There was hardly a seat open at the long table in the second-floor conference room in Borough Hall last Thursday night.
Parents, retired educators and members of the borough’s community education councils sat around the table and discussed issues concerning public schools in the borough including overcrowding, co-locations, new school construction and Common Core.
CEC 24 President Nick Comaianni, left, with Madeline Taub-Chan, center, and Peter Versessi at the council’s meeting where the school route for students who live in the Big Six apartments was discussed and council members called on the city to make changes.
Parents and members of the Community Education Council for District 24 were joined by representatives from the Office of Pupil Transportation at Tuesday night’s meeting at PS 229 in Maspeth to discuss their chief concern: children from the Big Six residential towers, along Queens Boulevard, walking to school via a perilous intersection at a Brooklyn-Queens Expressway underpass, where cars speed onto and off the ramps.
“We think the Big Six does deserve a variance,” Council President Nick Comaianni said, referring to a granted permission to use a school bus. “I would not let my own children walk that route, not at any age.”
There’s plenty of room for prekindergarten in New York City, at least according to Mayor de Blasio.
City Hall released a report Tuesday that said the capacity exists for universal pre-K to be implemented this September.
While the debate over universal prekindgarten has been focused on how a plan would be funded, another issue is arising among parents and officials — where would these classes be held?
Queens schools are the most overcrowded in the city, and that is without most of the schools having a pre-K program, and some are wondering if the city Department of Education has a plan for where to put these students when and if universal pre-K is mandated citywide.
The city Department of Education released its five-year capital plan last week, the first under Mayor de Blasio, that shifts $210 million in charter school funds to other priorities, including expanding pre-K.
The proposed budget, which is slated to be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy in March, would boost capital spending for schools by $800 million to $12.8 billion.
“You may see a number of challenges against incumbents this year,” the insider said, noting that those candidates could have the support of groups that backed de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito last year, which have long champed at the bit at taking on the Democratic Party leadership and are emboldened by the results of the 2013 elections.
Democrats hold every state legislative seat in Queens and few, if any, are competitive in general elections. That leaves the Democratic primary the real race in many districts. Republicans haven’t held an Assembly seat in Queens since 1996.
A plan to ease overcrowding at PS/IS 49 in Middle Village was unanimously rejected by District 24’s Community Education Council on Nov. 27.
The proposal changed the zone boundaries of the school, located at 63-60 80 St. to allow some sections of Middle Village zoned for PS/IS 49 to be moved to within the boundaries of PS/IS 128 at 69-10 65 Dr., about a half mile west of PS/IS 49 and PS 102 on Van Horn Street in Elmhurst.
The drama engulfing Community Board 9 continued at its October meeting Tuesday night in Richmond Hill, as an attempt to send the board into the personnel-related second executive session in four months was thwarted in part by the very member they may be seeking to remove.
Longtime board member Sam Esposito is accused of making bigoted remarks to two board members. The situation led to the board’s Executive Committee to call for an executive session — a closed-door meeting of the board — allegedly to propose removing Esposito from the board. The session was scheduled for the end of the meeting after the board dealt with its regular business, including liquor license hearings, votes on the Ozone Park rezoning plan and City Line pedestrian plazas and a hearing on the proposal to turn the Richmond Hill Republican Club include a catering hall.
“As of right now, you have no building,” Community Education Council 24 president Nick Comaianni told the representative of a proposed new charter school on Tuesday, all but squashing plans for the Arista Hellenic Charter School of Corona to open at 98-07 38 Ave. in Sept. 2014.
The building is owned by the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church, which wants to open a charter school, but Comaianni doesn’t see this happening so soon.
Changes to the Gifted and Talented admission process and a rezoning of schools in District 24 could have powerful impacts on students.
The process of applying to the G&T program currently involves multiple steps said Sara McPhee, director of middle-school admissions, at Tuesday night’s meeting of Community Education Council 24, some of which she called “burdensome.”
Community Education Council 24 President Nick Comaianni, above with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, with mike, says the district has approved one charter school during the last 10 years; however, proposed charters with their own building stand a better chance. Arista Hellenic Charter is seeking to set up shop in an old school building owned by the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church in Corona.
A new charter school is eyeing Corona.
The proposed Arista Hellenic Charter School plans to submit paperwork to the state Department of Education by September. If all is approved, the K-5 school hopes to open its doors in September 2014.
It’s been nearly three months since a gunman massacred 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn.
But while the issues of gun control and mental illness have topped the agenda in the tragedy’s wake, for many parents, administrators and officials, security at schools is a hot topic.
True to their word, members of Community Education Council 24 on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution calling for armed ex-NYPD officers in all city schools among numerous proposals to upgrade school safety.
But if top education officials are to be believed as well, the retired officers with concealed firearm permits are not going to be roaming public school hallways anytime soon, if at all.
City education officials appear to have no interest in a proposal pending in Community Education Council 24 that seeks armed retired police officers in all city schools.
The agenda for CEC 24’s meeting on Jan. 22 contains a draft resolution calling on the Department of Education to hire retired NYPD officers as armed “special patrolmen” to “supplement current unarmed security personnel in NYC public schools.”
Community Education Council 24 will offer a resolution that calls for the hiring of retired NYPD police officers as armed “special patrolmen” to “supplement current unarmed security personnel in NYC public schools” at its next meeting on Jan. 22.
About two dozen students from the Voyages Preparatory High School program came out Tuesday night to ask Community Education Council 24 to protect their classroom space at the Elmhurst Education Campus on 94th Street.
And to rousing applause, they got the unanimous support they sought before a single student even got up to speak.
About 90 percent of the schools within District 24 are overcrowded, Community Council President Nick Comaianni said.
“Overcrowding has been a problem for as long as I can remember,” said Comaianni, who has served in his leadership position for 10 years.
Rezoning aimed at alleviating overcrowding at PS 143 in Corona will actually result in increases during the first few years after a new school opens nearby in September 2013.
That bit of information was included Tuesday night in a presentation at PS 143 by representatives of the Department of Education’s Department of Portfolio Planning.
Two new schools planned within District 24 were greeted with enthusiasm by members of the Community Education Council on Tuesday night.
But council members in the same session passed two grim resolutions decrying the Department of Education’s decision to place Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood and Newtown High School in Elmhurst on the list of schools slated for so-called turnaround designation.
“Just get on the bus.”
That was the advice that Community Education Council 24 on Tuesday voted unanimously to give to parents of children in grades 3 through 6 from the Big Six apartment complex in Woodside.
Community Board 9 rejected a call by some members to re-do an election this week after the wrong person was crowned chairwoman during a mix-up last month.
At the board’s March 14 meeting in Woodhaven, CB 9 officials announced members voted 18-17 to elect Joan DeCamp as the new chairwoman. However, they recounted the votes the following morning and discovered the vote was actually 18-17 in favor of the sitting chairwoman, Andrea Crawford.
Last Thursday, two officials from the Department of Education walked to and from Woodside’s PS 229, just as about 30 students must often do every day, though parents and members of Community Education Council 24 contend the route is dangerous.
Eric Goldstein, chief executive of the DOE’s Office of Support Services, and Alexandra Robinson, the executive director of the DOE’s Office of Pupil Transportation, were invited by CEC 24 to make the walk, in an effort to convince them to reinstate bus service for third through sixth graders who live in the Big Six apartment complex over a half mile from the school.
CEC 24 president Nick Comaianni, left, points out the dangers of the intersection at 61st Street and Laurel Hill Boulevard to Eric Goldstein, chief executive of the DOE’s Office of School Support Services, and Bill Kregler, a CEC 24 member, right, on Thursday.