2014-03-28 / Columnists

Official Point Of View

PS 106 Should Be A Learning Lesson For All
By Council Member Donovan Richards

Nearly a month ago, I was greeted by an alarming story written by the NY Post about PS 106’s alleged subpar conditions. The story claimed that our children didn’t have access to textbooks and were being denied basic classes such as gym and art.

Many people including myself have asked how did this issue linger so long. There is no reason our children should miss out on gym, art, and curriculum that is so desperately needed in our community. There is also no excuse for those in charge of our children’s educations to be the ones skipping school.

Just last week, I officially called on the principal of PS 106 to step aside based on the results of the Department of Investigation’s findings. The whole fiasco was a distraction. Our children deserve to be able to attend school without having to deal with alleged scandals and reporters.

This also shows the need to speak truth to power. Community leaders, including my predecessor, have called on prior administrations to expand PS 106 for years, because the school is simply too small for our growing community. Furthermore, after Hurricane Sandy struck, the annex was destroyed, which housed nearly 200 students, and this clearly exasperated the overcrowding issue even further. Thanks to the series of stories by the NY Post and The Wave, we now have an opportunity to keep this issue on the mind of Department of Education and the Mayor’s office. Godwilling, we can bring this much needed expansion for our children.

Although the principal has changed, there is still an enormous need for parents, leaders and the community to remain engaged. While we can spend all day pointing fingers, at the end of the day, we still have an obligation to ensure our children remain in an environment conductive to learning.

Most high-performing schools have active parent participation, dedicated teachers, and a leader as a principal. This formula can take schools to an unparalleled level of success. The truth is that we’ve rarely seen this in recent years, especially in the Bloomberg era. Now that a new administration is in place, we must ensure that we reach our zenith. This means that we must all take a hands-on approach to addressing the educational needs of our community. Just last week, I allocated $2.5 million to our local schools, so we could have the most up-to-date technology and science labs in our schools. If our children are going to compete both locally and globally, we can’t afford to have 19th century technology and labs in our schools.

In closing, Rockaway’s schools have, without a doubt, faced many challenges over the years, but none have been this extreme. I’m calling on the Department of Education to implement a better system of monitoring attendance for administrators, and create a whistleblower’s hotline for teachers and parents who may be scared to report wrong-doing due to fear of retribution. I believe these minor, yet major changes will ensure something like this never happens again. PS 106 should be a learning lesson for us all!

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