2005-04-13 / Features

H.S. Graduation Rate Improves 3.5 Percent In 2 Years

by richard gentilviso


As the first city election since state legislators gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg authority over New York’s public schools approaches, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein returned to his Queens roots after serving almost three years as head of a massive system of over 1 million students.

“This is a trip down memory lane,” said Klein at the April meeting of the United Community Civic Association (UCCA). Klein moved to the Woodside Houses as a young boy and attended local schools; P.S. 151, J.H.S. 10 and Bryant H.S. “I spent the formative years of my life here, you are my community,” he said.

Klein credited his later success, including a top legal position in the Department of Justice during the Clinton Presidential Administration, to his teachers in those public schools. “They believed that you could reach the stars,” Klein said.

Joseph Pistilli, local real estate developer, describes progress on the Stern’s warehouse and Eagle Electric buildings as UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo looks on.
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein discusses New York City schools at the United Community Civic Association (UCCA) April meeting.Joseph Pistilli, local real estate developer, describes progress on the Stern’s warehouse and Eagle Electric buildings as UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo looks on. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein discusses New York City schools at the United Community Civic Association (UCCA) April meeting. But according to a report issued by State Education Commissioner Richard Mills last month, only 54.3 percent of the Class of 2004 graduated in four years. That’s 550,000 kids,” said Klein using a projected total of half the number of students in the entire system to illustrate the problem.

Klein said the 2004 graduation rate did represent an improvement of 3.5 percent in the last two years (from 50.8 percent) and was the best graduation rate since 1986, but added, “If we can’t do better than that, then shame on us.”

Among efforts to improve the city schools, Klein said one of the more important ones was the training of principals for its 1,100 schools. “Every school has got to be a school you would be proud to send your child to,” said Klein.

Klein also pointed to the ending of social promotion. “Nobody likes to see a kid held back, but when you see kids 15, 16 and 17 years old who can’t read, you say ‘How did this happen?’” Currently, third-grade and fifth-grade students, for the first time this year, are held to promotional standards.

Last month, the New York Times reported that almost one third of the city’s fourth-grade students received letters saying they could be held back this year, even though they were subject to more rigorous standards as third graders.

Concerning funding for public schools, Klein said, “We have been getting the short end of the stick so long, it’s unbelievable.” The Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision would bring $5.6 billion to city schools annually, he said.

“Not everybody agrees with everything we do and everything is not perfect,” said Klein, “but we need more than monetary issues.” While Klein said he is not “into politics”, education will play a central role in the coming mayoral election. “Everybody in New York City knows that there are major issues in public education,” said Klein.

Developer Joseph Pistilli also spoke regarding progress on two of Pistilli Realty’s residential projects in the area, the conversion of the former Steinway Piano and Stern’s warehouse at 45th Street and Ditmars Boulevard and the Eagle Electric Plant at 21st Street and 24th Avenue.

“The projects are coming along,” said Pistilli, dispelling rumors that 40 percent of the Stern’s apartments have already been sold or that applications are being given out or accepted. “We hope to have the Stern’s project completed between September and December this year.”

A cooperative plan for the Eagle Electric building has yet to be submitted to the state Attorney General, which must approve it before any apartments can be offered.

Pistilli also confirmed that 10 apartments in Stern’s will be reserved for sale at a lower rate to senior citizens. “We probably will have a raffle for seniors [living] in the upper Ditmars area,” he said.

Noting the promise was made at an UCCA meeting, UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo said, “We’re very pleased Mr. Pistilli remembered that.”

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