2005-05-06 / Sports

Far Rockaway Students Are Affected In School Reorganization

By Elio Velez Sports Columnist

The name of Far Rockaway High School is synonymous with success in sports throughout the city. There have been so many achievements that a lost of them would be a mile long but a few can be mentioned.

There have been many highlights in football with the Seahorses capturing the city championship in 1957 and 1972. In basketball, FRHS’ John Warren played for the 1972-73 New York Knicks’ championship team and Oliver Taylor starred at Seton Hall in the early 1990’s. Nancy Lieberman helped to revolutionize women basketball and became the youngest person to be chosen for the Olympics in 1976.

Where sports play an important role in the school spirit, it always comes down to academics. In recent years, Far Rockaway has struggled with low graduation rates and also being named one of the 12 worst schools in violence in the city.

If sports are judged by wins and losses, then as a school, Far Rockaway hasn’t won much of late. But it didn’t mean that the teachers, some who are sports coaches as well, gave up the fight.

FRHs have kept battling, like being down in a basketball game and fighting their way back to tie the score. In January, they were taken off the 12 worst schools list. Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein praised the teachers and administrators for making it a safe environment to teach. There was a growing morale for students and teachers and Far Rockaway was about tie the game.

But then New York State came in and called a damaging foul that ruined not only the game but the livelihood of everyone involved. That foul was being placed on the st closing and the reorganization of the school, which will occur on June 26. The Far Rockaway name, as of that date, will cease to exist as well as most of the teachers’ jobs.

“The community should be aware that 50% of the staff will be let go and the rest must reapply and interview to get their jobs back,” said one Far Rockaway teacher who asked to remain anonymous.

“We don’t know what could happen.”

The UFT seemed to drop the ball by telling Far Rock’s teachers during the spring break that they had only three days before the deadline to submit transfers to other schools. The scramble to either transfer or try to return has caused much dismay throughout the school.

“That hustling part is a problem and it seems to have numbed us. The new teachers who have had that smile and energy have had it wiped off their face. They’ve been demoralized,” the teacher said.

As the teachers await their fate, the Department of Education has gone full speed ahead with their reorganization plan. The basis of the plan will be dividing the school into five small learning communities, which will be added to the Frederick Douglass Academy that is housed within Far Rockaway.

Those schools are: 1) Health Career Institute which will be partnered with York College 2) Business and Computer Tech (Queensboro C.C.) 3) Law, Leadership and Social Justice (St. John’s) 4) Construction and Design Technology (National Center for Construction Education and Research) and 5) a 9th Grade program.

The 9th grade is an interesting development due to the fact it will have double periods of English and Math. It’s an admission by the Department of Education that the middle schools have failed in their teaching; a remedial program will be needed just so the kids can catch up in their studies.

The model of the plan is based on Campus Magnet High School, which changed their name from Andrew Jackson High School in 1994. Though there has been an improvement from the wild violent days of the school in the early 90’s, the academic results are not as good as the Department of Ed has wanted.

In sports, the school will combine all schools into one program. But with different administrations and rules, can the coaches attract enough students and keep tabs on their academic standing?

In the present time, spring sports such as the girls’ soccer, softball and baseball teams are battling to get into the playoffs. But by this time next year, there may be a big hole in the athletic program.

“The kids get hurt by this”, said another teacher who wished to remain anonymous. “The sports program in particular could be in trouble if the kids don’t know what will happen to them in the fall. I do want to stay.”

Some of the teachers I’ve talked to have kept a positive attitude and believe they will return in the fall. There are others who graduated as students from Far Rockaway and returned to teach in their alma mater that may be kicked to the curb.

In the end though, the students always seem to get hurt in the process. There has been no word if the bilingual program, which has seen an influx of immigrant students in recent years, will exist. What will happen to the sports programs if there are no teachers? Where will the kids wind up?

Those only a few questions that need to be answered and fast. Though it’s certain that the Department of Education will push the reorganization through, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be questioned by the community and especially parents. Almuni need to step up also and find out what’s going on. Rockaway needs to step up or the kids will lose the game.

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