2008-12-12 / Front Page

PS 225 To Close, Will Become Two New Schools

By Howard Schwach

Public School 225, a long-troubled school in Rockaway Park, will be closed by the Department of Education in June, to morph eventually into two separate schools - a pre-k to fifth grade organization and a middle school organization, each with its own administration, curriculum and funding.

PS 225, located at Beach 110 Street in Rockaway Park, will be closed by the Department of Education in June and reopened in September as two separate units -  an elementary school unit and a middle school unit, each with its own administration and curriculum. PS 225, located at Beach 110 Street in Rockaway Park, will be closed by the Department of Education in June and reopened in September as two separate units - an elementary school unit and a middle school unit, each with its own administration and curriculum. Students at the school, located on Beach 110 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, were given notices to bring home to their parents late on Thursday, December 4, but teachers were not officially notified of the fact that they may not have a job in September until a meeting after the school day ended.

While the DOE sent a team of central board administrators to the meeting to answer questions and provide information about future employment, some teachers were dissatisfied with both the decision and the process, which will force experienced teachers to remain on salary as substitute teachers until they personally can find another teaching job in the system.

Some disgruntled teachers told The Wave on Monday morning that students chided them and told them that they were going to be fired, something that they believe is a problem, because they still have to teach those same students for the next five months.

"Once again the DOE got it all wrong," a teacher, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said. "They never talked to anybody about the possibility of closing, and then they notified the kids before they told the staff." Outside the school on Monday afternoon, the reaction of parents to the closing was mixed. Some parents refused to comment on the situation, others spoke only after assurance that they would not be named. "It's about time they closed this school," one parent said. "It is dangerous and the principal has lost control of the building.

There are a lot of fights inside the school, and it needs to be changed."

Another parent says he agrees with the closing, but not with the way it was being done.

"Why weren't we consulted? Why weren't we told last September, so that we could find another place for our kids? Why now?" he asked.

Others were outspoken about the process.

"This school was closed once before. They got rid of all the teachers, some of who were very good," the mother said. "They kept the administration and the kids, who are the real problems in the school. What good did it do?"

That reference was to the March, 2005 "reorganization" of the school by the DOE.

At the time, more than two-thirds of the teachers had to find new jobs. Those teachers who wanted to remain at the school had to reapply and be accepted by the administration, led by principal Matthew Melchiorre, which remained in place during the reorganization. A second assistant principal was added to the school as well.

It was unclear at press time as to whether or not Melchiorre and other members of the present administration would be retained after this reorganization.

Melody Meyer, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, said that the issue of supervisors remaining in the new schools is still under discussion.

"Some of the administrators will stay on during the phase out period, and others will leave for other positions," Meyer said. "That is all still under discussion."

She added that teachers presently in the school will have priority in applying for any open spots in the two new schools that will begin in September.

Under Melchiorre's leadership, the school has had a troubled recent past.

In February of 2007, an incident in which some milk was spilled on an older student by an elementary student led to a fight in the cafeteria that grew so large that police were called in and a student was arrested.

In November of 2007, an anonymous white parent charged the school with "Black Racism," arguing that white students were treated unfairly by the administration. That same month, a parent who entered the schoolyard to break up a fight in which several students had attacked his son was arrested by school security officials.

DOE officials say, however, that the closing is not due to past incidents at the school, but to its academic performance.

Meyer said that the school was being closed because it received a D on its most recent report card and has shown little progress to meet its educational goals over past years. She added that grades pre-k to 3 will close in June of 2009 and will be replaced with a new school that is scheduled to open in September of 2009. Grades 4 and 5 will phase out, Meyer said. The current grade 3 students will be the last students to complete grade 5 at the school in June of 2011. Grades 6 to 8 will also phase out, she says. The current grade 6 class will be the last students to complete grade 8 in June of 2011.

The new elementary school will open in September with grades pre-k to 3 and will grow each year to eventually serve grades pre-k to 5. Current pre-k to grade 2 students will be given priority admission to the new elementary school unit.

A new middle school will open its doors in September with grade 6 and will eventually grow to grades 6 to 8. Current grade 5 students in the building will be given priority admission to the new middle school, Meyer said.

She added that a number of other school closings would be announced over the next few weeks. A source close to the situation said this week that it was widely expected that Beach Channel High School would be one of the schools to be closed and reorganized into several smaller units.

One parent seemed to sum up the feelings of many of the parents outside the school.

"They're going to keep the same principal and the same kids. What kind of change will that bring?" he asked.

The DOE will hold a special meeting at the school at 7:30 p.m. on December 15 for the District Leadership Team. That team is made up of the Community Education Council president, the presidents of the parents' associations in the district, the UFT district representative and other officials.

"I know that some people are skeptical about the process," Meyer said, "but this is a genuine effort to get everybody's input about what they want for the new schools."

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