The epilogue has been written for Flushing High School — but as the city concludes the final chapter of the storied 137-year-old institution, a new protagonist has entered the plot.
The Department of Education Division of Portfolio Planning hosted a meeting at Flushing High School — one day before the Panel for Educational Policy’s highly-anticipated vote — to introduce the school’s new leader, Magdalen Radovich, who will take over the reins at the embattled institution.
Radovich is currently an assistant principal at Queens Vocational and Technical High School in Long Island City, where she has served for 16 years — with half of the time spent as a teacher and the other half as an administrator.
“This has to be one of the most awkward meetings,” Radovich said to a small group of parents and students. “I don’t have all the answers. I know as little as some of you do about what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day. I can promise you only that I will bring you the energy, commitment, dedication and the real belief that success is the only option for every kid, no matter what.”
Queens Vocational was on the city’s list of Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools up until recently, Radovich said. In terms of data, she said Flushing is similar to where Queens Vocational was six years ago, when the passing rate in the ninth grade was only about 50 percent — 38 percent less than its current standing.
“While we were on the PLA list, we felt kind of demoralized and stigmatized. But we knew that we had really good people who were working really hard to move us forward despite that. What really kept us moving were the kids,” Radovich said.
While similar in certain aspects, Radovich said Queens Vocational and Flushing largely differ in size, with Flushing being home to almost double the amount of students as Queens Vocational.
“You need to see things with different eyes. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t working hard. It means that a different approach needs to be implemented,” she said.
Radovich — a mother of four, including one who is a junior in high school — began teaching in 1996 after dabbling in social justice work. She was a college professor for about 10 years, teaching remedial courses at New York University, Cooper Union, Pace University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
She said she hopes to carry on some of Flushing’s successful programs in the new school.
“I don’t have anything in particular in mind at this moment because it seems to me you have an awful lot here already that needs to be looked at carefully by the community and either built up or revised, but it’s definitely something that’s a priority for me,” Radovich said.
Flushing received a “D” on its most recent progress report, with an “F” in student performance, said DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas. The school was first designated as PLA in 2009 due to its consistently low graduation rates. While the numbers rose to 60 percent in 2010, the statistics still landed Flushing in the bottom 27 percent of schools in the city.
The new school — which has yet to be named — will serve between 3,035 to 3,075 students from grades nine through twelve, according to the DOE.