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City decides to shutter Rich Hill, John Adams

Jim Pitman, a physical education teacher at John Adams High School, attended the vote that ultimately decided the fate of his school.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The city Panel for Educational Policy’s decision to close 24 city schools drew the ire of advocates long after the votes were cast.

Richmond Hill High School and John Adams High School in Ozone Park, among the seven schools in Queens the PEP voted to shutter last Thursday, will reopen next year under new names with up to 50 percent of their staffs replaced.

“At a time when teachers should be focusing on helping students study for Regents exams, we now have to work on résumés and portfolios,” said Sally S., a teacher at John Adams. “This decision has put a lot of lives into chaos.”

Teachers, students and parents from both schools attended the vote and made arguments to remove the high schools from the city Department of Education’s turnaround list. Advocates said the schools had made vast improvements during the year and deserved a chance to continue to move forward as currently constituted.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) lamented the loss of the schools, saying both have long histories in their respective neighborhoods. He also expressed hope the DOE would accept the community’s input when it comes to restructuring these schools.

“My paramount concern is to provide our students with a sound education upon which they can build their dreams of higher education and occupations,” Addabbo said. “Now that the DOE panel has made its decision, I think we should reflect that all people involved in this decision should remain open to ways to listen to and to use community input and feedback.”

The senator also said in the coming months that he will work on getting answers for faculty and students concerned with what turnaround will do to their school.

Seth Welins, chairman of education and youth services with Community Board 9, said the DOE should have focused on ways to improve the schools, including lowering class sizes at what he believes is an overcrowded Richmond Hill HS.

“When a school is having difficulty, the first thing that should be addressed is class size,” said Welins. “That didn’t happen here and now we are left with teachers and students preoccupied with other things besides academics.”

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said the decision to close the schools ultimately disrupts any headway the schools have made toward educating young minds.

“The closure of Richmond Hill HS will disrupt a great deal of progress that has been made in the last three years and set thousands of young adults at a disadvantage,” she said. “Shutting down schools with experienced and effective educators is not the way to improve our education system.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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