Avella blasts city over resources at Jamaica High

Tony Avella leads Jamaica High School's students in a rally against the city at the steps of the school. Photo by Ivan Pereira
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Jamaica High School’s days may be numbered, but state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the city still has an obligation to give its remaining students the opportunity for a good future.

The legislator joined teachers and teens outside the school’s front steps Monday to protest the cuts made to Jamaica’s resources since the beginning of the school year. Last year the city decided to phase out Jamaica High School and replace it with four new campuses within the building, at 167-01 Gothic Drive.

Avella said students have struggled since September with not only having to share space with three growing school bodies, but also working with the lack of up-to-date books, equipment and other materials.

“They have been shortchanged for every educational resource they deserve,” Avella said of the 20 students.

James Eterno, a Jamaica social studies teacher and United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, said instructors have to share classrooms to teach and the curriculum has been cut back. The school cannot offer honors courses to students and many subjects, like chemistry and physics, are not taught, according to Eterno.

“The chancellor always talks about students being college-ready. How can you be college-ready without physics?” he asked.

Last year the city Department of Education voted to close Jamaica and Beach Channel high schools, IS 231 in Springfield Gardens and PS 30 in Jamaica because of low graduation rates. Starting in the fall, the high schools stopped admitting freshman students and the remaining students would continue at the school until graduation.

The DOE had said the students at the phased-out schools would still receive strong support, but Jamaica High members said that has been been the case.

Jamaica students said they are at a marked disadvantage when they see the students at the Hillside Arts & Letters Academy, the High School for Community Leadership and Queens Collegiate High School and Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences enter the same school but get a better experience.

The members of the other campuses have smaller classrooms with new computers and SMART Boards, according to Jamaica senior Raymond Almonte.

“Our computers don’t work at all,” he said.

A spokesman for the DOE declined to comment about the issue.

Avella said the city has no excuse for failing to give the students a proper college preparation curriculum and said he will keep pushing the DOE to honors its promises.

“I dare the mayor to come out here and tell these students they are getting proper resources,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 1:09 am, December 8, 2011
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