Sunday, December 27, 2009

The WAVE on Beach Channel HS, updated


Here are reports from Wave editor Howard Schwach in the Dec. 25 edition. It is worth putting the comments of BCHS student Chris Petrillo up first. He was scheduled to meet with Joel Klein on Weds. but reports came in that he was dissed. You can see Chris challenge Dist. 27 Supt, Michelle Lloyd-Bey at the Dec. 15 meeting here. Chris appears around 1:40 seconds into the video.


Truth from the mouth of a student

Chris Petrillo, who will be 18 shortly after the present school break, says that, for him and his fellow Voyager Learning Community students, the problems began with last year’s cuts to the school budget.

Petrillo, who has been in the learning community for all of his BCHS career, told The Wave on Monday that the program was really good for the first three years he was in it.

“We had 20 students in a class and a group of teachers assigned just to the learning community,” he said. “Each of the four learning communities were themed. We could zero in on one area – like Science – and we really got a good education.”

Then, at the end of his sophomore year, the DOE made massive budget cuts in the school, excessing 32 staff members.

A number of teachers who taught the learning communities were cut. Class sizes went to 35 from 20 and some classes were cut entirely.

“We now have learning communities in name only,” Petrillo, who is leading the student drive to keep the school open, said.



WAVE EDITORIAL

DOE’s Own Facts Don’t Support BCHS Closing

Towards the end of the 2008-2009 school year the Department of Education issued on its website a “Quality Review” for Beach Channel High School. That report was the final assessment by a team of “experts” who spent a few days in the school. That review rated the school as “Proficient,” clearly not the top rating possible, but not the bottom either. The Quality Review report commented on how the school had gone from “academic poverty” to proficiency, mostly by instituting four “learning communities,” each focused on a single theme and each taught by a discrete staff of caring educators. Shortly after the report was released, the DOE cut 32 staff members from the school’s budget – most of them young teachers in the learning community program. The cuts forced class size in those critical classes to 35 from 20 and took away many of the support personnel assigned to the program.

There are many students and staff members who believe that the school was set up to fail by a city agency that has other ideas for the building – a charter school owned by State Senator Malcolm Smith and backed by former Representative Floyd Flake, two of the most powerful politicians in the state. They may well be right. In the past few years, two new schools began drawing the more educationally motivated students – the brightest — from Beach Channel. The Channel View School for Research began a high school organization and the Scholars’ Academy, a gifted magnet middle school, began a high school as well.

That left only those who could not go elsewhere at Beach Channel. Of its 1,330 students, nearly one-third are special needs students – a very high number for any comprehensive high sch ool. In specifying why the school needed to be closed down, District 27 Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay said that the school no longer served its students and that the parents were unhappy with the school as well. Yet the last school survey showed that 85 percent of those parents responding said that they were happy with the edu cation their student was getting at the school.

There is something not quite right about the closing of the only comprehensive high school on our isolated peninsula. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done before the Educational Priorities Panel [Panel for Educational Policy], beholden to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, makes its final decision on January 26. It is probably already a done deal, but once the vote is taken, it is written in stone. We can’t allow that to happen.


BCHS Quality Review: ‘Proficient’

By Howard Schwach
Shortly before the city’s Department of Education decided to phase out and close Beach Channel High School, the Rockaway Park school earned a “Proficient” rating on its 2008-2009 Quality Review,” records show.

Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay and Ewel Napier from the DOE address the crowd early in the meeting that was held at the school last week. Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay and Ewel Napier from the DOE address the crowd early in the meeting that was held at the school last week. “Beach Channel is a large comprehensive high school that through leadership, vision and resource management skills of its principal is starting to emerge from a period of academic poverty,” the DOE’s own report says. “The road has been long and challenging but one which the entire staff appreciates, is beginning to reap the rewards for their endeavors and sustainability. The students respond by attending more regularly, participating more fully in the life of the school and leaving many of their personal issues at the gates of the building.”

A group of students wait to speak at last week’s meeting. A number of them challenged the superintendent about her contention that the school no longer addresses student needs and that parents have lost confidence in the school. A group of students wait to speak at last week’s meeting. A number of them challenged the superintendent about her contention that the school no longer addresses student needs and that parents have lost confidence in the school. The nine-page report, which calls the school “Proficient,” says that “much of this transition [from academic poverty to proficiency] is due to the formation of a number of small learning communities within the large school.”


“Establishing the school’s small learning communities is a major factor in raising attendance and in the development of a safe and secure environment for learning,” the Quality Review report says.


Yet, it is these very learning communities that the DOE “imploded” last year by cutting staff and increasing the number of students in each class, some of the school’s senior students charge.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, BCHS UFT chairperson Dave Pecoraro and student Chris Petrillo wait to speak to the DOE officials present at the meeting.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, BCHS UFT chairperson Dave Pecoraro and student Chris Petrillo wait to speak to the DOE officials present at the meeting. Chris Petrillo, who will be 18 shortly after the present school break, says that, for him and his fellow Voyager Learning Community students, the problems began with last year’s cuts to the school budget.


Petrillo, who has been in the learning community for all of his BCHS career, told The Wave on Monday that the program was really good for the first three years he was in it.


“We had 20 students in a class and a group of teachers assigned just to the learning community,” he said. “Each of the four learning communities were themed. We could zero in on one area – like Science – and we really got a good education.”


Then, at the end of his sophomore year, the DOE made massive budget cuts in the school, excessing 32 staff members.


A number of teachers who taught the learning communities were cut. Class sizes went to 35 from 20 and some classes were cut entirely.


“We now have learning communities in name only,” Petrillo, who is leading the student drive to keep the school open, said.


Gerlisa Hills, 18, another senior in the same learning community agrees.


“All the good education ended,” she said. “The school did not have money for the number of teachers the program needed, and most of the teachers who left were from the learning communities. I have a stake in this building. My parents went here and my sisters. This is really going to impact the kids who want to come [to BCHS].”


“When the budget was cut, Beach Channel did not have enough money to sustain the small learning communities, which had been working so well,” Petrillo added. “The students lost the structured, nurturing environment that these communities provided.”


Opponents of the closing say that the school lost all of the better students to both the Channel View School for Research, which shares the same building with BCHS, and the Scholars’ Academy, the district’s gifted magnet school, which is right across the street.


The DOE website says that the school houses 1,330 students. Of those, 240 receive English as a Second Language services and 239 have In - dividual Education Plans denoting special education services. That means more than one-third of the students at the comprehensive high school have special needs.


The DOE held a public meeting to announce the closing and to address questions from the school community and local residents.


At that meeting, held at the school on December 15, District Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bay told the 125 participants that the school had to close because it was no longer serving its students.


Lloyd-Bay told the meeting, “We are only messengers here. This is done, and the question is, how do we move forward?”


“The statistics show that this school is no longer equipped to help students move ahead,” she added. “The parents have expressed their dissatisfaction and it is time to phase out and close the school.”


Yet, according to the results of the last school survey, completed in the 2008-2009 school year, statistics on the DOE’s own website show that, while less than half of the parents completed the survey, of those who responded, 81 percent of the parents said that they were “happy” with the education their children were getting at BCHS.


In addition, 83 percent of those parents who responded said that they had an adequate opportunity to be involved in their child’s educational experience.


Why then, if the parents are not unhappy with the school and it re - ceived a “proficient” rating, is the school being closed?


Lloyd-Bay, who is not responsible for the district’s high school, but was the only local school official present at the last meeting, did not return calls for clarification.


It seems, however, that the DOE is sending a mixed message by closing a school that the agency itself says is improving.


One of the areas in which the school is doing well, the Quality review says, is working with fewer teachers and less money.


“The school’s use of a diminishing array of resources does not affect student learning,” the report says.


The Education Priorities Panel [Panel for Educational Policy], which has to vote on January 26 whether or not to phase out and close the school, will host a community meeting in the school auditorium at 6 p.m. on January 6.


At that meeting, three commissioners will hear community comments, but there will be no questions allowed.



2 comments:

  1. Norm,

    I would like to bring to your attention the following info:

    "NOTE TO ALL CLOSING SCHOOLS:
    Send reps as GEM Meets Monday, Jan. 5, 4:30pm at CUNY. Bring id. Rm 5409 or 5414"

    Is it Monday, Jan. 4th, or Tuesday, Jan. 5th? Please correct.

    thank you,
    an avid ednotesonline blog reader

    ReplyDelete

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