A meeting intended to ease local tensions over a controversial co-location in Queens Village’s Martin Van Buren High School on April 24 wound up enraging area residents who supported the new school but then may have had their own children shut out of the enrollment process.
Hoa Tu, who is slated to be principal at the Business Technology Early College High School in September, dropped by the monthly meeting of Community Education Council 26 to introduce herself and to talk about plans for September.
But when talk turned to the enrollment process by which the 108 members of the school’s first freshman class were selected, some residents said their neighborhoods’ children had no opportunity to even apply for the school that will offer a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in some advanced technical fields.
“We supported this school,” said Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op community, indicating himself and representatives of two other civic groups in the room at Little Neck’s MS 67.
“I represent 3,000 families,” Friedrich said. “We weren’t made aware of the process, so our kids couldn’t apply.”
Students, parents and teachers staged protests last year when word of the possible co-location began leaking out.
Not all civic leaders in the area opposed the technical school. Friedrich and other residents who supported it were roundly booed at a public hearing last year when they were called on to speak.
If Tu thought explaining the application process back in March would smooth things over, she was mistaken.
She said first that DOE employees were under instructions not to discuss the school publicly until March 12.
While the school is intended to attract only two students, two education fairs at which the application process was discussed were held on March 18th and 19th.
It was not until March 20 that the third and final event was hosted at Queensborough Community College.
Tu said of the 108 students accepted into the first class, 10 are from within CEC 26 boundaries, with the rest from throughout Queens.
“It sounds like our children were ignored,” said CEC Member Susan Shiroma.
“They were ignored,” said Rhonda Kontner, the education committee chairwoman at Community Board 13, who was sitting in the audience a few feet away.
CEC member Anastasio Poltidis had a question of his own when asked about the logic or common sense behind Manhattan-based meetings to publicize a school for Queens students.
“You’re talking about the DOE, right?” he asked.
Friedrich, both last week and at Monday night’s meeting of Community Board 13, wasn’t in a mood to laugh.
“It was an epic failure, beyond belief,” he said on both occasions.
A DOE spokesman did not respond to emails requesting information on the enrollment process and the name of the person who set the meetings in Manhattan.