2010-01-08 / Top Stories

DOE Officials Called ‘Liars’ At Contentious BCHS Meeting

By Howard Schwach

About 250 people, many of them school staff, parents and alumni attended the meeting on Wednesday night at the school. About 250 people, many of them school staff, parents and alumni attended the meeting on Wednesday night at the school. Amid chants of “Liars, liars,” “This is our school,” and “Keep Beach Channel open,” several Department of Edu - cation officials attempted to hold a mandated meeting at which they were supposed to listen to resident’s concerns about the closing of Beach Channel High School Wednesday night at the school auditorium.

The meeting was contentious from the start.

School Leadership Team and UFT chair Dave Pecoraro seized the microphone from Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, who was chairing the meeting, demanding that an agenda, which included a question and answer session, be adopted. He asked the audience for its vote, getting a resounding yes, but Grimm ruled him out of order.

“You are the one out of order, Pecoraro angrily told Grimm. This is our school and we’ll run the meeting our way.”

DOE, UFT and District 27 officials at the meeting included, from left, Monica Ayuso, Queens High School Repre sen - tative, UFT; Kathleen Grimm, Deputy Chancellor for Infrastructure and Portfolio Planning, DOE; Isabel Dimola, Superin tendent for High Schools, District 21 and Coralanne Griffith-Hunt, First Vice Presi dent for Community Education Council 27. DOE, UFT and District 27 officials at the meeting included, from left, Monica Ayuso, Queens High School Repre sen - tative, UFT; Kathleen Grimm, Deputy Chancellor for Infrastructure and Portfolio Planning, DOE; Isabel Dimola, Superin tendent for High Schools, District 21 and Coralanne Griffith-Hunt, First Vice Presi dent for Community Education Council 27. Grimm quieted the audience and began to read the Department of Education’s Impact Statement for the school, detailing why it is to be closed and the timeline for the phase-out and closure of the comprehensive high school.

At each statistic suggesting that the school should be closed, the audience chanted, “Liars, liars.”

“We’ve already heard that,” the audience yelled, chanting “Keep Beach Channel open, keep Beach Channel open.”

BCHS Senior Chris Petrillo gave a PowerPoint presentation that had the audience standing and clapping. BCHS Senior Chris Petrillo gave a PowerPoint presentation that had the audience standing and clapping. Pecoraro then announced senior Chris Petrillo, who has become one of the student leaders on this issue, would give a PowerPoint presentation on why the school should be kept open.

Grimm ruled that he would have two minutes later in the meeting.

“Let him speak,” let him speak,” the audience chanted, not allowing Grimm to keep reading the impact statement.

Other scheduled speakers agreed to give their time to Petrillo so that he could make his presentation.

“So much for students first,” Pecoraro told Grimm.

She finally relented and Petrillo gave a ten-minute presentation that had the audience on its feet, clapping for the student, whose eighteenth birthday was on the day of the meeting.

Petrillo told the DOE and District 27 representatives that there are myriad reasons for keeping the school open. He countered the statistics read by Grimm with proof from the DOE’s website that the statistics were not true.

School Leadership Team member and UFT Chair Dave Pecoraro demanded that the meeting run on the school’s agenda, not the DOE’s. School Leadership Team member and UFT Chair Dave Pecoraro demanded that the meeting run on the school’s agenda, not the DOE’s. He listed the programs at the school that kept students interested and involved, many of which had been cut by the DOE over the past three years.

“You set up the Channel View School here and then gave them resources that were taken away from us, and then you tell us we are no good and have to close,” Petrillo told Grimm, who sat stoically listening to the presentation. “If there is any failure at this school, it is on the head of the DOE.”

Of the 250 people at the meeting, many of them school and DOE officials and security personnel, more than 70 spoke.

Several alumni, many of them in college or college graduates, told the panel of the excellent education they received at the school and how it changed their lives.

Several politicians, including City Councilmen Eric Ulrich and James Sanders Jr., as well as representatives for Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer spoke, urging the panel to recommend that the school be kept open.

Many of the speakers challenged Grimm, asking why the resources to make the school better were withheld and provided to other schools such as Channel View and the Scholars’ Academy.

“This is your failure, not ours,” said one alumnus presently attending the University of Connecticut. “You clearly killed this school and now you want to give all of its resources to a new school that will not service Rockaway students.”

Several speakers told Grimm and the others at the front of the room, that they knew their statements would not count for much.

“I know that you don’t want to hear from us, but you have to by law. I know that you are not listening to us, because this is a done deal, so thanks for nothing,” one special educator told the panel. “Thank you for coming and telling us your thoughts,” Grimm said after all of the speakers had finished.

Officials will vote on January 26 at a meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School on the proposal to phase out and close the school.

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