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Editorial: A half-good plan

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The Education Department has announced a five-year plan that would eliminate most of the city’s middle schools. The plan would create primary schools that would go from Kindergarten to 8 and a smaller number of high schools that would teach students from 6th grade through the 12th grade.

The plan was driven by the realization that the city’s junior high schools and intermediate schools are not working. Many of these schools face massive discipline problems. Test results show that the children graduating these schools are ill-prepared for the academic and cultural challenges of high schools.

According to a recently published report for calendar year 2002-2003, 35 percent of the city’s ninth graders failed to move up to the 10th grade and 43 percent of the city’s 10th-graders were held back from the 11th grade. And for minority students the news is even worse: Last year's graduation rate for black and Hispanic students was less than 50 percent, and overall just 53 percent of the Class of 2003 graduated on time.

In response to this growing academic crisis, the city has proposed a $13- billion construction program that includes the building of approximately 54 new K-8 schools and 23 6-12 schools.

This is a half-good and half-foolish plan. The intermediate schools don’t work because many children are too immature at age 11 for the challenges of overcrowded and understaffed schools that place an emphasis on “personal responsibi­lity.” The schools are larger and more impersonal and ill-equipped to help children going through the emotional challenges of adolescence. It’s little surprise that these schools are often consumed with discipline problems.

Creating K-8 schools would give the system a better shot at preparing children for the challenges of high school. The city could hardly do worse than a 53 percent failure rate. But what sense does it make to place 11-year-old children in a school with kids 18 and older?

K through 8 has worked well in the parochial school system. The middle schools in the public school system are not working. At least half of the city’s plan is a major step in the right direction.

Editorial: A questionable cure

City Councilman and wannabe mayor Tony Avella (D-Bayside) are finding out just how difficult is to craft legislation that will meet everyone's needs. The Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella organization that serves as an umbrella for more than 100 Queens civic organizations, voted thumbs down on his bill that would restrict the ability of houses of worship and medical offices to move into residential areas.

Some civic leaders opposed the bill because it wasn’t tough enough. They criticized the proposed law because it would allow medical offices to obtain variances to build offices up to 10,000 square feet and eliminate parking requirements for houses of worship in higher-density residential areas.

Others say the legislation is too restrictive. At least one politician, Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), said he is opposed to the parking requirements because of the many Orthodox Jewish synagogues in his district. “People don’t drive to go to synagogue and so a mandate to provide parking to me seems unduly and unfairly onerous and burdensome.”

The same may also be true for churches serving immigrant groups in all part of Queens. And how does it benefit an already crowded residential community if churches are forced to purchase housing and tear it down to make space for parking lots. Suddenly the cure becomes worse than the illness.

And why mix medical offices with religious facilities? This is feel-good legislation that should never become law.

Editorial: Limits of free speech

We’re not exactly sure where a society that values personal freedoms should draw the line when it comes to free speech. But we are absolutely certain that Jackson Heights resident Alan Munn is sitting squarely on the wrong side of that line.

Munn, 53, operates a Web site that reveals personal information about New York City Police Officers. In one entry he tells his readers where a police officer prefers to jog and when. In another he tells his readers where a police officer plays amateur football.

In a notice posted on his Web site, Munn writes, I am available (without charge) to legally investigate, observe and surveil (but not stalk) cops, judges , prosecutors, correctional officers marshalls (sic), bailiffs, wardens, parole and probation officers, federal protective service officers, special agents, elected officials, appointed officials and their ilk.?

In a city that still feels the sting of senseless terrorism, such reckless postings cannot be tolerated. The Web site is at best a form of harassment and at worst a dangerous threat to the dedicated men and women who protect our liberties.

Police, parole and correction officers knowingly risk their lives every day. Publishing personal information about public servants can put their lives in grave danger. Munn wants to hide behind the skirts of free speech. But Munn should know that he is doing the equivalent of crying fire in a crowded theater.

Before someone gets hurt, Munn’s site should be shut down and Munn should face criminal charges.

Editorial: art of compromise

At long last it appears that the Native Americans and African Americans buried in Martins Field will rest in peace. A controversy surrounding a small community playground that built over the graves of poor black Americans and Native Americans once threatened to pit the people living near Martins Field against Mandingo Shaka and other community activists. In the words of City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) at a meeting held at PS 107, “this is a compromise that everyone can live with.”

In the plans unveiled by Liu last week, most of the park will become a memorial with a small playground built at the opposite end of the park.

The area residents, who had nothing to do with the desecration of the memorial ground, found their lives turned upside-down as Mandingo made his case. Imagine waking up one day to learn that your favorite playground was about to become a cemetery.

Congratulations to Shaka, Liu and others who made this compromise possible. The burden now falls on the community to make sure the memorial is properly maintained. Perhaps the day will come when this park will be as famous for what happened above the ground as it is for those buried beneath its soil.

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