2015-09-30 / Front Page

Addabbo’s Statement On Grover Cleveland HS

State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. released the following statement on Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood:
In mid-July, the New York State Education Department designated 144 schools across the State of New York as being under-performing in terms of their graduation rates and state assessments.
While no schools in Queens have been tagged as the more serious “persistently struggling,” nine of our local schools have been identified as “struggling,” including Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood.
This means that Grover Cleveland – its administration, teachers, parents, and other members of the school community – must work with New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña over the next two years to find ways to improve the school’s graduation rate and other outcomes. If the school does not sufficiently succeed in this regard by 2017, the Chancellor will be required, under state law, to choose an outside entity – a receiver – to take on this responsibility.
Grover Cleveland has successfully faced many challenges in recent years. My understanding is that the data used by the State Education Department to designate this school as struggling is based on 2013 and 2014 numbers, when the four-year graduation rate at this school was identified as 58 percent by the city. I believe Principal Denise Vittor has made tremendous strides in improving the educational environment at Grover Cleveland and to her point has noted that the school’s graduation rate is now higher, standing at 62.5 percent. Since representing that area of my district, I have personally witnessed progress being made at the school.
In December of 2014, Chancellor Fariña announced that the citywide four-year-graduation rate for 2013-2014 rose to 68.4 percent, a 2.4 percent gain from the previous year. Grover Cleveland has a way to go to close that gap, but I have confidence in our administrators, educators, families and students to help even more of our children succeed and graduate in four years.
Unlike a number of other schools in Queens identified as struggling, Grover Cleveland is not a part of the “Renewal Schools” program launched by the city to provide extra resources to schools that are having trouble and help them to improve, but would benefit from the same kind of investment of resources. Some have suggested that we should expand the Renewal Schools concept – which is locally based – instead of allowing independent receivers to come in, individuals who might not know our school communities the way we do. Some have also suggested that the Renewal Schools program, which has only been in place a short time, should be given more time to achieve its intended results.
I don’t expect that we will need to face the issue of receivership, however, because we are all committed to helping Grover Cleveland High School improve and its students to succeed. Grover Cleveland has the full support of myself and my office to achieve whatever goal needs to be met. While this school has been officially designated as struggling, it is not all doom and gloom by any means at this school. As recently as this past spring, Grover Cleveland’s STEM Academy students earned prestigious awards in a state competition, and other student projects were honored at the most recent Citywide Science Olympiad, the annual Envirothon Competition, and the Regional Bridge Building Competition.
In short, we have some very talented students, educators and administrators, and – with their help – we can put our heads together with parents and the community to find ways to boost graduation rates and the overall educational experience at this school.
The Chancellor will have latitude in deciding how to encourage improvements in schools, including increases in school hours and school days each year, requesting changes to collective bargaining agreements, or requiring teachers and administrators to reapply for their positions. I don’t believe the latter path should be taken – it would take away the stability we need to make improvements as a group of stakeholders who know this community and students the best.
I am ready and willing to work with the entire Grover Cleveland High School community to help protect this school from receivership, improve its graduation rates, and increase parental participation. Engaging more parents in the education of their children is key to improving outcomes for students, as well as creating stronger families and communities. I look forward to working towards protecting Grover Cleveland for generations of students to come.

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