New schools chief tours Hillcrest HS

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Incoming city Schools Chancellor Cathie Black toured Hillcrest High School Monday, during which time she received some words of advice from Queens lawmakers: Support after-school programs, do not dismiss the value of large high schools and decrease class size.

“We have a large number of students, unfortunately, going from special ed classes to Rikers Island, and I told her after-school programs can help to decrease this number,” state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) said. “After-school programs are very important.”

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) told Black, who will officially replace Schools Chancellor Joel Klein in the beginning of January, that she should support large high schools that have small learning communities — smaller groups of students within a school, like his alma mater Hillcrest HS at 160-05 Highland Ave. in Jamaica.

“There are some things large high schools are better equipped to do and she should consider not breaking up large schools but adopting small learning communities in high schools,” Lancman said.

The city recently announced it would close 26 schools in the city because the DOE said they are failing, including Jamaica and Beach Channel high schools.

Lancman also urged Black to consider implementing smaller class sizes in borough and city schools. Queens has long been notorious for having classes that are larger than what union guidelines mandate.

Black met with teachers and students during her tour, from which the press except for one magazine reporter was banned. Reporters and photographers had to wait for Black to return from the tour, after which a DOE spokeswoman said she would take a couple of questions.

“I’ve been very impressed with Hillcrest and the other schools I’ve visited,” Black said. “The principals are committed.”

The incoming chancellor also stressed that she is not a strong backer of tenure for teachers.

“I think we should be looking at ways to loosen tenure,” Black said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last month that he had picked Black to replace Klein, who resigned after eight years with the Bloomberg administration.

Black is expected to resign from her position as chairwoman of Hearst Magazines but does not have to do so before she officially becomes chancellor in January, a DOE spokeswoman said.

She will make $250,000 a year as chancellor.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 6:18 pm, October 10, 2011
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