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Worst Flushing school receives grant money

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Schools District 25’s lowest performing school, which earlier this year rejected money from the NAACP, has received a federal grant that education officials hope will revive the struggling school.

PS 201, located at 65-11 155th St. in Flushing, and two other schools in the district have received a combined $800,900 grant provided under the Reading Excellence Act. The money is to be split evenly between PS 201, PS 20 in Flushing and PS 164 in Kew Gardens Hills.

Based on low reading and math scores, PS 201 has been named a corrective action school for the second year in a row. The corrective action status calls for supplemental grants such as the Reading Excellence Act funding to help the school.

This year 38.8 percent of the school’s students met reading standards and 32.6 percent of the school’s students met math standards. Both figures are up slightly from the previous school year.

But the school’s scores are well below any other in the district, which had the city’s third highest reading and math scores for the 2001-02 school year.

School District 25 covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Kew Gardens Hills and Bay Terrace.

The REA program installs a staff developer at struggling schools. The developer brings in a new package of reading materials and frequently meets with the teachers of the schools.

“They are going to get a nationally recognized reading program that addresses phonics,” said Harvey Sherer, deputy superintendent of the district.

PS 20 and PS 164 both rank in the lower half of the district in terms of math and reading, but their students scored significantly higher than those at PS 201.

Schools that continue to flounder can become a School Under Review. SUR schools are directly taken over by the city’s school chancellor and operated under more strict guidelines.

Sherer said he doubted the new chancellor would move to directly take over PS 201. No school in School District 25 has ever fallen under direct chancellor control.

The appropriation of the REA funds comes months after the PS 201 administration rejected a smaller grant.

In October 2001, the Northeastern Queens NAACP received $10,000 from Con Edison for education. Valerie Cohen, education chair for the branch, said her group intended to give about $7,500 of the grant to PS 201. The school, which takes many of its students from Pomonok Houses, has a high population of black and Hispanic students compared to the remainder of the district.

But Cohen said she received a cool reaction from the school’s principal, Veronica Yurcik.

“They considered it something as an insult,” Cohen said. “The principal was a little disturbed that I had applied for the money without consulting them.”

Yurcik could not be reached for comment.

The NAACP wanted to determine how the money was spent in the school, contrary to the wishes of PS 201, Sherer and Cohen both said. By February, talks broke down, and the school officially rejected the money.

Sherer said PS 201’s school leadership team, composed of the principal, parents and teachers, had come up with a comprehensive education plan.

“It spelled out what kinds of programs they are going to use in their schools to reach their goal,” Sherer said. “What the NAACP wanted was not consistent with the programs.”

Sherer said the school followed the correct procedure in considering the grant.

“I have to assume the folks at the school did what was in their best interest,” he said.

As president of the Northeastern Queens NAACP and a member of School Board 25, Cohen’s husband, Kenneth Cohen, has also taken an interest in PS 201.

“It looks like you need to get an army in there to get them up to standards,” Kenneth Cohen told July’s school board meeting.

Although he did praise some aspects of the school, Kenneth Cohen said PS 201’s summer program was an example of the school’s problems.

“I don’t think it’s aggressive enough,” he said. “If you take the time to go to summer school, you will pass. It’s just a course to reassure.”

He also criticized parents for not being more involved in the school.

Sherer agreed that the school had some shortcomings, but he noted that it has strong programs as well and predicted that those programs combined with the new money would bump the school out of corrective action status.

He pointed out that grant recipient PS 20, located on Barclay Avenue, had been in a similar situation a couple of years ago.

“We were scared it was going to go down,” he said. “But it didn’t. It came back. It came back beautifully.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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