Protests save two Far Rockaway schools

Protests save two Far Rockaway schools
Two Far Rockaway schools that were slated for closure will get to keep their doors opens after months of protesting from parents, teachers and students.
By Naeisha Rose

More than two months of protests have paid off for the Brian Piccolo Middle School (MS 53) and the Robert Vernam School (PS/MS 42), which Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña had targeted for closure in December.

The chancellor’s recommendation to close the schools were both voted down 6-6-1 on Feb. 28 by the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, according to a post on Queens Borough Melinda Katz’s Facebook page.

“The message is clear: We are not giving up on our kids,” said Katz. “The school communities are clearly vested in their success, as exemplified in both the recent progress in academic performance and the level of engagement by the parents, teachers and students to save their schools.”

Schools like Piccolo and Vernam that were struggling were put under the renewal school list and pumped with money and resources around 2014 so that they could improve.

Schools on the list had to improve their test scores, enrollment, college readiness scores, attendance, instruction, school leadership and have less absenteeism to be removed in three years or else eliminated.

According to Fariña, the two schools did not do enough to meet those requirements and students would be better served at a stronger academic body.

But parents, teachers, students and education representatives thought that Piccolo and Vernam were not given enough time to succeed and said that most education reform initiatives take five years to show effective change.

At a January public commenting form with PEP, Daniel Alicea, a school leader of MS53, said the students at the school had a 12 percent increase in ELA while 82 percent were projected to attend college.

At the forum, students from MS53 said that they felt they made behavioral improvements and that they were excited to participate in the STEM courses.

Local representatives in the Far Rockaway area were pleased by the turnaround.

In February representatives of PS/MS 42 said they reached five out of the seven target goals for improvement, some of which included an incremental 10.5 increase in math and ELA scores. They received an 86 percent score for rigorous instruction and a 97.3 percent teacher-attendance score from the DOE. The school was also praised for effective leadership and collaborative teachers.

“We must continue to invest in our existing neighborhood schools to both ensure full growth in our students and our surrounding community,” said Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Far Rockaway) and state Assemblywoman Stacey Amato Pheffer in a joint statement. “These are our children and their education is worth fighting for!”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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