Opposition to new charter school at Beach Channel campus grows, but to no avail

A large crowd attended the Community  Board 14 meeting on Wednesday night, many of them to speak in opposition to co-locating a new charter school at the Beach Channel Educational Campus.

Jennie Soler-McIntosh, the vice president for community engagement for New Visions, made a presentation to CB 14 on Wednesday night, but many members of the board and speakers were in opposition to the new school.

Kahlil Anderson, a graduate for the Charter View school at the BCEC was in opposition to the new school, pointing out that amenities such as the gym, cafeteria and library were already over-utilized by  the six schools already at the campus.

The Department of Education says that there is plenty of room inside of the Beach Channel Educational Campus for a seventh school, arguing that the total enrollment for all six schools presently in the building is 1625 students and that, before it was discredited and closed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it held 2,791 students, a difference of more than 1,000 students. The city’s own website says that the school is only utilizing 58 percent of its capacity. City education officials say that District 27 and Rockaway need more high school seats. According to education officials, the city will need several thousands of new high school seats over the next years.

The seventh school, Humanities IV, would open its doors to ninth grade students this coming September, was voted into co-location status on Wednesday night by the city’s educational council. It will begin in September with 125 ninth grade students, with the plan off adding a like-sized ninth grade class every year as the older students move towards graduation – a total of 500 students over four years.

Many locals, however, dispute that the raw numbers provided by the education department tell the whole story and they want the co-location stopped. Those opposed to the plan range from Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato to recent graduates to parent association officials to students attending the other six schools in the building – especially those at the highly-successful Channel View School for Research, a grade 6-12 school.

Kahlil Anderson, a recent graduate of Channel View and a Community Board 14 member, was one of those who voiced his opposition to the co-location plan at Wednesday night’s meeting.

“The school is so overcrowded now that some kids eat lunch at 10 a.m. What will it be like when 400 or 500 more kids are placed in the building,” he asked. The cafeteria is already over utilized as are the gym and the library. There are a lot of questions that have to be answered, particularly the question of how seven schools are going to share scarce amenities.”

Board Chair Delores Orr said that the board had asked the education council to hold off from its vote until the local community board could weigh in, but the plea was apparently ignored by the citywide board.

“Why not simply expand Channel View,” Orr asked. “Why throw another wrench in to a difficult situation with six separate entities and six managers.”

Jennie Soler-McIntosh, the vice president for community engagement for New Visions Public School was present at the meeting and made a presentation detailing the glories of the New Visions program.

She also admitted that there are “challenges” for co-location buildings with several schools.

“Co-location works if all the principals come together in a collaborative way,” she said. “It’s all a leadership issue. We spoke with all the other principals [in the campus] about the understanding that it takes to work with others. It’s all about collaboration and all of the principals meet regularly to work out the details of how all the amenities in the building will be shared.”

Soler-McIntosh said that there were already 150 applicants for the first 125 slots and that a lottery would be held to see who gets a seat.

At first, she said that most of the applicants were from schools already functioning at the Beach Channel Campus, but walked that statement back when Orr challenged her. She added that approximately 55 students from Rockaway presently attend a sister charter school in South Jamaica, proving the need for more high school seats on the peninsula.

“You say you bring new seats, but then what sense does it make to take most of your students out of already-existing seats in the same building,” she asked.

After a few moments, the charter representative walked back her statement, saying that she “misspoke” and that most of the applicants come from District 27, which includes a large portion of the mainland, and not specifically from Rockaway.

Those opposed to the program pointed out that there are already three high school programs at the Beach Channel campus and another across the street at Scholars’ Academy. There are another three more high school programs at the Far Rockaway Educational Campus on Bay 25 Street in Bayswater.

When Soler-McIntosh was asked how her program would be different than any of the other high school programs already on the peninsula and on the mainland, she was at a loss for words, except that her school has a “community service” and a “hands-on” components. She pointed out that her other schools have a 91 percent graduation rate. The graduation rate at Channel View is 95 percent and at Scholars’, 99 percent.

Hundreds come to Beach Channel Campus to honor fallen Midshipman Justin Zemser


A large crowd turned out on Friday morning at the Beach Channel Educational Campus to honor Midshipman Justin Zemser, who died in a tragic AMTRAK accident last year. A street near the school was co-named in his honor.


Howard Zemser, Justin’s father, speaks with some of his son’s  former Naval Academy roommates at the co-naming ceremony.


Assistant Principal Joe Featherston emceeded the program as Zemser’s parents, Susan and Howard, look on.


Seven Midshipmen from the Naval Academy salute the Star Spangled banner. They came from Annapolis, Maryland for the ceremony.


The new street sign at Beach Channel Drive and Seaside Avenue honors Zemser.


A copy of the new street sign was presented by City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who sponsored the co-naming, to Zemser’s parents as Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder looks on.


The crowd joined the Midshipmen in singing Navy Blue and Gold.


Zemser, right, who died in a tragic Pennsylvania train crash, played on the Naval Academy’s Sprint football team. He is seen after a game with his mother, Susan.

Several hundred local residents, former members of the Beach Channel Educational Campus football team, veterans groups, staff students from the school and seven midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy joined with Councilman Eric Ulrich and the Zemser Family on Friday morning, the school’s tennis courts for a street co-naming ceremony in honor of Midshipman Justin Zemser.   

 Ulrich, who hosted Zemser as an intern, teared up when speaking about the former Rockaway resident.

 “In addition to honoring Justin Zemser and the life he led, this street co-naming will allow for Justin’s name and story to live on,” Ulrich said.  “Students at Beach Channel campus will see Justin’s name and his classmates and teachers will continue to tell his story of community service, dedication, and patriotism.” 

 Midshipman Mitchell Barnes, one of Zemser’s former roommates at the Naval Academy talked about him and the fact that he still asks, “What would Justin have done,” when he gets in a tight spot.

 “I came in the first day, and everybody was screaming at me and I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do and walked into our room, and Justin was folding his socks,” he said. “I asked him what we were supposed to do, and he said that he did not have the slightest idea, but that we would figure it out. That was the way he lived.”

 Joe Featherston, the school’s assistant principal acted as the master of ceremonies, remembering Zemser as a student who wanted always to do more, to read more books, to take more coursework.”

 In addition, Zemser’s father, Howard Zemser, spoke about his son.

 The chorus sang and a street sign was revealed in his name. His classmates at the academy led the crowd in singing the school’s alma mater, “Navy Blue and Gold.”

  Nearby, on the edge of the Football field on which he excelled, sits a memorial to his memory – a large rock with his photo and the words, “You lived your life with honor, integrity, and respect. Although we are apart, your spirit lives within us.”

 Zemser one of the eight passengers who lost their lives in the AMTRAK train which crashed in north Philadelphia last year. The NTSB recently ruled that the accident was due to the engineer being distracted by reports that rocks were being thrown at trains in the area and lost awareness that he was entering a sharp curve and had to slow down. He did not, and the first cars were derailed.

Zemser was a member of the class of 2017 and was the vice president of the Jewish Midshipmen Club at the Academy. He was a star of the Academy’s sprint football team.

Zemser excelled at the Channel View School for Research High School, both on the athletic field and as a student leader.

He was the student government president at Channel View School for Research and a captain, all-borough player and two-time letter winner on the football team. He also worked with the Special Olympics program and as an intern for City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who mourned his passing.

His funeral service at the Boulevard-Riverside Chapel was mobbed by friends and relatives, as well as by classmates from the Channel View School for Research High School and from more than 150 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland.


Program for troubled teens coming to Channel Campus; Goldfeder wants study

BCHS from the air

The DOE has plans to move a program for troubled teens who have been suspended for up to a year from MS 53 in Far Rockaway to the Beach Channel Educational Campus.

Goldfeder BCHS Pix

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, seen marching here with the Channel View band, wants the city to hold more local hearings on the plan to put a Alternative Learning Center for suspended teens in the local high school campus.

Coming soon to Rockaway’s Beach Channel Educational Campus a program that will bring 150 hard core students, suspended from their schools for such transgressions as setting fires, assaulting staff and other students, using a weapon on school grounds and the like.

The program, now running at IS 53 will soon be moved because space in that school is needed for a new Eva Moskowitz Success Charter School.

When most people think of school suspensions, they picture a kid sitting at home for five days or less, or perhaps sitting in a “time out room” away from his or her classmates, learning a lesson that solitary learning can bring.

Not so for many students, however, who have gone the school suspension route a number of time or who have committed offenses that fall in the high end of the city’s Discipline Code, level four or five offenses such as assault, bringing a weapon to school or setting a fire.” Violations such as those go to a Superintendent’s Suspension, which can bring time out ranging from a month to a full year.

When a district superintendent suspends a level 4 or 5 offender, alternative instruction must be arranged through an offsite location which provides a full day program for elementary and middle school students and a two hour program for high school students.

District 88 Alternative Learning Center (ALC) sites for suspended students are the program of choice In New York City and there are now 38 of the sites, with at least one in each district.

A hearing was held at the school on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 and it was poorly attended, perhaps because of the holiday, perhaps because few people knew about the meeing.

In response to controversial plans to use the Beach Channel Educational Campus for a program serving students with significant disciplinary issues, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder is calling on the NYC Department of Education (DOE) to hold additional public hearings before a decision deadline later this month.

“Every parent should have the opportunity to weigh in on decisions that could affect their child’s education,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “The co-location plan for Beach Channel is major decision that could have far-reaching consequences for all students and faculty involved. Holding a single hearing on St. Patrick’s Day at a time when many parents are still at work does not allow for the public input that this proposal deserves. I urge the Department of Education to hold additional public hearings and ensure that every opinion is carefully and fully considered before any final decision is made.”

This week, Assemblyman Goldfeder sent a letter to DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña calling on the city to hold additional public hearings on the proposed plan to move the Alternate Learning Center at M.S. 53 into the Beach Channel Educational Campus.

Goldfeder cited widespread concern among parents over the plan, which would bring as many as 150 sixth through eighth grade students currently on Superintendent Suspensions of up to 90 days to the campus’ largely high school setting. According to the letter, many parents fear that the addition of another student body to the campus would stymie growth in instructional and extra-curricular programs at the Channel View School for Research (CVSR) and other schools located at Beach Channel.

Goldfeder echoed these concerns, pointing to the considerable improvements to education made at the former Beach Channel High School, which in recent years has seen its academic and athletic reputation grow. CVSR currently ranks above borough and citywide graduation rates, with an 85% 4-year graduation rate during the 2014-2015 school year.

“Beach Channel was designed as one school, but we now have five separate schools with five separate bell schedules all using the same hallways and common spaces. We want to see growth at the campus, but we would prefer that it be organic and focused on the schools already there,” said Kathy Ryan, PTA President at Channel View School for Research. “When I brought my daughter to Channel View eight years ago, the campus didn’t have the best reputation. It was no small feat overcoming this and we don’t want to see all our hard work be undone by this proposal.”

The Assemblyman also criticized the decision to hold the only public hearing on the matter to date on St. Patrick’s Day. According to Goldfeder, holding the hearing at 6:00 p.m. at the school on a popular holiday for Rockaway’s large Irish-American population prevented many parents and faculty from attending. Goldfeder recently sponsored legislation that would make St. Patrick’s Day a school holiday in New York City public schools.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. thinks that the present schools at the campus need to be protected, but that allowing the ALC program could be successful if its students are kept segregated from the rest of the programs in the building.

“One of the major problems our city’s public school system faces is a chronic lack of space for the growing population of students, Addabbo said in a statement.” While I understand that changes – like co-locating some suspension program students into Channel View High School – may be inevitable, and I have heard the concerns of students and parents, our focus should be on making sure any decision on how to utilize available building space does not affect the success of the students or their ability to learn. Channel View High School has worked hard to transform its atmosphere and move toward a more positive learning environment, and it is important that this progress not be interrupted by any possible changes by the Department of Education. While nothing is set in stone yet, it is my belief that co-locating students from the suspension program into Channel View High School could be successful if done properly, including giving a dedicated entrance to the incoming students through the building’s underutilized E wing and ensuring they have the appropriate space where both groups of students can thrive separately despite sharing a school building.”

The DOE’s proposal comes amid growing concerns over student discipline in recent weeks. Last week, in two separate incidents, police officers from the 100th Precinct responded to reports of disorderly conduct among school-age youths on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 95th Street. In both incidents, groups of more than 50 blocked traffic along the boulevard and allegedly engaged in fights. More seriously, reports last week of a fifth grader bringing a semi-automatic weapon into a public school in Jamaica, Queens are raising questions about student safety that Assemblyman Goldfeder frequently hears from parents.

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