Photo by Michael Shain
Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village is off the priority status list.
By Naeisha Rose

Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village was one of 27 schools to be removed from the struggling school list, according to New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

The so-called Priority School List includes schools that were either struggling like Van Buren or persistently struggling for multiple years.

“These schools are working hard to collaborate with stakeholders to address the needs of their students, and the results so far are promising,” Elia said. “At the same time, we must remain mindful that only sustained and accelerated progress in these schools can create the level of progress necessary for us to meet our goals for all of New York’s children.”

Schools on the list have three years to get off it by meeting the performance requirements for English Language Arts and mathematics, according to the state Education Department.

Martin Van Buren, which is located at 230-17 Hillside Ave., was designated a renewal school in 2014.

Schools that were removed on the list had to have a combined ELA and math performance index at or above of 62.5 for the 2016 to 2017 school year, according to the department.

The NYSED also require high schools to have a four-year graduation rate of 60 percent.

A report for the 2016-2017 school year showed Van Buren had a four-year graduation rate of 67 percent compared with 55 percent for the 2014-2015 school year when it landed on the list.

Martin Van Buren also received the highest score in the borough for its demonstrable improvement score among the schools coming off the list, with a 100 DI.

City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña was proud of the schools that came off the list, which also included August Martin High School (83 DI), PS 111 (73 DI) and Flushing High School (63 DI) in Queens.

Many parents attributed Van Buren’s past struggles to former Principal Marilyn Shevell, according to insideschools.org. In 2012, her last year at the school, Martin Van Buren received an “F” in the school environment category, which is based on student attendance and surveys with them, their parents and teachers.

Helen Young, the school’s PTA president, said that during Shevell’s tenure she cut Advanced Placement classes and limited the after-school programs as well as peer mediation groups. Young said these cutbacks led to low school spirit and a poor morale.

In February 2012 there was a rally to have Shevell removed.

Under new Principal Sam Sochet, a former science teacher at Cardozo High School and an assistant principal at Thomas Edison High School, the graduation rate increased from 46 percent in 2012 to 67 percent in 2017.

Since joining Martin Van Buren specialized programs in pre-med, pre-law, pre-nursing, robotics, and engineering have been added to the school, according to insideschools.org, and 78 percent of ninth-grade students are on track to graduate in four years as indicated by the school’s Quality Snapshot Report.

More than 130 students at the school were scheduled to take part this week in the third annual nationwide College March, where they were to drop off their college applications at a mailbox as fellow students, teachers, and community leaders cheered them on.

“College March is a great way to congratulate our hardworking seniors for getting their college applications in on time and it can inspire the rest of the school, knowing that with hard work, they can meet their college and career goals,” said MVB Guidance Counselor Christine Stamberg.

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

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