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The Civic Scene: Shulman lauds class for aiding homeless

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Queens Borough President Claire Shulman delivered her 14th State of the Borough address with her usual colored slides in the Queens Theatre in the Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Her emphasis was on education.

During her speech, Shulman introduced Susan Vollono's fifth-grade class from PS 156, Laurelton, which is part of District 29. The class was cited for providing writing materials and books for homeless children at the Springfield Family Inn and the Saratoga Family Inn in the community as part of Newsday's Future Corps. They obtained more than 275 books.

Under the guidance of Vollono, her fifth-grade class wrote letters to book stores asking for donations of books. Barnes & Noble and Borders Books responded. Borders invited the class down to its store to wrap books for customers for a small fee. They raised $120, which was used to buy things for the homeless shelter children.

Vollono invited author Jane Zalben to the store to talk to the students about writing and how books are created. She also had her children write poetry, which was read to the children at the shelter. She recounted how one child walked up to one of her students and asked, "Did you actually write that poem?"

She felt that there was improvement in literacy for both groups of children. She told me that the activities are ongoing.

Vollono is a seasoned pro who worked in public relations for a number of years but who wanted to do something else as time went on.

When her children became older she remembered the good times she had with her children and decided to go into teaching. She has been teaching for four years and has been at PS 156 for one year.

As slides flashed in the darkened auditorium, Borough President Shulman told the audience of public officials and civic leaders that Queens is ready for the 21st Century with new schools, a new Queens Hospital Center, major infrastructure improvements and low unemployment. She thanked Mayor Giuliani a number of times during her speech.

Shulman spoke of the need for a salary increase for teachers but also commented that teachers will have to work a longer school day. Sounds like Giuliani.

On the other hand, my wife likes to remind me that in Nassau schools, where teachers earn more money, they have to be available after class hours, to tutor students or help them in various ways.

I don't know why she asked for the reinstitution of homeroom periods (in high schools). Currently, attendance is taken in a subject classroom, not a homeroom in high schools.

I often found the homeroom an annoying activity, because some students would visit friends and come in late and often be noisy so that when they went to their next class they were still talkative.

Since the homeroom teacher does not give a grade, some students don't care about it. The way I handled it, if I had finished the attendance and a student came in very late without a pass I would "forget" to erase the bubble in the absence column. After the parent became excited about the absence post card sent home and the student had to carry a sheet to all his or her teachers to prove he or she was present, then they often got the message. Why does Claire want to bring back this garbage?

Shulman's State of the Borough Message mentioned the many infrastructure projects being built, the economic development and the many projects which are improving the quality of life for us. I met a number of officials and civic association leaders who I know. It was a nice morning.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: My wife and I have a couple of credit cards and we find it convenient when we can charge things. We have to keep in mind that the credit card companies charge about 18 percent interest to use their money. The fact that the credit card companies are in business to make money was recently brought home to us when we made an effort to bring the amount of money we owe way down and then a credit card company wrote and called us to ask if we still liked them. Imagine, they were unhappy because we wouldn't be paying them so much money in interest.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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