“MVB don’t want to share! Mayor Bloomberg, he don’t care!”
Thus went the battle cry on the steps of Martin Van Buren High School last Friday as more than 200 students, joined by elected officials, marched against the Department of Education’s effort to lower the Bellerose school’s enrollment next year to accommodate a Pathways in Technology, or P-Tech, charter school in the building.
Van Buren has suffered from low performance for years, but officials joining the students on Friday said new Principal Sam Sochet has fostered immediate improvement.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said the co-location is a betrayal of the DOE’s promise to give Sochet the time and support he was promised.
“All of a sudden, they stab these kids in the back,” Avella said. “What happened to the DOE’s promise to keep this school going?”
Avella said he is opposed in general to Mayor Bloomberg’s rush to co-locate about a dozen schools in Queens before his term ends in January.
“It’s a stupid policy,” he said following the rally.
Both Weprins said the money devoted to the new school could be used to add the same types of programs at Martin Van Buren without the disruption to students and their teachers, while giving Sochet and his charges valuable and necessary assistance.
“Why not just add those programs within the school?” Mark Weprin asked to a round of raucous applause.
He also says the rushed timing of the co-location, which will be voted on Oct. 30 before a new mayoral administration comes in, causes him some serious doubts.
He wants the DOE to wait.
“Let’s look at it, and if it’s a good idea, fine. It will still be a good idea a year from now,” he said.
The Department of Education was scheduled to hold a public hearing at the school at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night, a meeting attended by a Chronicle reporter but after its publishing deadline this week.
The DOE’s Panel on Educational Policy is scheduled to vote on Van Buren and other co-location proposals at a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
It will take place at the Prospect Heights Campus, located at 883 Classon Ave. in Brooklyn.
The public is welcome to attend.
Student Gaitree Boojraj said the new administration deserves the chance it was promised.
“They’ll be taking away 20 percent of our good teachers,” she said. “We don’t want that.”
The school, which opened in 1955, has a distinguished roster of graduates, including two-time Academy Award-nominated actress Madeline Kahn, Jon “Bowser” Bauman of the musical group Sha Na Na, controversial artist and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and Frank Wilczek, the recipient of the 2004 Nobel Prize for physics.
Not everyone, however, is opposed to the idea of bringing in a new school.
Queens Civics United, a consortium of neighborhood associations in Eastern Queens, sent out a press release on Monday offering its support for the DOE measure.
“Decades of failure have transformed MVB from a school having deep community roots into one where 96 percent of its student population comes from outside of the local community,” the statement said, also adding that P-Tech will fast-track a turnaround at the school.
The group recognizes that Sochet has had success in his brief tenure, but said a decline over more than a decade will take more than he can do alone to fix.
“We urge Councilman Mark Weprin, Sen. Tony Avella and Assemblyman David Weprin to rethink their opposition to the P-Tech co-location and join us in our support of an initiative to help return this failed school to its storied and illustrious past,” the statement read. “Local parents and their children simply don’t have the luxury to wait more years for MVB to transform.”
Community Education Council 29 is organizing a bus trip to the Oct. 30 meeting of the Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy, where the PEP is scheduled to vote on proposals to co-locate new schools in 12 existing school facilities in Queens.
The aim is to allow opponents of the co-locations to have their voices heard prior to the vote.
There is no charge for the bus, which will leave at 4 p.m. from IS 59, located at 132-55 Ridgedale St. in Springfield Gardens.
Schools in Queens facing co-locations include IS 59, August Martin High School, PS 40, Martin Van Buren High School, The Corona Arts and Sciences Academy, JHS 226 and MS 72.
The meeting of the PEP is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 30 at the Prospect Heights Campus, located at 883 Classon Ave. in Brooklyn.
The public is welcome to attend.
Those wishing to ride the bus leaving from IS 59 must sign up in advance by calling the CEC 29 offices at (718) 341-5408.