Changing Name Changes Nothing

The city Department of Education has announced that the Gateway program will be one of the schools that will replace Jamaica High School next year. Although a city councilman and state assemblyman from Fresh Meadows have praised the proposal, we remain unimpressed. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.

For a long time there have been serious problems at Jamaica High. Too many students never graduate and too many students read and do math below the grade level. Clearly changes need to be made, but the people making those changes should take into consideration the history of Jamaica HS and the role this institution has played in the community it serves.

Those who want to break up Jamaica HS into several new high schools, including Gateway, point out that the Gateway program has been successful in communities with minority and low-income students. Gateway sounds impressive, but it should be noted that Gateway is already a part of Jamaica HS. Why can’t the DOE build on that success without creating a new high school?

The Gateway program prepares students for careers in health and science. That is terrific, but can’t that be done without dismantling Jamaica HS? State Assemblyman Rory Lancman and City Councilman James Gennaro, the elected officials supporting the Gateway program, represent areas from which Jamaica High School students are drawn, but two Council members from southeast Queens are skeptical.

“I do know the principal at Jamaica is trying to be innovative, but I don’t know why they aren’t giving him more resources,” said Councilman Leroy Comrie.

Councilman James Sanders added, “What they are trying to do is create an airplane while they’re in the sky.”

Once again, we urge that the DOE’s plans to dismantle Jamaica HS and other Queens schools be put on hold until the new city schools chancellor, Cathie Black, has the opportunity to examine the problems firsthand.

This editorial has been updated to reflect corrections:  Assemblymen Rory Lancman and James Gennaro, whose offices are in Fresh Meadows, represent other areas that send students to Jamaica High School.  They support the Gateway program.  Councilmen LeRoy Comrie and James Sanders want to see Jamaica High remain open for the students in their southeast Queens districts.