BCHS Quality Review: ‘Proficient’
“Beach Channel is a large comprehensive high school that through leadership, vision and resource management skills of its principal is starting to emerge from a period of academic poverty,” the DOE’s own report says. “The road has been long and challenging but one which the entire staff appreciates, is beginning to reap the rewards for their endeavors and sustainability. The students respond by attending more regularly, participating more fully in the life of the school and leaving many of their personal issues at the gates of the building.”
The nine-page report, which calls the school “Proficient,” says that “much of this transition [from academic poverty to proficiency] is due to the formation of a number of small learning communities within the large school.”
“Establishing the school’s small learning communities is a major factor in raising attendance and in the development of a safe and secure environment for learning,” the Quality Review report says.
Yet, it is these very learning communities that the DOE “imploded” last year by cutting staff and increasing the number of students in each class, some of the school’s senior students charge.
Chris Petrillo, who will be 18 shortly after the present school break, says that, for him and his fellow Voyager Learning Community students, the problems began with last year’s cuts to the school budget.
Petrillo, who has been in the learning community for all of his BCHS career, told The Wave on Monday that the program was really good for the first three years he was in it.
“We had 20 students in a class and a group of teachers assigned just to the learning community,” he said. “Each of the four learning communities were themed. We could zero in on one area – like Science – and we really got a good education.”
Then, at the end of his sophomore year, the DOE made massive budget cuts in the school, excessing 32 staff members.
A number of teachers who taught the learning communities were cut. Class sizes went to 35 from 20 and some classes were cut entirely.
“We now have learning communities in name only,” Petrillo, who is leading the student drive to keep the school open, said.
Gerlisa Hills, 18, another senior in the same learning community agrees.
“All the good education ended,” she said. “The school did not have money for the number of teachers the program needed, and most of the teachers who left were from the learning communities. I have a stake in this building. My parents went here and my sisters. This is really going to impact the kids who want to come [to BCHS].”
“When the budget was cut, Beach Channel did not have enough money to sustain the small learning communities, which had been working so well,” Petrillo added. “The students lost the structured, nurturing environment that these communities provided.”
Opponents of the closing say that the school lost all of the better students to both the Channel View School for Research, which shares the same building with BCHS, and the Scholars’ Academy, the district’s gifted magnet school, which is right across the street.
The DOE website says that the school houses 1,330 students. Of those, 240 receive English as a Second Language services and 239 have In - dividual Education Plans denoting special education services. That means more than one-third of the students at the comprehensive high school have special needs.
The DOE held a public meeting to announce the closing and to address questions from the school community and local residents.
At that meeting, held at the school on December 15, District Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay told the 125 participants that the school had to close because it was no longer serving its students.
Lloyd-Bay 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.”
Yet, according to the results of the last school survey, completed in the 2008-2009 school year, statistics on the DOE’s own website show that, while less than half of the parents completed the survey, of those who responded, 81 percent of the parents said that they were “happy” with the education their children were getting at BCHS.
In addition, 83 percent of those parents who responded said that they had an adequate opportunity to be involved in their child’s educational experience.
Why then, if the parents are not unhappy with the school and it re - ceived a “proficient” rating, is the school being closed?
Lloyd-Bay, who is not responsible for the district’s high school, but was the only local school official present at the last meeting, did not return calls for clarification.
It seems, however, that the DOE is sending a mixed message by closing a school that the agency itself says is improving.
One of the areas in which the school is doing well, the Quality review says, is working with fewer teachers and less money.
“The school’s use of a diminishing array of resources does not affect student learning,” the report says.
The Education Priorities Panel, which has to vote on January 26 whether or not to phase out and close the school, will host a community meeting in the school auditorium at 6 p.m. on January 6.
At that meeting, three commissioners will hear community comments, but there will be no questions allowed.