2009-12-25 / Top Stories

Take Fight To Tweed Courthouse

Urge Officials To Keep BCHS Open
By Howard Schwach

Paul Egan, Dan Halloran, Elizabeth Crowley, Eric Ulrich, David Weprin, John Liu, Al Vann, Ydanis Rodriguez and Eric Gioi at Tweed Courthouse on Monday. photo by William Charles alatriste; Paul Egan, Dan Halloran, Elizabeth Crowley, Eric Ulrich, David Weprin, John Liu, Al Vann, Ydanis Rodriguez and Eric Gioi at Tweed Courthouse on Monday. photo by William Charles alatriste; Local politicians and students who do not want Beach Channel High School to close have taken the fight to Tweed Courthouse, the headquarters of the city’s Department of Education (DOE).

On Monday, Councilmembers Eric A. Ulrich and Elizabeth Crowley organized a press conference to protest the proposed closure of Beach Channel High School in Rockaway Park, as well as other schools throughout the city.

Ulrich and Crowley were joined by NYC Comptroller-elect John Liu, Councilmembers Eric Gioia (DQueens), David Weprin (D-Queens), Al Vann (D-Brooklyn), Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan), Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), and Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan). Paul Egan, Political Director of the United Federation of Teachers was also on hand to represent the teachers union.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich speaks at the recent BCHS meeting, urging that it be allowed to remain open. City Councilman Eric Ulrich speaks at the recent BCHS meeting, urging that it be allowed to remain open. On Wednesday, as The Wave was going to press, BCHS senior Chris Petrillo was meeting with School Chancellor Joel Klein in an attempt to convince Klein that the school should not close, but instead should be provided with the staff and resources that were taken away two years ago, a reduction that Petrillo believes led to the recent announcement that the school would be phased out and closed.

Two weeks ago the DOE announced that, beginning in the 2010-2011 school year, Beach Channel High School will be phased out of operation. Under the proposal, Beach Channel will phase out one grade per year for the next three years and will close completely in June 2013. Beach Channel currently has more than 1,300 enrolled students. According to the DOE, the proposal to close Beach Channel is based on the department’s determination that the school lacks capacity to improve student performance.

Ulrich said, “Beach Channel High School is a vital resource to the students living on the Rockaway Peninsula. The Department of Education is turning its back on these students and abandoning our community.”

Councilmembers Ulrich and Crowley also unveiled a petition to the Schools Chancellor that they circulated among their colleagues in the Queens delegation, urging the DOE not to close the schools and to refocus its resources on addressing student needs.

The petition was signed by all recently elected councilmembers from the borough with the exception of James Gennaro. The petition, which said, “We, the undersigned City Council members stand in strong opposition to the use of public school closures as a means of addressing student needs,” will be delivered to the Tweed Building before the New Year.

Petrillo told The Wave earlier this week that the problems at the school had been caused by a 2008 budget cut that reduced the school staff by 32 and led to the destruction of the vaunted Learning Communities program that allowed students to focus on core subjects and themebased learning.

Each of the four learning communities addressed a different theme and each was taught by a discrete group of teachers that got to know the students, their strengths and educational needs.

That program was effectively eviscerated by the budget cut, Petrillo said.

It was not clear at press time what the movement to keep the school open has brought, but a meeting will be held in the school auditorium at 6 p.m. on January 6, at which time locals will have a chance to voice their opinion to members of the Education Priorities Panel.

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