2010-12-10 / Top Stories

DOE Announces Closing Of BCHS

By Howard Schwach

Queens High School Superintendent Juan Mendez has announced the phase out and closing of Beach Channel High School. Queens High School Superintendent Juan Mendez has announced the phase out and closing of Beach Channel High School. For the second year in a row, the Department of Education has announced that Beach Channel High School will be phased out and then closed after a three-year period that will allow all of the school’s present students to graduate.

The announcement came as no shock to students, parents or staff.

They had been aware of the process to phase out and close the local comprehensive high school since December of 2009 when Department of Education spokesperson Will Havenann told The Wave, “We went to the school today to announce our proposal to phase out the school. There will be no more incoming freshman classes at the school and it will be closed in three years.”

Of course, that announcement was made prior to a July ruling overturning the entire DOE phaseout program because the DOE had not followed the procedures outlined by the legislature’s school governance act.

Beach Channel High School Beach Channel High School Then, in early November, the DOE issued a list of 47 schools that would be phased out and closed over the next few years, including Beach Channel High School.

Despite that, Queens High School Superintendent Juan Mendez told a small crowd at the school last month, “I was not informed that there is a plan in place to close the school.”

That brought groans from the 100 people, mostly school staff and community activists, in the room. “I am here to listen to parents and staff and to bring back ideas about how to keep the school serving the students of Rockaway,” Mendez added.

Mendez listened to more than a dozen speakers urge him to provide more programs and more resources to the school before giving up and closing it down.

The Department of Education, however, has once again lent a deaf ear to the school cohort and decided to close it down.

In a letter to staff members, Mendez said, “As you know, the Department of Education has been having an in-depth conversation with the Beach Channel High School community about why the school is struggling to serve its students.

Based on a careful analysis of this feedback and a thorough review of the date, the Department of Education today is announcing that it will propose to phase out and replace Beach Channel High School over the next several years.”

In justifying the school closings, Deputy Chancellor Marc Steinberg issued a statement, “Year after year, even as we provided extra help and support, these schools simply have not gotten the job done for children.”

After delivering the letter, Mendez met with staff, many of whom will lose their jobs and were angry at the decision.

Math teacher and United Federation of Teachers chairperson Dave Pecoraro evidenced his displeasure with a copy of a Gilbert and Sullivan song, “The Lord High Executioner.”

Behold the Lord High Executioner, a personage of noble rank and title – a dignified and potent officer, whose functions are particularly vital!

Defer, defer, to the Lord High Executioner!

Defer, defer

To the noble lord, to the Lord High Executioner.

Pecoraro raged at the announcement and at Steinberg’s statement.

“The DOE has taken everything away from us and increased class size over the past years. The class size in schools slated for closure has increased to where it is way over the state average,” Pecoraro said. “They actually reduced extra help and support, not provided it.”

Senior student Gilmary George is the valedictorian of this year’s graduating class.

She is clearly not happy with the program to close her school.

“I think that it’s unfair to close down our school without giving us any kind of chance, without help from the very people who are closing us down,” George said. “If the DOE had given us some help, we would have improved and we have been improving. To call us an F school is wrong. The school has been here for 34 years, and it has become a second home for many students and our friends and teachers have become family. I feel that an important part of my life is being closed down. My alma mater.”

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. thinks that it may be the school’s fault that it is being closed.

“I served for ten years on the board of education, and I learned what it takes for a school to succeed,” said Councilman Sanders. “The fact is that to be successful, certain criteria just have to be met, and too many schools are falling short. I like to call them, the “Magnificent Seven: First and foremost, a school needs good educational leaders; principals and assistant principals with the experience and vision to cultivate a positive learning program. Second, successful schools need parents who buy in, completely, to the school’s program. Third, a school needs determined and disciplined students. Forth, schools needs committed teachers. Fifth, a successful school needs commitment from the community in which it resides. Sixth, the school needs a worthy program of study. Finally, the city and state must do their part in providing the resources necessary for a school to flourish.”

Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a DOE spokesperson, said that there will be a community meeting to address the phase out process, although no date has yet been set. “The school impact statements will be on our website by next week, as well as the date for the community meeting,” he said. “The city panel will vote on the proposal at its February meeting and everybody will have a chance to comment.”

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