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Queens Chronicle

Richmond Hill HS is ‘standing’ tall

Struggling school removed from state list, nearly doubles grad rate

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Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2019 10:30 am

For the first time in six years, Richmond Hill High School appeared this month on the state Education Department’s list of schools in good standing.

It was a big win for the school that had through much of the decade been ranked as one of the lowest performing in the city.

Under a new principal, Neil Ganesh, the school has gone from a graduation rate in the low 40s to 73 percent last year, according to John Antinora, Richmond Hills’ assistant principal for organization.

Attendance is now nearly 90 percent, better than the citywide average, he added.

State education officials confirmed that the school was informed this week that it had been removed from the list of struggling schools and placed in good standing for the 2018-19 academic year.

The biggest problem now, said Antinora will be replacing the extra funds in the budget Richmond Hill had been receiving from the city and state for things like tutors and afterschool programs designed to lift the school out of the bottom reaches.

Good-standing status also means the school is no longer required to submit detailed plans every year on how it intends to improve student performance.

From 2012 to 2016, the high school had been listed as a so-called priority school, a category designated for those with “the overall lowest student academic performance on state assessments and persistently low graduation rates.”

In 2016, it was upgraded to a so-called focus school, defined as one with “low academic performance that is not improving.”

Moving Richmond Hill up to good standing status leaves six Queens high schools still on the state’s list of struggling schools — two traditional public and four charter.

Flushing High School and William Cullen Bryant High School in Astoria are listed on the state’s second-lowest tier of schools, as is the Academy of Medical Technology in Far Rockaway.

Stuck on the lowest tier of schools are North Queens Community in Flushing and Frederick Douglass Academy VI and the International High School for Health Sciences, both in Far Rockaway. All of the bottom-tier schools are charters.

Among the most persistent problems of the lowest-rank schools is a high percentage of students who are recent immigrants and in need of special English language instruction.

“When I started in this job six years ago,” Antinora said of Richmond Hill stutodents, “about 18 percent of the entering freshman and sophomores were ESL learners.

“Now it’s over 30 percent,” he said.

“Without the collaborative effort of all the stakeholders, the rapid changes which occurred these past six years would not have been possible,” Ganesh said in a prepared statement.

He singled out a community group called SAYA, for South Asian Youth Action, for tutoring and mentoring students in need of help.

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