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Queens Chronicle

A name compromise? CEC might consider it

PS 377 moniker may have ‘Centreville Leaders of Tomorrow’ and Art Beroff

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Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2018 10:30 am

The name games continue.

Community Education Council 27 on Monday rejected a proposal to call PS 377 the “Centreville Leaders of Tomorrow” school, after family and friends of the late Art Beroff asked panel members to combine that name with his.

The board almost voted on the proposal without any public input, but allowed speeches after Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton and Democratic District Leader Lew Simon objected to not being heard.

Following testimony from them, and others, seven CEC members voted against “Centreville Leaders of Tomorrow,” and one voted yes.

The panel did not vote on the new suggestion — CEC 27 President Wendy Pratt said members must go back to the drawing board before picking a different name for the school.

“It takes time,” Pratt said. “We have to go back to the table with this.”

Carole Beroff, Art Beroff’s widow, said in an interview following the board’s decision “I’m happy.

“I’m happy because at least the idea to combine the two names is out there.”

Naming the recently opened Ozone Park school after Beroff — who died in 2004 — was one of the conditions Community Board 10 set before it gave it a thumbs up.

But the CEC’s former president last March said “a majority” of members were against that wish, partially citing a 2002 accusation that Beroff — an investment banker and financial advisor — violated securities regulations by providing shares of stock to his parents that he paid for.

He paid a $50,000 civil penalty, without admitting or denying guilt, before his death.

But at the CEC meeting, speakers had only good things to say about the activist.

“He had an innate sense of community,” Howard Beach resident Michael Galeno, a close friend of Beroff’s, said at the meeting. “If he was here, he’d be teaching the entrepreneurial classes at the school and donating his time in any way.”

Those who knew Beroff said combining his name with Centreville Leaders of Tomorrow would be a good compromise and pay homage to him.

“He was a leader of tomorrow in his day,” Carole Beroff said.

The late activist served as a school and community board member and as the former brought numerous improvements to district schools.

“His interests were the children,” Simon said. “You couldn’t ask for a finer man who walked this community.”

Braton said it was CB 10’s intent to name a school after Beroff since his death due to cancer, and that without his leadership the Ozone Park school would not exist.

“Art Beroff died well before PS 377 became reality, but it was his vision to advance his agenda for children that set in motion Community Board 10’s action that resulted in the reality of a wonderful new school to serve Centreville’s children,” she said in a statement provided to the CEC. “Absent that vision and Art’s passion to advance it, coupled with his leadership on Community Board 10 regarding educational and youth issues, PS 377 would not be where it is serving the children it serves.”

At the end of the meeting, Pratt said this was the second time the CEC has voted on the school’s proposed name — but that’s not true.

While the matter has been discussed at prior meetings, there was never a vote before Monday.

The education panel and the community board have clashed over more than just the name of PS 377 — the CEC entertained the idea of making it a nonzoned building, despite CB 10 opposing that.

It was later made a zoned site, but some community leaders disagreed with the boundaries set by the panel, which extend beyond Cross Bay Boulevard.

In other news, several Rockaway residents attended the meeting to voice their disapproval of the city’s plan to shut down two peninsula schools.

The Panel for Educational Policy was set to vote Wednesday night, after the Chronicle’s press time, on whether to shut down nine Renewal Schools — including PS 42 and MS 53, both in Rockaway.

The renewal program was implemented in 2014 and directed extra resources to struggling schools.

Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña gave those institutions three years to improve, or face closure.

Some of the schools late last year were given an additional year to make improvements.

The DOE said it determined which sites will be shuttered by looking at schools’ test scores, enrollment, graduation rates, college readiness and more.

Parents and Rockaway activists said at the meeting, though, that PS 42 shouldn’t be closed — arguing it’s better off than other renewal schools that will not be closed.

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) and Borough President Melinda Katz have come out against the proposed closures.

Simon also spoke out against the proposal at Monday’s meeting.

The CEC has not taken an official position on it, though members signaled support for the some of the statements made by the speakers.

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