2010-11-26 / Columnists

Simon says...

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. art B

We hope everyone had a wonderful joyous Thanksgiving. We’d like to wish our Jewish constituents a happy, healthy Chanukah. May the Festival of Lights bring a miracle and peace on Earth.

Here we go again. Monday evening an illegal meeting called by the new Queens High School Superintendent Juan Mendez was an attempt to start the clock again on closing Beach Channel High School. It was called without sending the required notification to elected officials and three day notice with flyers sent to parents and students to attend.

UFT Chapter Chair David Pecoraro made a point of order that the meeting should be closed down for lack of proper notice. Mendez said he would continue the meeting to get information from the school community.

I reminded Mendez of the features that were once available in BCHS. As an alumnus of the school, I never forgot where I came from. The programs included oceanography, marine biology, TV studio production, cooking, and auto mechanics. The Queens D.A. helped construct a mock trial courtroom. A peer counseling program assisted students. BCHS had the only crew boat racing team in NYC. BCHS was a zoned school for local residents with screened programs for a limited number of outside students admitted to the oceanography and marine biology programs. College courses were available to students and the community.

During the last decade and a half the Board of Education and the Department of Education closed these programs and replaced them with programs for PINS, (persons in need of supervision), students recently released from Riker’s Island, and three special ed programs that were supervised by leaders at other locations. In addition, as neighboring schools like Far Rockaway, John Adams and Richmond Hill were “closed”, unwanted students were dumped into Beach Channel.

Even with these difficulties, the graduation rate at BCHS rose 7 points to 52%. I challenged the superintendent to lobby and get the teachers and programs that BCHS lost back by January 1, 2011. We asked him to help us develop a five year plan to restore the great educational institution that BCHS had been. We want a community high school with some screened students from neighboring communities who have a clear interest in the subjects available.

We questioned the lack of a recording device so that a record could be made of the discussion and suggestions made. Superintendent Mendez did take numerous notes and seemed to be listening to all the comments we made. Mendez has a good record as a successful principal who did great work at Eastern District HS over a thirteen year period.

Many students are looking for vocational programs to prepare them for skilled jobs. BCHS should offer carpentry, plumbing, auto mechanics etc. in conjunction with the trade unions that made our country what it is.

If any of the school leaders do not like their current jobs, they should retire. United we stand, divided we fall. It is time for all the alumni, parents, staff and former staff, community leaders and students to come together and speak with one voice. Children in our community need a state of the art community high school. We are in full support of the outstanding faculty at BCHS. I have spoken to over 25 teachers at BCHS in recent weeks. Many come in early or stay late to work with students. They consider the school a family, working together with the students. We hope that this school superintendent will come together with us to announce a plan to get this school back as the great school it was once before. We looked in vain for pictures or plaques honoring past graduates of the school. Not even Jay Walder, MTA Chair, yours truly or any other outstanding graduate were recognized. They have spent millions to restore the outside walls of the school, now let’s spend a little to restore the outstanding programs there.

On Friday afternoon we attended the annual Rockaway Point Senior Thanksgiving Dinner. They bring together all of the seniors of the Rockaway Point community to celebrate Thanksgiving. Some of these seniors have no family or have family far away. As I always say, it is great to be with them as my family to celebrate and have a great holiday.

This outstanding event is one of the great events of the year. It is run by Chairperson Terri Cassidy and her committee members, who included Barney Cassidy, Ann Court, Joe Kerrigan, Ilene Young, Betty Glennon, Francis Loftus, Catherine Tennyson, Joe and Jerry Gilson, Mary Sweeney, Danny Latham, Ed and Nancy Flaherty, Tom McClennan and yours truly, who helped serve seniors at the holiday dinner.

It is the season of the year to remember our own Marie of the Breezy Dog. Marie will once again be setting up shop in Waldbaum’s Shopping Center, selling Christmas wreaths and trees. We should all come and support Marie as she gives so much back to the community and has beautiful trees and wreathes. Tell her that Lew sent you.

We have been unable to put together a successful AC bus trip since May. We do urge you to send in your dues to have your voice in the community. If you like what we do send your check for $25 to Good Government Regular Democratic Club, 112-20 Beach Channel Drive, Rockaway Park, NY 11694.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of an icon in our community, Gerdi Lipschutz, who served our community with distinction. She died Friday morning at the age of 87. She suffered from diabetes and a broken neck. Gerdi was one of the people responsible for the passage of the bill, written by the late Terrance Flynn Sr., for the toll reduction program on the CBB and Marine Parkway Bridges. When Gerdi resigned as Assemblywoman in 1987, she encouraged me to run for her Assembly seat. Her loss was a major tragedy.

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