2009-12-18 / Top Stories

Lots Of Angry Questions; Few Answers At BCHS Meeting

By Howard Schwach

City Councilman Eric Ulrich speaks at the BCHS meeting on Tuesday night while Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and UFT Chapter Chairperson David Pecoraro await their turns. City Councilman Eric Ulrich speaks at the BCHS meeting on Tuesday night while Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and UFT Chapter Chairperson David Pecoraro await their turns. District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay looked like a hockey goalie unable to stop the slap shots coming at her hot and heavy in the Beach Channel High School auditorium on Tuesday night.

A question about where the majority of students would go after the school was phased out and closed.

"I can't answer that question," Lloyd- Bay said.

A question about where teachers would find new jobs and whether or not they would be fired should they not find a new position in a year.

"I don't have that information," Lloyd-Bay said.

A question about why the school did not receive the support it needed to stay afloat, support that has already been promised for the new school that will take the place of BCHS.

"I wasn't involved, and I really can't answer that question," she said.

About 125 parents, students, school alumni and staff gathered in the auditorium on Tuesday night to find answers as to why their school was being closed and what would happen next.

Department of Education representative Ewel Napier speaks as District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay backs him up. Department of Education representative Ewel Napier speaks as District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay backs him up. Because the district's high school superintendent was "attending another meeting just like this one elsewhere," Lloyd-Bay, who is the superintendent for elementary and middle schools, was thrown into the breach. As the questions got angrier and her answers more evasive, the meeting turned into a shouting match.

Ewel Napier, the DOE's deputy borough director for the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy, began to read a list of a dozen bullet points about what students and parents should do under the phase-out and closing plan.

Although the plan still has to be voted on in a January 26 meeting in Staten Island, both he and Lloyd-Bay acted and spoke as if it were a done deal.

The school's UFT chairman, Dave Pecoraro, however, says that the city agency is in for a fight.

"More than 2,000 years ago, the Maccabees revolted with a much smaller army and against a greater foe than we face," Pecoraro said. "As long as we are above ground, we have a fighting chance."

Parents and alumni wait to speak. Parents and alumni wait to speak. "The new school slated for this building will seat only 125 kids. We have double that coming in each year. Where will the other kids go?" he asked.

Denise Sheridan, a mother of a special needs student at the school, said that her daughter was getting a good education at the school and that she feared that would change during the phase-out period.

"The city is setting our kids up for failure," she told The Wave outside the auditorium. "I have no idea where my kid will get her services, because I am sure the new school will not take special needs students."

Dr. Davis Morris, the school's principal, was also standing outside the auditorium, as if he were not invited to the meeting.

He declined to comment on the meeting or on the closing of his school.

"We are all soldiers here," Morris said. "We all follow orders."

Parent Denise Sheridan speaks to officials as Democratic District Leader Lew Simon waits. Parent Denise Sheridan speaks to officials as Democratic District Leader Lew Simon waits. Lloyd-Bay added to that when she told the meeting, "We are only messengers here. This is done, and the question is, how do we move forward?"

"The statistics show that this school is no longer equipped to help students move ahead," she added. "The parents have expressed their dissatisfaction and it is time to phase out and close the school."

Maria Camacho, the personnel liaison for the citywide operations center, angered many in the crowd when she said that teachers at the school would have to reapply for their jobs and that only 50 percent of them could be hired for the new school, the others being forced to move into the "open market system."

"Those teachers who are qualified for the new school can be rehired," she said.

When an ex-teacher said that he was confused, because all of the teachers presently in the school had to be qualified to hold their jobs, she answered that the new principal and a panel of others would have to decide whether the teachers were qualified for that school, which brought catcalls and angry shouts.

Special needs teacher Patti Holloran asks where her students will go as other students wait to speak. Special needs teacher Patti Holloran asks where her students will go as other students wait to speak. Where would those teachers who were deemed not qualified find jobs?

Camacho shrugged and said, "They would have to go elsewhere or become district teacher reserves [teachers without jobs who fill in as subs.]"

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announc - ed last week that he is moving to fire all DTRs who have not found a permanent job in one year.

In many cases, however, the excessed teachers are more costly than new teachers, and principals are quicker to hire the cheaper teachers, experts say.

A number of angry parents stood in line to take the microphone to charge that DOE officials set up the school for failure by sending students from the closed Far Rockaway High School who destabilized the school and then by diverting much-needed resources to both the Scholars' Academy and the Channel View School for Research, a school that shares the building with BCHS.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich was angered because no advance notice of the closing was sent to his office and because no plans were apparent for those students who would not be admitted to the new school, which will open next September.

"If they can't get into the new program, there is no place in Rockaway for them to go," Ulrich said. "If they can't get a free bus pass and can't afford public transportation off the peninsula each day, where are they going to go?"

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer was also angered.

"You had a responsibility to have somebody here tonight who can answer these questions," she said. "People came here to find the answers to their concerns and all they get is 'I can't answer that, and the person who can is not here.' "

Democratic District Leader Lew Simon also challenged Lloyd-Bay.

"You force our kids to go off the peninsula for school, then you take away their bus passes and add a toll on the bridge. You have laid-off parents and single parents who can't afford that. Somebody has lost their mind," he said.

There will be another meeting at the school on January 6 at 6 p.m., Napier said. Three members of the city's educational panel will be present and locals can make statements, but no questions will be allowed.

The Educational Priorities Panel will meet on January 26 in Staten Island for a final vote on the closing.

Locals are petitioning the board to move that meeting to a more central location for Rockaway residents.

"It's another example of the way the DOE treats us," a parent said. "There are no schools being closed in Staten Island, and that's where they chose to hold their meeting."

Pecoraro was more sanguine.

"I didn't know that there was a blizzard coming, but this meeting was a real snow job," he said. "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

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