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long island city high school
October 2, 2012
High schools that dodged closure try to woo new students at fair
A Long Island City High School student takes a break from his booth to meet an umbrella cockatoo from George Washington Carver High School. The white cockatoo perched on a student's shoulder during last weekend's Citywide High School Fair was just one squawking example of the lengths schools go to set themselves apart from eighth-graders' 500 other high school options. But for a small group of schools, those that the Department of Education tried but failed to close, winning the affections of eighth-graders could mean the difference between life and death. The schools were slated for an aggressive overhaul known as "turnaround" until an arbitrator ruled this summer that the process violated the city's contract with the teachers union. Turnaround would have caused the schools to close and reopen with different names, teachers, and programs. The high school of another school, Manhattan's Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts, was never at risk, but its reputation suffered when the city moved to shutter its middle school. All of the schools are under pressure to demonstrate demand by December, when high school applications are due and when the Department of Education announces its annual school closure proposals. The department frequently cites low demand as a major reason for moving to close schools. Many of the ex-turnaround schools already have lower-than-usual enrollment, after last year's tumult, which started in the middle of the high school admissions progress. Many also now have new principals, programs, and organizational problems. Still, the staff and students who spoke to GothamSchools on the second day of the fair said they are putting their best foot forward. Long Island City High School During a brief lull in the fair on Sunday, juniors Arissa Hilario and Wendy Li took a break from waving families over to the Long Island City High School booth to admire Winter, an umbrella cockatoo from George Washington Carver High School making the rounds in the area for Queens schools.
September 12, 2012
Schedule issues reign at some but not all ex-turnaround schools
PHOTO: Patrick WallStudents exited John Dewey High School today where people said scheduling issues were disrupting their learning. Most years at John Dewey High School, scheduling mistakes were scattered and quickly corrected, students say. But this year, they say, entire programs are wrong. And they say that so far, little has been fixed. "All of our schedules are messed up, and a lot of the classes we want to take we can't," said Darlene Tinsley, a senior at the Brooklyn high school. "I passed my classes in summer school, and they gave me all sophomore classes. I'm supposed to be a junior," said Debra Galindez. "I heard everything was done in mid-August and they didn't really look at anyone's transcripts." Over at High School of Graphic Communication Arts in Hell's Kitchen, Jamie Striharsky, a senior studying photography, said disorganization reigned on the first day of school, with many students scheduled for classes they did not request — including one calculus class with so many students it filled three classrooms. "There were 90 something kids," she said in a phone interview last week. "As of now, I don't even think there's a teacher for the class. there was a security guard, and to be honest they were just like, 'let's move the kids out, the first 30 come here, the next 30, come here.'"
June 28, 2012
Graduation ceremonies are bittersweet for ‘turnaround’ schools set to reopen with new names
State Senator Michael Gianaris speaks at the Long Island City High School graduation ceremony. For two high schools that filled a large auditorium at Queens College yesterday for their graduation ceremonies, the festivities were bittersweet. Long Island City High School and Flushing High School are among 24 city schools graduating their final cohorts before closing and reopening this summer. Students who were enrolled in the schools this year and didn't graduate will continue to attend them. But their schools will have new names and many new teachers, in accordance with the rules of a federal school reform model called turnaround. Earlier this year, the schools had packed their own auditoriums to protest the turnaround plans, which Mayor Bloomberg surprised them by announcing in January. On Wednesday, the room reverberated not with chants but with applause — this time, to honor their newly-minted alumni. Yet the impending closures were not far from the minds of the graduation speakers, a mix of alumni, principals and top students, some who immigrated to the United States shortly before beginning high school. "It is sad to know we are the last graduating class of Long Island City High School, but it is also an honor," Xi Xi Hu, Long Island City High School's valedictorian, said in her speech.
April 25, 2012
For skeptical parents, 'turnaround' principal change brings hope
Vivian Selenikas, right, sits with Long Island City High School principal Maria Mamo-Vacacela, left, at the school's closure hearing. Last week, hundreds of parents, teachers, and students crowded Long Island City High School's auditorium for a hearing about the school's planned "turnaround." On Tuesday evening, just a dozen parents attended a meeting to hear directly from the Department of Education's latest pick to run the revamped school. Gathered in the school's band room, they learned that Vivian Selenikas, the proposed school leader, speaks four languages (English, Spanish, Greek and Italian. They found that she started her career in the 1980s as a Spanish teacher at Richmond Hill High School, another school on the turnaround list. And they learned that she believes careful curriculum planning will lift Long Island City out of a slump of low attendance (the rate last year was 80 percent) and poor city progress report grades. They also learned that Selenikas is not afraid to stand up and cha-cha. When the school's cheerleading coach led parents through impromptu dance exercises at the end of the Parent Association meeting, Selenikas joined in. As a Queens network leader, Selenikas is no stranger to the large high school on Broadway, which required help from her and other Department of Education officials last year to resolve massive scheduling problems. "It's important that someone who knew the community and knew the needs of this neighborhood helped to move the school forward, should the decision be made that Long Island City will no longer be Long Island City," she said. But many parents say they are worried that the city is not planning adequately for turnaround. Some say they are wary of the abrupt leadership change, which would be the third in less than four years. The current principal, Maria Mamo-Vacacela, came under fire last year for overhauling most students' schedules two months into the academic year.
April 18, 2012
Pep-rally tone but many worries at Queens turnaround hearings
Students dressed in blue and white, Long Island City High School's colors, chant at the school's closure hearing Tuesday. The feeling at two Queens high schools Tuesday evening was as much pep rally as protest during public hearings about the city's plans to close the schools in June. The city wants to close and reopen the schools, Long Island City High School and Newtown High School, under the federally prescribed reform process known as "turnaround." The process would require many teachers to be replaced, a prospect that students said has induced anxiety about what classes and clubs would be offered next year. Students and teachers said unique elective and extracurricular options that currently exist — including boys gymnastics, robotics, and guitar — are a large part of what makes the schools special. They urged the Department of Education to preserve those features and revert to other improvement plans that would cause less disruption. At a third school whose turnaround hearing took place last night, John Dewey High School, students and teachers have been mounting a vigorous defense since January, when the turnaround plans were announced. The three schools are among 26 whose turnaround proposals are likely to be approved when the Panel for Educational Policy votes on them next week. Newtown High School The crowd at Newtown gave forth whoops and cheers for every teacher who spoke, for every mention of the school’s winning robotics team, and for every nod to longstanding principal – and Newtown alum – John Ficalora. But before there was cheer, there was tension when a top Department of Education official, Deputy Chancellor David Weiner, had not shown up 20 minutes after the meeting was supposed to begin. At 6:20 p.m., with Weiner an estimated 20 minutes away, Jesse Mojica, the Department of Education’s executive director for Family and Community Engagement, tried to start the meeting without him.
March 19, 2012
With stricter credit recovery policy comes a push to do more
An impending crackdown on how students can make up failed classes has some schools scurrying to help students rack up missing credits this spring. Many schools allow students who are missing credits—either because they failed a class, or because circumstances kept them from attending or completing required work—to receiving course credit for completing extra assignments through a practice known as "credit recovery." The practice, which accounted for about 1.7 percent of credits earned last year, offers students the chance to pick up narrowly missed credits without having to repeat classes, but it has also been criticized for devaluing academic credits because the make-up assignments are often less in-depth than those required in the regular classes. Last month, following an audit that found errors and possible evidence of cheating at 60 high schools, the city announced that it would begin restricting credit recovery access to students, in part by capping the number of credits students may receive through credit recovery, limiting enrollment to students who attended at least two thirds of class they're making up, and allowing students to make up credits only in the months immediately after they fail a course. The new policies take effect July 1 — giving schools a four-month window to help students rack up credits before the restrictions kick in. Teachers and students at many schools said last week that they hadn't heard about the looming policy changes. But some of those who did said the news had motivated a credit recovery spree among students missing credits—a response Department of Education officials say is inappropriate. Students at a small school at the Lower East Side's Seward Park Campus, said administrators had individually told students who are missing credits that now is the time to finish credit recovery.
February 14, 2012
Fearing turnaround, Queens schools seek borough prez's help
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Dmytro Fedkowskyj, her appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy, held a hearing Monday night for families and teachers at the eight would-be turnaround schools in Queens. Dozens of teachers, parents, students, and at least one principal from the eight Queens schools facing "turnaround" say they have brought their concerns to district superintendents and other Department of Education officials this month to no effect. On Monday evening, they found a more sympathetic audience: Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who vowed to push back against the city's plans to close the schools. Marshall's uncharacteristically aggressive promise came at a meeting at Queens Borough Hall that her office organized about the city's plan to "turn around" 33 struggling schools. Under the plan, which Mayor Bloomberg announced last month as a way to secure federal funding, the schools would close and reopen this summer with new names and at least half their staffs replaced. Marshall sat before a standing-room-only crowd with Dmytro Fedkowskyj, her appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy, the citywide school board that decides the fate of schools proposed for closure. As a panel member, Fedkowskyj has emerged as a frequent critic of the mayor's school policies, signaling Marshall's endorsement, but she has typically been soft-spoken on education issues. That was not the case on Monday. Marshall often clapped and cheered as she listened to dozens of teachers and families defend their schools. Occasionally she even interjected to describe how her respect for teachers developed over years of working as an early childhood educator.
November 17, 2011
Scheduling crises dominate debate at low-key PEP meeting
The agenda for tonight's Panel for Educational Policy meeting, held in Queens, contained just two topics: School locations and the Department of Education's financial contracts. But it was scheduling crises at two Queens high schools that dominated most of the meeting at Astoria's Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts, drew just a few dozen parents. We reported this week that Queens Metropolitan High School had revised students' schedules as many as 10 times this year amid an organizational crisis. Last month, NY1 reported that thousands of students at Long Island City High School were enraged after the school changed their schedules midyear. Tonight, Department of Education officials vowed to repair the damages. Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, who stepped in at Queens Metropolitan on Wednesday, called the debacles "rare" and vowed that they "will not be repeated." Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, whose daughter is a physical education teacher at the school, echoed Polakow-Suransky's promise, saying, "We pledge our support to make sure we do not repeat this at all."
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