Sunday, March 08, 2009

Another Open Letter to the State

We wrote to the State again about how the class size reduction funds were "moved" at Jamaica High School and class sizes increased this spring.

February 10, 2009

Mr. Richard P. Mills
State Education Commissioner
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234
Via email:
& fax: (518) 473-4909

Dear Commissioner Mills:

Concerned members of the UFT Chapter at Jamaica High School have written to you twice in the last year about the situation at Jamaica High School with regard to the separate and unequal schools that exist in the building. A new selective school, Queens Collegiate, has been inserted in our building, offering smaller classes and better facilities and equipment to its mostly better-prepared students.

We are also concerned that there are several discrepancies between the amount of funding that the New York State Education Department reported that our school was allocated out of Contract for Excellence funds -- $530,123, while our school budget only shows $337,184 in C4E funding. Where is the rest of that money?

In addition, the educational climate at Jamaica is now worsening as even these limited Contracts for Excellence funds have been diverted away from the classroom in social studies. The result is that class sizes have increased this spring in this subject.

In the fall, Mr. Lucas Rule was rehired at Jamaica using Contracts for Excellence (C4E) funds. Mr. Rule is a teacher of social studies; he is listed on the school's Table of Organization (budget) under "Class Size Reduction."

Class size reduction was one of the ways schools could utilize their state C4E money. At the end of the fall semester, Mr. Rule was informed that he would no longer be teaching any classes in the spring in social studies. Instead, he has recently been directed to teach classes in special education, a subject that he is not certified to teach. Mr. Rule is now replacing a special education teacher who has become a dean of students. Subsequently, the number of classes offered in each grade in social studies was reduced, and class sizes have increased significantly.

In grade twelve social studies (participation in government and economics), average class size was 29 in the fall and was projected to be lowered to 27 for the spring. However, with the elimination of one class, class size is now up to 35.

In grade eleven US history, the average class size was 29 in the fall and originally projected to be lowered to 27 for the spring. However, with one less class, class size average is now up to 34 in the spring.

In grade ten global history, the average class size was projected to be lowered to 27 in the spring but with the elimination of one class, class sizes now average 33.

In grade nine global history the average class size for the spring was projected to be 27. However, with the elimination of an honors class, the average class size for grade nine history classes now stands at 30.

No additional collaborative team teaching classes have been created and we are not aware of any new programs. We were told that classes had to be cut to plug a budget deficit from a prior semester. As you know, supplanting is not allowed according to the law that created the Contract for Excellence program, and yet it is happening here. We have no doubt that it has happened throughout the city as well, considering the fact that class sizes rose in all grades but one this fall, despite $150 million in state dollars, that was supposedly allocated to reduce class size.

Furthermore, here at Jamaica High School, two additional classes for students who previously failed social studies have been eliminated thus decreasing student opportunities to make up credits in a proper classroom setting. Instead, three day make-up sessions called “Credit Recovery” have been created where students receive a full class credit for three days of attendance and completion of a project.

Please investigate this situation immediately. This funding belongs in the classrooms of Jamaica High School. It appears to me as though the NYC Department of Education is being allowed to continue to violate state law in the most flagrant of ways. How can they be permitted to deny our high-needs students an adequate chance to learn?


James Eterno
UFT Chapter Leader
Jamaica High School


Anonymous said...

James Eterno wrote:

"three day make-up sessions called "Credit Recovery" have been created where students receive a full class credit for three days of attendance and completion of a project."

This sounds like social promotion to me. How can the DOE get away with this?

Anonymous said...

Good question.

Anonymous said...

In today's economic climate, it is hard to believe that more is not being done to monitor the little money that our schools actually do have. A school leader is responsible for being a zealous advocate for their students. Making sure that funding goes where it is intended is one of the most important obligations any administrator has.

Anonymous said...

social studies is a required sequence for all students in grades 9-12 to study each year... it seems like this should be an area where the $ should be directed

Anonymous said...

i guess with all of those "credit recovery classes" there is a need for less actual classes being taught at jamaica hs - i wonder if this is what is meant by no child left behind.

kathreftis said...

There is a procedure for remedying this sort of thing. Is there anyway we could talk off line about this?

James Eterno said...

How do I get in touch with you?

Anonymous said...

You keep sending "open letters." Do you actually get any responses?

James Eterno said...

Yes, we get answers for sure from the state and the city. Whether there will be real positive changes made is another story. Right now I would say it's an ongoing process. Details as they emerge.