State Education Department eyes closure of Newtown High School
Friday, January 29th 2010, 11:35 AM
More Queens high schools are facing the axe - this time, wielded by the state.
But, students, alumni and community members vowed on Wednesday to fight the possible closure of Newtown High School in Elmhurst - one of 10 Queens high schools the state Education Department has deemed "persistently lowest achieving."
"This is not a done deal," vowed state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst), who rallied the crowd at an impassioned meeting in the 113-year-old school's auditorium.
Those on the state's hit list of 34 schools citywide have four options: They can be turned around by replacing the principal and half of the staff; transformed by rewarding staff who boost student achievement; become charter schools or simply shut down.
"We identified those schools whose performance in English, language arts and mathematics were the lowest in the state and failed to show progress or schools who have had graduation rates below 60%," said Ira Schwartz, the state Education Department's assistant commissioner for accountability.
Action plans could be due by late spring.
"The bottom line is we need to create new programs for students that will result in increased graduation rates," Schwartz said.
Newtown Principal John Ficalora blamed his school's 53% four-year graduation rate on the fact that his students hail from 100 countries and speak 59 languages. This, he said, makes it difficult for many of them to graduate on time.
Richmond Hill High School Principal Frances De Sanctis was saddened when she learned her school was also in jeopardy.
"We're already in transformation here," she said.
The school went from earning an "F" on the city progress reports in 2008 to a "C" last year.
The other Queens schools on the list are Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens Vocational-Technical High School in Long Island City, Flushing High School, August Martin High School in Jamaica, Beach Channel High School in Rockaway Beach, John Adams High School in Ozone Park, Jamaica High School and Long Island City High School.
Beach Channel and Jamaica are already slated for closure by the city.
With Darren Tobia