By Patrick Donachie
City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) completed his campaign pledge to visit every school in his district Tuesday, touting the $3 million in capital funding allocated to schoolsi in Districts 26 and 29 in this year’s city budget.
“Every school that applied for capital funding got some,” Grodenchik said on the front steps of Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village.
Grodenchik held his inauguration at the school last autumn and returned for the completion of his visits to the 33 schools in his district, lauding the progress the school had made under the tenure of Principal Sam Sochet, who took over Van Buren in 2012.
In the past three years, the four-year graduation rate at the school jumped from 46 percent to 62.3 percent, with a 10 percent increase in the past year. Sochet said the rate jump was an optimistic message to the surrounding neighborhood about the school’s prospects.
“It signals to the community how serious we are,” Sochet said. “We’re not folding up our tents.”
In 2014, the city announced that Van Buren was one of 94 schools selected for the Department of Education’s Renewal Schools program, which supplied priority schools that had three years of low academic achievement with additional resources and support. Van Buren partnered with the Efficacy Institute, and Sochet said the partnership had helped to support special education in the school. He said he hoped to transition more special education students into general education classes in the fall.
Grodenchik said that 24 schools in the district had requested capital funding this year, and 27 in total received allocations. He said most of the schools were getting technological upgrades, including audio-visual systems, computers and laptops, Smartboards and software improvements.
“Technology changes quickly, and we need to keep up,” Grodenchik said. “Most of the requests we get, besides air conditioning, is for technology upgrades.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona