LIC High scheduling mixup angers community

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew criticized a class scheduling mess at Long Island City that resulted in hundreds of students having their classes cancelled or changed.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Officials at the city Department of Education and in government met last week to try to fix a monstrous scheduling mess at Long Island City High School that resulted in 900 students being forced to discontinue one of their electives while 120 other courses were combined.

“I’ve got two kids in high school and it is hard enough without the school totally disrupting their lives,” City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said.

School Principal Maria Mamo Vacacela’s office directed inquires to the DOE, which did not respond by Tuesday afternoon press time.

Long Island City High School, at 14-30 Broadway, has about 3,400 students enrolled and is in its second year as a transformation school, a process to improve persistently low-achieving schools in which the principal is replaced and the school goes through major reforms.

While details on what caused the scheduling problems are unclear, Vallone said some issues that contributed to the problem included a loss in enrollment of 200 students, lost funding and a gain in federal funding that needed to be used for specific mandates.

Other DOE instructions had to be met as well, Vallone said.

The result was the school had scheduled too many classes when it had 23 teacher vacancies. Changes to the schedule were not made until October, which resulted in the cancellation of an elective course in which 900 students had enrolled and 120 courses being “consolidated,” which sometimes caused scheduling conflicts and students to be marked absent for not attending classes that no longer existed.

“It was much like the blizzard that hit New York City,” Vallone said. “It was a confluence of events combined with bad planning.”

Vallone said that after hearing numerous complaints from parents and students, he and others met with the school to fix the problem.

The meeting included Vallone, Vacacela, Borough President Helen Marshall, state Assemblywomen Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) and Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), United Federation of Teachers members, Deputy city Schools Chancellor Marc Sternberg and Ernest Logan, president of the Council for School Supervisors and Administrators.

As a result of the meeting, four substitute teachers who had been teaching classes since the beginning of the year will become full-time teachers and options are being worked out so students can continue taking their credits for the cancelled elective before, during or after school or on Saturday.

In a statement, UFT President Michael Mulgrew criticized the DOE for the effect of the scheduling issues.

“The DOE sat on their hands as they watched Long Island City High School struggle and it was the students who paid the price,” Mulgrew said in a statement.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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