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Queens Chronicle

Hope for Van Buren HS

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Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 10:30 am

Dear Editor:

In the last week a number of elected officials have lamented the Department of Education’s decision not to withdraw the co-location plans at Martin Van Buren High School. Unfortunately, these local elected officials are out of sync with the local community on this issue.

Just prior to the mayoral election, civic leaders from nine of the largest civic associations in eastern Queens, representing thousands of families zoned for MVB, met and voted unanimously with one abstention to support the DOE’s P-Tech co-location proposal. A P-Tech school focuses on certain technical skills with a pathway to a tuition-free college education and a career.

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 area. The thousands of families represented by these civic leaders are in distress over sending their kids to MVB. The P-Tech co-location initiative attempts to fast-track the turnaround of MVB and create a safe school environment.

Local parents of high school-age students are stressed out by the thought of sending their kids to MVB. Despite valiant attempts at improvement, MVB’s School Environment Rating is stuck at an unacceptable “D.” Recently installed school Principal Sam Sochet, who is popular with the local community, has had some success, raising the school report card to a “C,” but more than a decade of decline has made that job difficult for one person. The MVB “brand” is dead and needs to be reinvented. This reinvention begins with P-Tech: a school within a school providing its graduating students with a tuition-free two-year college education at Queensborough Community College and a pathway to a career with one of the “Fortune 500” corporate partners of the program.

Handled properly, the P-Tech co-location will attract a student body from the local community that is more engaged in the educational experience. Over time this will boost local enrollment of students as parental perception changes and the excellent programs being initiated by Principal Sochet take root and become more widely known.

I urge Councilman Mark Weprin, state Sen. Tony Avella and Assemblyman David Weprin to rethink their opposition and embrace the P-Tech co-location rather than seeking its demise. Join us in our support of this initiative and help return this failed school to its storied and illustrious past.

Bob Friedrich
President, Glen Oaks Village
Glen Oaks

Welcome to the discussion.