2007-11-30 / Front Page

FRHS Transfers Bedevil BCHS

By Howard Schwach

The opening months at Beach Channel High School were marred this year by a spate of disruptive incidents, including drug possession, weapons possession, fighting, insubordination to school security agents and staff, and even an attack on the school's dean. Most of these incidents were perpetrated by students who were transferred to the Rockaway Park school from Far Rockaway High School, officials and school staff say.

School Security Agents surround Beach Channel High School at dismissal time shortly after an incident in October in which a group of present and former Far Rockaway High School students beat up a BCHS student in the school cafeteria. Shortly after that incident, the DOE placed BCHS on its "Impact Schools" list, denoting it as a dangerous school. School Security Agents surround Beach Channel High School at dismissal time shortly after an incident in October in which a group of present and former Far Rockaway High School students beat up a BCHS student in the school cafeteria. Shortly after that incident, the DOE placed BCHS on its "Impact Schools" list, denoting it as a dangerous school. In all, sources say, more than 50 students who are zoned to attend Far Rockaway High School because they live nearby showed up at Beach Channel High School in September with transfers in hand.

A Beach Channel High School staff member, who asked not to be identified because he had no permission to speak with the press, said that many of the transfers were problem students.

"Some of them had criminal records, some had been suspended for fighting and for theft," the source said. "Others were gang members in their home neighborhoods and were at war with the gang members at Beach Channel [High School] even before they got here."

The source told The Wave that two administrators at the school outlined the problems caused by the newcomers in a memo that was sent to Department of Education officials.

While this newspaper was denied access to the memo by DOE officials, a source at the school said that the memo detailed the problems caused by the transfers, including the 50 who came from Far Rockaway High School. In addition, 16 other transfers came to BCHS from alternative programs, including some who had been incarcerated. Eleven came from full-day special education programs, including the hospital day school program.

"[The transferred students] caused lots of mayhem in the building for the first few months," the source said. "From the beginning of September until mid-October, more than 25 of those students were involved in disciplinary actions, some of them very severe. They were a real problem."

Last month, the DOE placed BCHS on its list of "Impact Schools," those that require special attention and more school security resources.

That designation came after an incident where a Far Rockaway High School student got into the building and joined transfers from that school in beating another student in the cafeteria.

And, while the DOE admits that there were many problematic transfers to Beach Channel High School, a spokesperson said that the school was not being singled out in any way.

"Beach Channel has not been singled out as a dumping ground for troubled students," deputy press secretary Andrew Jacob told New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman. "I don't see how anyone can make the argument that one school is being favored or disfavored over any other."

He said that many of the Far Rockaway students were sent to Beach Channel simply because that school had open seats and is close to Far Rockaway.

"There is nothing out of the ordinary about the process of getting their transfers," he added. Any large high school in the city is going to be dealing with students from a wide variety of backgrounds."

David Pecoraro, the United Federation of Teachers chairperson at the school, however, was not too sure that the transfers were not intentional.

"Right now, things are quiet," Pecoraro told The Wave on Tuesday. "The math was there and we had major incidents with the Far Rockaway kids early in the year. Not all the kids, of course, but many of them caused major problems."

"I haven't figured out how [the transfer system] works; who comes here and who doesn't," he said. "The bottom line is that we're doing what we're paid to do - educating students."

"I don't know if the DOE didn't think about [the transfers]," he said. "The worst thing would be if they did think about it and they're planning for the demise of Beach Channel."

"If I really believed that they did it on purpose," Pecoraro added, "I would have blown V-8 about it because the people at the DOE are dealing with a subject they obviously know nothing about."

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