Farina holds town hall in Hollis

By Sadef Ali Kully

More than 250 parents, teachers, students and principals gathered Tuesday night for a town hall meeting at IS 238 Susan B. Anthony Academy at 182nd Street and Hillside Avenue with City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña to discuss progress being made in the education system across the city.

The town hall visit was part of a tour Chancellor Fariña is making of city schools at the beginning of the school year.

“This is the largest audience I have seen yet,” Fariña said. “We have started the school year with little to no issues and we have teachers in almost every classroom across the city.”

The 29th District Community Education Council had gathered questions and comments collected from an online pool and made them available for Fariña’s visit.

The questions ranged from the pre-kindergarten curriculum to the frustrating process of picking a high school.

Fariña said she was working with the state to bring more resources into the education system.

On the pre-K curriculum, Fariña said that the current curriculum is one of the most rigorous the city has ever seen.

“The most important part is language development—what you want from a 4-year-old is to love learning and talking because they want to come to school and they want to talk about what they are learning.”

Fariña said the Department of Education has hired over a dozen new physical education teachers and it has also created specialized training for English-as-a-second-language teachers and special education teachers.

“We have to be creative, you don’t need a big gym for zumba or yoga,” she said. “For special needs, the training needs to be specialized in areas such as autism. Not every issue can be dealt with in the same way.”

Fariña said there were second-language middle school students who do not speak English and have not any schooling.

“They have never gone to school or some come from war-torn countries,” she said.

For parents looking into high school for their children, Fariña suggested exploring schools she called “hidden gems,” She said sometimes a school had a negative reputation many years ago, but that does not mean the school has not improved.

“Don’t always look at the same four schools everyone else is looking at—a school closer to you might surprise you.”

Sandra Knight from Queens Village, whose two children attend neighborhood public schools, said it was an informative town hall meeting and that issues with the education system stemmed from the city and state, not Fariña,

“As parents, it’s up to us to make the noise, so that she can make things happen for our children.”

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.