Parents protest low Queensbridge scores

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A group of parents from the Queensbridge Houses implored members of School Board 30 Tuesday night to address a gap in academic performance between students from Queensbridge and those in the rest of the district.

Tuesday’s meeting was also the first since a State Supreme Court judge ordered Ted Kasapis be reinstated as a member of the board, which remained deeply divided over his controversial removal nearly two years ago.

Armed with more than 1,000 signatures representing the children of Queensbridge, parents urged the school board to create a task force that would address the educational gap afflicting their community.

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” said Barbara Jones, one of many members of the Queensbridge Community in Action group who spoke at the meeting. “But it is broken. Therefore, we’re calling for a task force to ensure the equal education of Queensbridge.”

Located directly north of the Queensboro Bridge on Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, Queensbridge is considered the largest public housing complex in the country.

Based on numbers provided by Superintendent Angelo Gimondo, the Queensbridge group calculated that 22.4 percent of Queensbridge students met grade level standards in an English Language Arts exam administered in grades 4 and 8 compared to 42.5 percent in the district as a whole.

“There is an educational gap between Queensbridge children and the rest of the district,” QCIA member Rolando Bini told the school board. “Basically our children are getting the short end of the stick. There is a big gap and we need something radical to solve the problem.”

The parents’ calculations were based on an exact breakdown of students according to address, enabling them to compare student performance of Queensbridge residents with districtwide scores.

Parents also said only one out of 1,150 Queensbridge students is enrolled in a gifted program compared to an average of eight in every 100 throughout District 30, which includes Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside, Woodside, and Jackson Heights.

Although board members offered little comment on the parents’ statements before adjourning the meeting, some suggested they would support the creation of a task force.

School Board President Giovanna D’Elia said setting up a task force was “definitely” a possibility.

“It has to be something strong on the issues they brought up,” she said in a conversation following the meeting. The board plans to discuss these issues at its work session on April 30, she said.

Tuesday also marked SB 30’s first public meeting since Queens Supreme Court Justice Joseph Golia ordered the board to reinstate Kasapis.

Kasapis was removed from the board shortly after his election in 1999 by then Chancellor Rudy Crew in response to allegations he left threatening messages on the answering machine of fellow board member Jeannie Basini. Kasapis has not yet been formally reinstalled to his position and thus was not present at the meeting.

Board Vice President John Ciafone criticized Golia’s decision during the time allotted for committee reports.

“It defies law, justice and common sense,” Ciafone said.

Other board members reacted harshly to Ciafone’s public statement and said it was brought up at an inappropriate point in the meeting.

“I do feel it is out of order for one board member to discuss a situation with another board member,” said member Dorothy Wilner. “I apologize that it was brought up.”

Spectators urged board members to get over their differences.

“I am really flabbergas­ted,” said Lolita Quinones, a parent who attended the meeting to complain about the improper classification of her son in special education. “I feel a few of the issues you have with each other are quite personal, and this is not the forum for this.”

Earlier in the evening, the board agreed to table a proposed resolution that would set districtwide policy requiring teachers to notify parents once their children had missed three or more homework assignments. Basini, who wrote the resolution, said she intends to return with a revised version after considering suggestions of parents and teachers who criticized the proposal.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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