With the Department of Education eying 47 schools for closure – including Sheepshead Bay High School – it’s hard to believe that the hemmoraging of our public education system could bleed much more. But lost in the headlines are the deep-reaching cuts that are crushing even the best schools.
Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences, located on the Kingsborough Community College campus at 1830 Shore Boulevard, sits perched atop the list of best-performing schools in the city, and is a beacon of exemplary education in our neighborhood.
But it has not been spared the budget axe.
Victoria Sottile, Goldstein’s United Federation of Teachers Consultation Committee member, is asking the community to join teachers, parents and students in picketing outside the Oriental Boulevard and Shore Bloulevard Gates at Kingsborough Community College on Wednesday, November 17, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. Sottile has 22 years of experience as a public school educator, and is an English and Drama teacher at Goldstein H.S. since 1995.
We caught up with Sottile to find out about the depth of the budget cuts to Goldstein, and the effect its has on their offerings. The message is clear: it is dark times for schools of every caliber, and the community needs to make a stand.
How much funding was cut?
We’ve lost almost 10 percent of our budget, or approximately $500,000 since they began slashing in Spring of ’09. We don’t know exactly what the additonal cuts will be, but Cuomo actually indicated recently there will be additional state cuts. It’s quite serious.
What’s the effect on class and extracurricular offerings?
AP Spanish has been cut, AP Calculus sections reduced and seniors are no longer required to take the fourth year of math and science because the courses cannot be paid for. Currently, most seniors have “holes in their programs,” and are taking only four courses, which does not look good on college applications. We have students who should be in geometry classes, but are in trig classes instead. We are down a biology teacher so instead of taking the Living Environment class, they are taking Chemistry. So, they are taking math and science classes out of sequence as a result of budget cuts. We do not have the money to provide extracurricular activities in the arts. There is no musical production this year, and no winter or spring concerts.
What about fundraising efforts? I know bake sales are now prohibited, but aren’t there other methods of fundraising?
We have a school store run by the Parents Association that helps generate some income; there is a database service that has been developed at LMGHS being marketed to other schools and the Humanities Department is working with merchants in the community to assist with fundraising activities.
Why is a rally important? Do you think it will be effective?
The demonstration is important to raise awareness as to how seriously the budget cuts are affecting the quality of education we can provide to our students. Additonally, this demonstration is only one of a series of activities and strategies that the UFT and the Parents Association will be working on to activate other schools, the community and politicians.
Why should people come to the rally?
People should show up because, ultimately, schools and teachers are struggling to educate their children under significant financial restraints. These budget cuts are going to have long term, deleterious consequences.We need to raise peoples’ awareness and work together to make this conversation about real people and real problems, not just numbers or data. The DOE’s motto is “Children First,” yet when it comes to funding, it does not appear to be the case and they and the state need to held accountable.