Time To Embrace P-Tech

To The Editor:

Last week’s Queens Tribune article, “MVB, P-Tech Co-Location Moves Forward,” quoted various elected officials lamenting the DOE’s decision to allow a promising P-Tech school to be co-located inside of Martin Van Buren High School (MVB). Unfortunately, the writer failed to reach out to any of the nearby civic leaders for their opinion. Just prior to the Mayoral election, civic leaders from nine of the largest Civic Associations in eastern Queens representing thousands of families zoned for Martin Van Buren High School met and voted unanimously with one abstention to support the DOE’s P-Tech co-location proposal for MVB. A P-Tech school focuses on certain technical skills with a pathway to a tuition-free college education and a career.

Decades of failure have transformed MVB from a school having deep community roots into one where 96 percent of its student population comes from outside of the local community. The thousands of families represented by these civic leaders are in distress over sending their kids to MVB. The P-Tech co-location initiative attempts to fast-track the turnaround of MVB. A successful school turnaround that the local community would support will come only when a safe school environment with local community participation is created, which is what the P-Tech co-location attempts to do.

Local parents of high school-age students are stressed out by the thought of sending their kids to MVB. Despite valiant attempts at improvement, MVB’s School Environment Rating is stuck at an unacceptable “D” rating. Recently-installed Principal Sam Sochet, who is popular with the local community, has had some success raising the school report card to a “C” but more than a decade of decline has made that job difficult for one person. Local parents and their children simply don’t have the luxury of time for MVB to transform. The MVB “brand” is dead and needs to be reinvented for there to be any chance of success. This reinvention begins with P-Tech, a school within a school providing its graduating students with a tuition-free two-year college education at Queensborough Community College and a pathway to a career with one of the “Fortune 500” corporate partners of the program.

Many local parents would be willing to take a new look at such a school without the trepidation they currently have. Handled properly, the P-Tech co-location will attract a student body from the local community that is more engaged in the educational experience. This will help change the learning environment and dynamics at MVB. Over time, this will boost local enrollment of students as the parental perception of the school changes and the excellent programs being initiated by Principal Sochet take root and become more widely known. I urge Councilman Mark Weprin, Senator Tony Avella and Assemblyman David Weprin to rethink their opposition and embrace P-Tech rather than seeking its demise. Join us in our support of this initiative and help return this failed school to its storied and illustrious past.

Bob Friedrich,
President, Glen Oaks Village