Queensbridge Kids’ Scores Won’t Be Reviewed
A resolution introduced by Community School Board 30 Member John Ciafone in support of a task force to review the reading and math scores of students from Queensbridge Houses was defeated by a vote of seven to one at the Board 30 July meeting.The resolution was easily the most contentious issue of the evening.
After an organization called Queensbridge Community in Action (QCIA) first confronted District 30 with gaps in the reading and math performance levels between students from Queensbridge and the rest of the students in the district two years ago, efforts to address the matter eventually led to a request by QCIA for the creation of a task force.
Board 30 President Giovanna D’Elia told Ciafone that it was her understanding a task force had been agreed upon by District Superintendent Dr. Angelo Gimondo and the Queensbridge community. But Ciafone, whose resolution read, "It is necessary to establish a task force comprised of parents, school board members, the superintendent and his staff and community residents," was unsure of the existing task force composition.
Making a point of information to the superintendent, Ciafone asked him, "Who is on this?"
Gimondo responded by describing a team modeled on those used in state school reviews. Members of his own staff, members of the central Board of Education and the state Department of Education, as well as a university professor and parents, Gimondo said, would serve at the team’s core and could invite interested community members onto the task force as well.
Gimondo added that multiple task forces could be formed and report their findings to him so he could then look at the needs of each school and make adjustments to make sure improvement takes place.
When several speakers from the community said they favored the resolution but thought it needed more work, Ciafone attempted to table it, but like the resolution, the motion to table was defeated.
In other business, D’Elia was elected to her second term as president of Board 30. Also elected were Ellen Raffaele, vice president, Dorothy Wilner, secretary, and Lydia Chang treasurer, also for a second term. Nominations were unopposed and each candidate was unanimously voted to office by the eight-member board, a process described by District 30 Superintendent Dr. Angelo Gimondo as the smoothest he’d ever seen.
However, a resolution to appoint a ninth member to finish the unexpired term of David Glassberg who recently resigned from the board, was passed and Carolyn Scarano added to the board. Scarano, a lifelong Astoria resident, has a degree in special education and is affiliated with Children’s and Family Services, a private organization in Springfield Gardens. Scarano should be sitting with the board next month after she is sworn in.
Gimondo announced 6,000 children have begun summer school in the district. Citywide there are 190,000 elementary and high school students for which summer school attendance is mandatory if they are to be promoted in the fall and 140,000 additional students attending. In all about one-third of the city’s 1.1 million students are pre-registered for summer school.
Attendance among students mandated to attend the five-week summer session was around 60 percent citywide in the first week, but Gimondo noted that District 30 was one of only five districts to receive commendations from Schools Chancellor Harold Levy for having more than 80 percent attendance of its mandated students in school on July 10.
Under current law, the city can’t force children to attend summer school no matter how poor their school performance, and Levy is urging the legislature to make summer school compulsory for failing students. In the meantime, the board has sent out notices to more than 300,000 parents in the city telling them that their children should attend summer school.
In District 30, Gimondo said overall attendance was quite good at most sites and an outreach program was in effect. Last year, about 65 percent of the 62,537 students in grades three to eight who attended summer school were promoted to the next grade. This year, 72,074 students in grades three to eight were required to attend.
Two more resolutions authorizing the submission of the District 30 2001–2002 Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP) and approving the annual performance review of the community superintendent (Gimondo) were also passed.
The state Education Department and the central Board of Education both require community school districts to develop educational plans for each school year.
The community school board has the power to review and approve the performance of the superintendent in accordance with the employment agreement between the board and the superintendent, subject to final approval by the Chancellor.
Board 30 passed a resolution requiring the monitoring of air and water quality in all District 30 schools back in December 2000. At the time, there was some question as to its value. But at the suggestion of Board Member Dorothy Wilner students were urged to write on the subject, and the Coalition to Help Organize a Kleaner Environment (C.H.O.K.E.) initiated a district-wide essay contest offering U.S. Savings Bonds as prizes.
Wilner presented certificates to three students who tied for first place in the contest, all present with their families, at the board meeting at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights. The winners, Michael Minzicu of P.S. 150, Shadi Ali of P.S. 122 and Sarah Ahmad of P.S. 85, will each receive $100 bonds from C.H.O.K.E. In addition, four honorable mention winners will get $50 bonds.
Fifty-seven students entered the contest and Wilner, a former English teacher, judged. Noting that the organization spells "cleaner" with a K, Wilner nonetheless praised the effort of C.H.O.K.E. to reduce pollution from power plants within District 30.
Currently, Western Queens, encompassing District 30 schools, generates 3,875 megawatts of electricity, fully 49 percent of all power generated in the city. There are also several new power plant proposals on the drawing board that could boost the total to 6,349 megawatts in the area, or 52 percent of the city’s power.