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Black tours Flushing high school for truant pupils

Administrators at a Flushing high school that specializes in truant teens worked to promote their academic strategies to the new city schools chancellor as she spent her first day on the job visiting the institution Monday.

Cathie Black toured the halls of the North Queens Community High School as part of a five-borough inspection of the city’s school system and interacted with students and teachers during their first day back following the holiday break.

Winston McCarthy, principal of the school at 141-25 77th Road, said he was taken aback when the city Department of Education told him she was visiting because he has been trying to show the city how successful his program has been since its inception in 2007.

“On two levels, I’m happy she’s here,” he said. “On one level, I wanted to show her how my school is doing .... On the second level, I want her to give more support.”

The school is run in a joint partnership between the DOE and the nonprofit group SCO Family of Services, which helps with school-related services such as counseling.

Students, who are enrolled on a rolling basis, are between 16 and 20 years old and had a high rate of truancy at their Queens high schools. Some of them dropped out after the ninth-grade.

At North Queens Community, the students are paired with a counselor who makes sure they get to class on time every day and works with them on improving their academics.

Black, who has been criticized for her lack of educational experience, got a first-hand look at the program by visiting various classrooms, including an English class.

“I like watching you engage the class,” she told one English teacher.

At the end of her visit, Black sat down with 10 students who shared their experiences in a group counseling session.

Felicia, a former student at Bayside High School, told Black that she had trouble learning while attending the large school. When she arrived at the Flushing institution, however, she got a new passion for studying and has been improving.

A student named Monique, who attended John Adams High School, also had a similar turnaround.

“I got accepted here and it’s really different from any other school,” she said.

Black said she was impressed with the morale of the student body and pushed them to continue with their success.

McCarthy said he hopes the chancellor learned a good deal about the city school’s inner workings and takes what she learned at North Queens Community to other institutions.

“I really believe schools like this make a difference,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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