BY TRONE DOWD
As promised during his run for City Council last year, Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) officials completed his proposed tour of every school in School Districts 26, 27 and 74, each of which is located in the 23rd Council District.
Beginning just a week after Thanksgiving at IS 109 in Queens Village, a school which would later be at the center of a local controversy, the tour concluded Tuesday afternoon when he visited PS 811 in Little Neck. He formally announced the fulfillment of his campaign promise at Martin Van Buren High School short after. Grodenchik said that seeing the school in his district was a priority for him since before he secured his place on the City Council.
“Education is the most important thing that the government does on a regular basis, in my opinion,” Grodenchik said. “Of course we have police and firefighters and sanitation workers, but in terms of long-term interest of the city and the growth of this city, our education is the most important thing that we do.”
While on his tour, Grodenchik recalled “seeing a lot of great things” from local schools in east and southeast Queens.
“I’ve been to a lot of great talent shows, I’ve been to lunar new year celebrations, we did an event with PS 213 where we discussed General George Washington’s visit to the area 226 years ago and they read poetry and talked about his life,” he said. “A lot of great stuff and a lot of great learning is going on here.”
On the front of education, the councilman recently announced, as part of his budget for 2016, an allocation of $3 million towards the improvement of facilities and technology upgrades for every school in Council District 23 that applied for capital funding. Some of these funded projects include renovated gymnasiums at Martin Van Buren, new audio visual systems in five different schools in the district, laptops, computer carts, new auditoriums, improved lighting, air conditioning and other improvements that he says will improve the standard of educational facilities in the borough. The councilman also said that after a push from him and his peers to increase fare student funding, funds giving to principals and determined by the number of students attending the school, the New York City Department of Education has listened.
“It was recently announced that it was up from 82 percent to 87 percent at a recent hearing of the education committee on the mayor’s executive budget,” Grodenchik said. “For an average sized school about 500 students, that would mean another $100,000 in funding available to the principal, which is a difference. It’s another teacher, it supplies, its whatever the principal decides to use it for.”
Grodenchik told the Queens Tribune that the work on integrating special education students into programs that benefit them and keeping their education on par with non-special education students was something he was extremely proud of.
He also identified some of the challenges of these schools, pointing to the need to keep up with more technologically savvy school right here in the city.
“Technology moves quickly,” he said. “Twelve miles that way is Manhattan and there’s all sorts of hot stuff going on across the bridge. Our children need to be able to compete with that.”
The council member told the Queens Tribune was impressed by the dedication of the parents, students, teachers, and administrators at schools across the district and the contributions they’ve inadvertently made to the community.
“I think that it’s important for us,” he said. “Schools aren’t just important for the kids that go to them. They are very important for the families that send their children here and they really are the bedrock of our communities. People vote with their feet so to speak. A lot of people have moved into this community in recent years because the schools are so good. Good schools make for good neighborhoods. They increase property values and we believe that you can as good an education in eastern Queens [than] anywhere else.”
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly