By Naeisha Rose
As two schools in the Far Rockaway area are set to be closed, a native of the neighborhood intends to open a charter high school late next year.
Regina Glover Johnson announced her plans for Legacy Academy on New Year’s Eve, weeks after Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña confirmed the school closings. Although Johnson said her academy could not close the gap left by the two middle schools, she hopes it will help revitalize urban education in the Far Rockaway area by enacting a comprehensive and well-rounded program.
“The mission of Legacy Academy is to cultivate a thriving, self-sustaining community through the development of academically rounded, civically invested, and progressive young adults,” Johnson said.
The schools targeted for closing are the Brian Piccolo Middle School (MS 53) in Far Rockaway and the Robert Vernam School (PS/MS 42) in Arverne. Both schools were underperforming despite investments from the city’s renewal school program, according to Fariña’s office.
The Department of Education said the Far Rockaway schools and 12 others that are set to be closed had poor enrollment, test scores, college readiness points, attendance and classroom instruction. They also failed in leadership and classroom attendance.
Three days after announcing the closings, the chancellor said she would retire.
Johnson said Legacy Academy will be “a project-based school where classes are interdisciplinary and combine subject matter with actual careers.” She hopes classes in geometry, U.S. history, physics and English will prepare students for careers in carpentry, lobbying, mechanical engineering and investigative journalism.
“Education is so much more than math and reading,” Johnson said. “Local issues, culture, artistic expression, and experiences are elements that must be incorporated into student’s academic plan.”
Johnson is working toward a second master’s degree in education at High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego and is specializing in a program about school creation. She expects to complete her degree in May.
Johnson believes the high school is essential to the growth of Far Rockaway.
“Any education system that ignores the need for cultural responsiveness is a detriment not only to student’s academic progress but to the progress of a whole community,” Johnson said.
Legacy Academy is expected to open during the fall of 2019. The final draft for the construction of the school is due in June, and Johnson wants the school to be located in the eastern end of Far Rockaway.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose