Although Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood has seen improving graduation rates and student performance over the last few years, it remains vulnerable to a possible state takeover, educators said during a public hearing at the school Saturday.
Parents, students and teachers filled the Grover Cleveland auditorium on Saturday morning to talk about the performance of the struggling school and the possibility of the school’s receivership, while providing recommendations on how to improve the high school.
Earlier this year Grover Cleveland High School, along with 61 other New York City schools, was identified as struggling or persistently struggling by the New York State Education Department (DOE). If the school does not improve student performance and graduation rates, Grover Cleveland may fall into receivership, meaning that the school will be taken over by an outside entity and divided into several smaller schools.
At the public hearing, Grover Cleveland High School’s principal, Denise Vittor, acknowledged the school’s troubles, but pointed to recent improvements in graduation rates and attendance as signs of hope.
The four-year graduation rate for Grover Cleveland High School for June graduation was at 53 percent in the 2012-13 school year, and 51 percent in the 2013-14 school year. By the August graduation for those students who did not graduate in June, those numbers increased to 60.2 percent in 2012-13 and 58 percent in 2013-14.
“As you see, in June we did not reach 60 percent [graduation rate], which is the benchmark for all New York State schools,” Vittor said. “But by August, we were at 60.2 graduation rate. In 2013-14 we missed a lot. But I am proud to say, this year we had 60.7 graduation rate in June and 62.5 by August.”
Grover Cleveland’s goals for graduation rates for the 2015-16 school year are 63 percent for the June graduation and 65 percent in August, above the required 60 percent.
“As you saw when Principal Vittor presented the data, Grover Cleveland is on the fast-track for coming off of the struggling list,” said Elaine Lindsey, DOE high school superintendent. “So we are believing that by the end of this school year, that Grover Cleveland should not be considered a struggling school based on the data that we saw presented today.”
To keep these numbers rising, Vittor explained her school’s use of “six elements of the framework for great schools”: rigorous instruction, a supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family and community ties, and trust.
One area of concern for parents was the amount of funding the school receives for electronic resources. Vittor explained that the school receives approximately $20,000.
“We are a smartboard school, which means we have smartboards in every classroom, that’s the goal,” Vittor said. “Each smartboard is $6,500, so $20,000 doesn’t go very far … we will ask our elected officials to assist us again.”
State Senator Joseph Addabbo made it clear that he intends to continually support Grover Cleveland and help it get off the struggling list.
“I am ready and willing to work with the entire Grover Cleveland High School community to help protect this school from receivership, improve its graduation rates and increase parental participation,” Addabbo said in a statement. “Engaging more parents in the education of their children is key to improving outcomes for students, as well as creating stronger families and communities. I look forward to working towards protecting Grover Cleveland for generations of students to come.”
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, a graduate of Grover Cleveland, vowed to lend her support for her former school.
“As the elected representative of the 37th Assembly district and a 1976 graduate of Grover Cleveland High school, I want to voice my support for the school,” Nolan said in a statement. “Cleveland has struggled, but under the leadership of Principal Vittor it is getting back on track and has a lot to offer. With the right support and resources, I believe the school can be the best version of itself … I will continue to support and advocate for Cleveland, a Ridgewood institution that is so incredibly important to us.”
During the public comment period, some parents suggested that the school send home a syllabus so parents can become more involved with their children’s work. Others suggested increasing the number of guidance counselors at the school to better prepare college-bound students, and several students suggested creating more sports teams and afterschool clubs so students will become more interested in their school.
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