2005-04-15 / Letters

‘Fast Track’ To Oblivion For FRHS?

On April 4, the teachers at Far Rockaway High School were working on their staff development day activities when they were all called together in the school’s auditorium, an unusual occurrence. There, they were addressed by the school’s Local Instructional Supervisor (LIS), Phyllis Marino. They were told by Marino that the state had placed the school on “a reorganization fast track.” Reorganization has been used in many New York City High Schools to close the building, reassign half of its teachers and administrators and then to reopen under a new organization and a new name. When we asked the Department of Education recently whether reorganization was in the cards for FRHS, Region Five Superintendent Kathleen Cashin issued a statement through the DOE’s press office that there were no plans to reorganize FRHS. More recently, however, Cashin released a statement to this paper through the DOE press office that said the school will be reorganized because it has been a School Under Register Review for three years, but that its name would not be changed. A number of people close to the school, however, tell us that the name will be changed to reflect the magnet school that now takes part of the building. We called the State Department of Education, and a spokesperson told us that the state does not place schools on the reorganization list, that the DOE makes that determination. Who is not telling the truth? Will FRHS get a new name, wiping out 100+ years of history, or will the four new schools planned for the building come under the FRHS rubric? We are not sure. What we are sure of, however, is that it would be a shame for Far Rockaway High School to disappear after more than 100 years of service to the Rockaway community. We recently learned, for example, that FRHS is the only high school in the nation (that’s right, in the nation) to have graduated three Nobel Laureates. How’s that for history. The three men are Richard Feynman (recently deceased, whose life was made into a movie, “A Beautiful Mind”), Burton Richter and Baruch S. Blumberg. The latter two are still alive and still working. Richter, who won his Nobel for Physics in 1976, is the Director Emeritus of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Blumberg, who won his Nobel in Medicine in 1976 as well, is the Senior Advisor to the President at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Pennsylvania. In addition, another Nobel Laureate, Dr. Jonas Saulk, attended FRHS but graduated from another city school. Add to that such luminaries as Carl Icahn, Dr. Joyce Brothers and Nancy Lieberman, and you have a history to be proud of – not one to bury under the name of some alternative program that will disappear in a few years. If, in fact, FRHS is on the fast track to oblivion, it is time for the DOE to rethink that change. There are just too many alumni chomping at the bit to fight the change and just too much history to ignore.

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