By Mark Hallum
Queens lawmakers celebrated Martin Van Buren High School making its way into good financial standing as it was taken out of receivership this month and will no longer be on the list of schools slated for closure after investment in programming, technology, and physical upgrades.
City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) acknowledged the Queens Village school’s strong historical track record for excellence by producing two Nobel Laureates, professor Alvin Roth, who received the 2012 prize in economic sciences, and Frank Wilczek, who won the physics prize in 2004, since it was founded in 1955.
“Martin Van Buren High School has produced two Nobel Award winners, and under the leadership of Principal Sam Sochet, we are working together to bring the school back as a strong and vibrant educational institution in our community,” Grodenchik said.
Van Buren received a grant from the state for 2015 through 2018 to launch a program providing tablets to students to complete and turn in homework on a daily basis, obtain large format monitors using Google Classroom as well as providing online texts with Rosetta Stone, myON and Scholastic Read.
Dermot Smyth, Queens’ political action coordinator for the United Federation of Teachers, said the organization had pushed for the school to remain open by bringing in the right resources. According to Smyth, the UFT does not believe in closing schools since investment is the key to making a successful school.
“Today was a good day for our schools in the area. Martin Van Buren High School is now in good standing and is no longer a priority school. It is important to invest in these children to assure that they are given the proper tools and skill set to soar in the next generation. We will continue to make sure that every child thrives and succeeds in this community,” state Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village) said.
In December, the state Department of Education made the announcement that Van Buren High was also in good academic standing and would be removed from the Priority School List, which gives schools three years to improve in English Language Arts and mathematics. The state also requires schools to have a 60 percent graduation rate.
From 2014-2015 Van Buren’s graduation rate was 55 percent, but as of the 2016-2017 school year, it had risen to 67 percent.
“I want to commend Principal Sam Sochet, the NYC Department of Education and the leadership at Martin Van Buren High School for making the school a top choice for students and parents. I have witnessed Sam Sochet’s dedication and belief in his administration throughout the years since he began his tenure as principal at Van Buren, and I thank all the students and parents who have been in support of the school from the very beginning,” state Assemblyman David I. Weprin said.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall