2008-01-18 / Community

Peninsula Preparatory Demands DOE Retraction

By Nicholas Briano

Officials at the Peninsula Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Far Rockaway, wonder how New York State Department of Education can consider a school to be in good standing, while New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) rankings show the school as failing.

Therefore, the Board of Trustees members of the local charter school were enraged when they were told that they received an "F" on the NYCDOE controversial progress report card system. They therefore, have called for a retraction of the failing grade and a reevaluation of the fledgling school.

Peninsula Preparatory Academy (PPA) representatives visited The Wave this week to plead their case, assuring people they are doing great things for education in the community. They told Wave editors that they plan to go full steam ahead in showing the NYCDOE that their failing progress report grade should be reevaluated and retracted.

Rosalind O'Neal, who was appointed Board of Trustee's Chairperson in October last year, stated that the NYCDOE evaluation jumped the gun since there were numerous components of the grading system that were not yet in place at PPA. Therefore, the NYCDOE could not accurately and objectively evaluate the school's overall performance.

"The DOE's grading evaluation was done prematurely, O'Neal said. "One of the criteria is a graduating class when evaluating a school. Our inaugural class doesn't even graduate until June of this year. I think that would have helped offer a better quality review of our school."

Therefore, Peninsula feels a retraction is the only solution and says that they are even prepared to take legal action against the city if necessary. However, O'Neal and Peninsula Preparatory think it won't come to that. They feel confident that the NYCDOE will retract their grades when additional evidence and further evaluation of the success they are claiming is presented to them. Much to the benefit of PPA, The NYCDOE has been cited to have changed a school's report card grade in a number of cases since the reports were issued nearly two months ago.

"We have to vigilantly move ahead to get this corrected," O'Neal said. "We are looking for a retraction because this was done too soon and not done properly."

Despite the fact that she is not concerned about the recent negativity in regard to their future successes, they are still up for renewal of their current charter, which determines if they can operate as an educational institution. She is still optimistic, however, that everything will work out because of the number of people supporting their efforts.

"Our supporters and parents are on board," O'Neal said. "They know what we're about here and what we're doing."

"We need people to know that we have a track record of excellence." O'Neal continued. "And the DOE has to know that a good name of a good school has been tarnished and they have to make sure everything is set right."

The schools representatives also claim that the NYCDOE is using a separate formula than that used by the state in assessing a school's performance. The New York State School Report Card does state that Peninsula Preparatory is in overall "Good Standing". Tonyia DosSantos, PPA Parent Teacher Organization President, claims that the DOE only sampled 27 of the more than 200 children that are currently enrolled, something she clearly feels misrepresents the school and its efforts.

"I don't understand this or why they would do this to us when a large percentage of our students are clearly functioning beyond state and city standards," DosSantos said.

Peninsula wants to know how the NYCDOE can possibly come up with a different outcome than that of the state DOE, for the same school. If a retraction is to happen however, their demand will have to be met by The DOE Accountability Department next week in an effort that would save the school founded by State Minority Senate Leader, Malcolm Smith from their "tarnished" reputation as a failed school.

The timing for Peninsula Preparatory is arguably bad. They find themselves on the defensive right now because they feel an inaccurate and improper focus is being put on their institution at a time when growth and development for PPA was supposed to reign supreme. The school is slated to move into a temporary space at Arverne By The Sea, while awaiting a new facility that they hope will serve as the educational cornerstone for the newly developed community. Although unofficial, it has been rumored that PPA may have the inside track on landing Benjamin/Beechwood, LLC's bid for the new school.

Peninsula Preparatory will move into their temporary module by the start of the next school year. Despite the negative spotlight put on their school recently, they say that the developers, Benjamin/Beechwood, LLC, and the parents of the school are excited about the move. PPA is applying for a revision in their charter to eventually include grades K-12 as well as after school programs.

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