of the most successful auto shop programs in the city. Several years ago, the school’s principal closed the program and all of the tools and equipment were given away, the school source says.

The reorganization process is expected to begin this month, with the new four learning communities opening their doors in September.

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