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Francis Lewis High School
October 25, 2013
Two city students are regional finalists in science competition
Impreet Singh, a student at Francis Lewis High School in Queens, is a regional finalist in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, a…
January 19, 2012
No longer joint between UFT and city, Danielson trainings go on
A training session about the city's favored teacher evaluation model went off as planned on Tuesday — but without the involvement of the city, which had worked with the teachers union on event. Since the start of the school year, the union and city have been grappling over the Danielson Framework, the observation model the city hopes will be adopted when a new evaluation system is finalized. Over time, a tension has emerged about whether the model is meant first to help teachers improve — the union's position — or whether it is a tool to help principals usher weak teachers out of the system, as the city's rhetoric has sometimes suggested. Since at least December, the city and teachers union had been planning joint training sessions for principals and union chapter leaders to clarify the model's purpose and value. But after Mayor Bloomberg lashed out at the United Federation of Teachers during his State of the City speech last week, declaring that he would remove half of the teachers at 33 low-performing schools, the union decided it would no longer work with the city on the trainings. "The content of the State of the City has not been received very well by members," Michael Mendel, a union secretary, told me Wednesday. "To do a joint training didn’t sit right." On Friday afternoon, union officials surprised the city by announcing that the collaboration was off.
November 18, 2011
To reach parents, Francis Lewis HS works to deepen local roots
Francis Lewis High School The principal of the city's second-largest high school is hoping a community-building event he is throwing tomorrow will set a trend for his colleagues across the city. Francis Lewis High School Principal Musa Ali Shama has organized a "networking fair" for the Queens high school tomorrow that will convene education providers, city agencies, and private vendors to offer resources for families at the school. Shama recruited local elected officials, community organizations, and Queens' brand-new branch of the Fairway supermarket to support the event. One goal, Shama told me, is to provide resources for Francis Lewis families, who include immigrants from 60 countries, to help their children succeed in school. That goal fits perfectly into the city's priorities: Chancellor Dennis Walcott has said that the city wants to see more parent engagement aimed at boosting academic performance. "If I want my parents to be more engaged I have to build the tools," Shama told me last month when he described early plans for the networking fair. But a second goal, to establish Francis Lewis as a community hub for its section of Queens, is a bit more of a stretch for most high school principals to attain.
May 17, 2011
Elimination of January Regents exams has principals fretting
A change in the state's testing program meant to close an $8 million budget gap could have far-reaching consequences for city students and schools, principals say. The Board of Regents voted yesterday to do away with the January administration of the state exams required for high school graduation. The tests will still be given in June and August. City school officials criticized the change, which had principals across the city lighting up their colleagues' e-mail inboxes with protests of the change. "The state shares our belief in high standards that prepare students for college — so it is somewhat disheartening that the Regents would make a decision that undermines the hopes of high school students who take courses and exams to graduate mid-year," said Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a statement. In 2010, about 360 students used January exams to graduate midyear, out of about 3,800 total midyear graduates, according to Matthew Mittenthal, a Department of Education spokesman. Under the new system, those students would have had to wait until June to try to graduate. But principals say those figures underestimate the effects of the change. Many students use the January dates to increase the number of times they take the Regents exams, which in turns increases their chances of passing in the long term. Students also use the January administration to spread out their tests and avoid burnout.
May 3, 2011
With crowding help on the horizon, Francis Lewis HS fears cuts
Teachers and parents at the city's second-biggest school say they're worried that teacher layoffs could undercut the city's promise to shrink enrollment. Now-famous for its 14 period days and classrooms that are right at — and sometimes right over — class size limits, Francis Lewis High School enrollment could fall below 4,000 next year. Following an agreement reached last year between the Department of Education's Office of Student Enrollment and the school's leadership, Francis Lewis's enrollment fell by 200 students last year and is poised to drop by another 200 next year to roughly 3,980 students, according to a source at the school. With fewer students, the high school will be able to move to a 10 period day next year, though it will still have to use trailers as classrooms for some of its students. Last Friday, some parents and teachers at the school held a rally to tell city officials that even with the agreement in place, they're worried Francis Lewis could backslide.
April 14, 2011
On his seventh day as chancellor, Walcott visits his alma mater
Last week, Chancellor-designee Dennis Walcott visited his grandson’s school. Today, he’s visiting his own. Walcott’s packed schedule of public appearances takes him this morning…
December 21, 2009
Queens City Council members petition Klein to save schools
City Councilman David Weprin (right) signs a petition urging the DOE not to close 20 city schools. Councilman Eric Ulrich (left) plans to deliver the petition to Chancellor Joel Klein's office this afternoon. Members of the Queens City Council delegation called on Chancellor Joel Klein to abandon plans to close 20 city schools today. Standing on the steps of Tweed Courthouse and joined by colleagues representing other boroughs, Queens Council members accused the Department of Education of threatening to close schools without first trying to improve them or seeking community input. City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who represents Rockaway Beach, said the DOE did not notify his office before announcing its proposal to close Beach Channel High School. Ulrich is circulating a petition signed by nearly all of the Queens Council members calling on the DOE to abandon its plans to close the borough's schools. Ulrich said he intended to deliver the petition to Chancellor Joel Klein's office this afternoon. (He jokingly said he might nail it to the doors of Tweed.) Many of the 11 Council members and members-elect who attended the news meeting called for discussions with parents, community leaders, and the teachers union about how to improve struggling schools before resorting to closure.
December 9, 2009
UFT reports warn crowding at Francis Lewis HS is a safety hazard
Stories of Francis Lewis High School's crowded hallways have made their way into more than one city newspaper, but until recently no one has asked the question: what would happen if someone yelled "fire" in a crowded stairwell? Concerned that the Queens school's choked hallways — there are over 4,000 students in a building designed for 2,400 — would trap students and teachers during an evacuation, the school's chapter leader, Arthur Goldstein, asked officials at the United Federation of Teachers to do a safety inspection. A report from the inspectors warns that in the event of an emergency, the crowds in Francis Lewis would have a difficult time leaving the building. One report, written by UFT Environmental Safety representative Sandra Dunne Yules, states: The crowded hallways exceed the safe limits and impact emergency egress capacity of the school. The building was designed for far fewer occupants and this condition creates a serious emergency egress hazard. This school was not designed to safely handle the evacuation of the number of current occupants. This is a serious life safety issue and a fire code and building code violation.
September 10, 2009
It was the most crowded of times, and the least crowded of times
There’s something wrong if one school is severely overcrowded and another, just two miles away, is cutting services because of declining enrollment, writes teacher Arthur…
September 10, 2009
A Tale of Two Queens High Schools
Imagine there are two high schools in the same borough. One school can't enroll enough kids to stay open, and the other is filled to 250% of capacity. What would you do? It might seem logical to even out the population of both schools, but that is not how New York City operates. I'm in one of the most overcrowded schools in the city, Francis Lewis High School. Our building is designed for 1,800 kids, and last year we were up to 4,450. This year we hit 4,700, and the sky's the limit. Where the extra kids will go I have no idea. I teach in a trailer out back, and you wouldn't use it to house your dog if you had a choice. In the trailers, you never can tell if there will be heat on cold days or AC on hot ones (and don't buy a used car from anyone who tells you tin keeps you cool). The bathrooms are an abomination. Though school trailers are all the rage in New York City, you never see them on the news. If I didn't visit one every working day of my life, I probably wouldn't believe they existed. On the other hand, James Eterno, chapter leader at Jamaica High School, has a completely different problem. Not enough kids are enrolling in his school. Could we help one another?
September 2, 2009
To manage crowding, Francis Lewis HS plans a 13-period day
Last year, the school day at packed-to-the-gills Francis Lewis High School in Queens lasted 12 periods to accommodate all 4,500 students. This year, the…
July 30, 2009
More Equal than Others
Overcrowding comes to city schools for various reasons. In my school, our reputation makes kids want to come, we have magnet programs like JROTC that attract kids from near and far, and there's never been a cap on enrollment. Neighborhood schools like PS 123 don't get the opportunity to grow and expand because other schools are simply placed into whatever vacant spaces they may have. In fact, as Juan Gonzalez reported, space they'd actually been using was commandeered by a charter school chain. It now appears Eva Moskowitz's Harlem Success Academy will be taking that space permanently. PS 123 has gone from an F-rated school to a B-rated school, and you'd think that would merit some encouragement from the Department of Education. You'd be mistaken. Rather than expand upon the progress they've made, the building that houses PS 123 has become a civics lesson for all who teach and study there—a newly designed two-tier education system. 55 years ago, Brown v. Board of Education stated, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." At PS 123, separate educational facilities can be found within the same school building. In fact, some families have one kid in 123, and another in HSA. But it's pretty clear to all that the schools are different. For one thing, all HSA classrooms are painted and renovated before kids even attend. A few weeks ago, protesters questioned why the whole school couldn't be painted, rather than just the HSA section. You have to wonder why an administration that prides itself on placing “children first” would allow so many children to be second priority.
June 16, 2009
A Queens teacher says his school can't educate more students
School overcrowding isn’t just a comfort issue. It’s an academic one, writes Arthur Goldstein in the GothamSchools community section. Goldstein is a teacher (and…
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