2010-01-22 / Editorial/Opinion

Rockaway Needs A Comprehensive High School

Next Tuesday, the Department of Education’s Educational Priorities Panel will meet to vote on whether a number of city schools will be phased out and closed. Among those schools is Beach Channel High School, the only comprehensive high school on the peninsula since the closing of Far Rockaway High School. The Department of Education says that it is doing the right thing in closing the school and that it has given both the school community and the wider Rockaway community a chance to comment on the proposal. In fact, it has not. At the first meeting, where questions were allowed, the main DOE representative present, District Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey, could not answer the great majority of the questions she was asked. There were lots of questions and few answers. At the second meeting, hosted by Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, she was imperious in attempting to keep the meeting to the DOE’s agenda of statements only, but was moved by the chanting crowd to allow senior student Chris Petrillo to give a PowerPoint presentation pointing out just why the school should be kept open. It was clear from both meetings that the vote on January 26 is pro forma and that the mayor and his chancellor have already made the decision to clear the building of local students so that others may have it for a favored charter school, probably the one sponsored by State Senator Malcolm Smith. That will leave hundreds of the less-favored Rockaway students – special needs students and English Language Learners – out in the cold and travelling to the mainland for an education in already overcrowded buildings. That should not happen, and local politicians such as City Councilman Eric Ulrich are working hard to see that it doesn’t happen. School staff members, led by UFT chair Dave Pecoraro, have also been working hard to see the school stay alive, as has a group of students led by Petrillo, who has joined with student leaders in some of the other schools slated to be closed by the mayor. It is difficult to see how their diligence will pay off, but there is always hope until the last vote is taken, and that will be next Tuesday night.

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