$61.7 million present for boro schools

The holidays came early for 14 Queens schools, including 10 high schools, all of which will receive more than $1 million each through the distribution of New York State’s Contract for Excellence - designed to fund overcrowded institutions or schools in need of improvement and hold administrators accountable.
In total, $61.7 million has been slated for Queens schools all of which will be handed out during the 2007-2008 school year, and a chunk of the education funds has been allocated to reducing class sizes at some of the borough’s biggest high schools.
Bayside High School, which had about 4,000 students in 2006, topped the list with nearly $2 million - $1.5 million of the money was specifically designated for additional classroom space and more teachers. Hillcrest High School in Jamaica came in second with an award of close to $1.9 million, with about $1.5 million set aside for classrooms and instructors.
“The whole thing really just shows how there was such disparity in funding,” said Stephen Duch, who has been the Hillcrest principal for the past 12 years.
Duch said that the extra funding allowed the school to cap class sizes for struggling students at 15.
“We have always met the UFT [United Federation of Teachers] contractual class limit of 34 students but that is not necessarily the optimal situation for all students,” Duch said, adding, “For certain classes 34 is fine … but for students who are struggling the most instruction time that they can have with a teacher is better.”
“There is some equity now amongst the schools in the borough,” he said.
In addition, more than half of the money awarded to Long Island City, William Cullen Bryant, Richmond Hill, John Adams, Beach Channel, John Bowne, Flushing and Grover Cleveland High Schools - each of which is scheduled to receive more than $1 million - will also be designated to reduce classroom size.
Through the Contract for Excellence funding - distributed specifically to reduce class sizes, restructure middle and high schools, provide time on task for kids by either extending class time or hiring more teachers and recruiting and retaining qualified teachers - $4.7 million will go to District 25; $3.9 million to District 26; $8.1 million to District 28 and $3.6 million to District 29. Two western Queens school districts will receive nearly half of the borough’s money with District 24 contracted to receive nearly $17.5 million and District 30 to receive $11.2 million, totaling $28.7 million. In addition, District 27 in southern Queens is scheduled to receive $12.7 million from the state.
State Senator John Sabini, who performed the original analysis of data for western Queens released by New York State’s Education Department, praised the state’s announcement of the funds, which were set aside after the 2006 court decision of a lawsuit filed by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity against the state for uneven distribution of funds at city schools compared to their state counterparts.
“This infusion of cash into our more overcrowded and underperforming schools, as a direct result of action by the Legislature, should go far towards reducing class sizes and improving our children’s achievement,” Sabini said in a statement.
The biggest awards at Queens junior and middle schools will be directed towards J.H.S. 226 Virgil I. Grissom School in South Ozone Park, P.S. 19 in Corona, P.S. 143 in Corona and I.S. 61 in Corona, each of which is on track to receiving more than $1 million
I.S. 61 is scheduled to receive $1.3 million, $342,000 for restructuring, $234,000 to lengthen the school day, $216,000 for dedicated instructional time, $270,000 for more classrooms, and $150,000 for more teachers.
For more information about the Contract for Excellence and money to be distributed at Queens schools, visit the state Education Department’s website at www.nysed.gov.

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