By Sadef Ali Kully
Mayor Bill de Blasio met with students and faculty members at Richmond Hill High School as part of his Renewal Schools program tour across the city last week.
Last year, de Blasio announced the $150 million towards the Renewal Schools program, which enrolled 94 schools, 12 located across Queens, that have struggled for years overseen by Executive Superintendent for Renewal Schools Aimee Horowitz.
“We are investing in tools that we know help students catch up and succeed – more learning time, extra tutoring, coaches to help teachers improve instruction,” de Blasio said.
Richmond Hill High School endured years of instability and declining performance, but since it enrolled in the program, it has shown improvement in all areas of student life.
“There have been challenges, but with the support and resources we’re receiving through the Renewal program, Richmond Hill is getting back on the right track,” said Neil Ganesh, the school’s principal. “We’re engaging parents and families, because the city has believed and invested in us. There’s so much more hard work ahead of us, but the Richmond Hill Lions are roaring again.”
In the past three months, initial changes have gotten under way at Renewal Schools, including the addition of extra instructional time, academic intervention teams, and retired principals sent to high-needs schools to help change direction. This spring every Renewal School will begin its transformation into a community school to help students overcome barriers to learning with counseling, mental health services and family support, according to the city Department of Education.
“This is an urgent mission, and we’re taking it on with serious leadership and support,” Horowitz said.
The program provided Richmond Hill High School with resources such as expanded after-school and weekend tutoring, and teachers who meet daily to combine efforts on individual struggling students.
The popular “Are You Green?” initiative tracks every student’s progress towards graduation—including credits, attendance and exams passed — through color charts. Green means green that a student is meeting his or her graduation requirements. If student falls behind, it triggers a collaborative response with teachers and parents to help them catch up and get back on track.
Currently at Richmond Hill High School, 67 percent of students are now on track to graduate, up from just 60 percent last year. And there has been a 27 percent drop in serious or violent incidents, while suspensions are down by 72 percent compared to last year, according to the DOE.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull