Avonte Oquendo's Mother Warned School He "Liked to Run," Requested One-on-One Supervision, Report Shows

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Image via Facebook
A missing person flyer made by Avonte's family.
The search for missing autistic boy Avonte Oquendo came to a heartbreaking end in January, when his remains were found near Powell Cove Boulevard in Queens. A new report released yesterday by the agency in charge of investigating New York City's public schools shows several blunders in Avonte's care and supervision. The most serious -- the one that's likely to come up in the lawsuit she is pursuing against the city -- is that Avonte's mother, Vanessa Fontaine, warned his teacher at his Long Island City special education program that Avonte was likely to run. She requested one-on-one supervision for the boy, which the program at Riverview School, also known as P 277, did not provide. In addition, Avonte's teacher didn't inform school administrators that he was likely to try to leave the building.

According to their report, the Special Commissioner of Investigation for New York City Schools (SCI), headed by Commissioner Richard J. Condon, got involved with Avonte's case on October 7, 2013, four days after he was reported missing, after the NYPD was already searching for the boy.

SCI investigators met with Principal Susan McNulty and Assistant Principal Angela Pomo, who told them that Riverview shares a campus with two other schools, a middle school and a high school, the Academy for Careers in Television and Film. They told SCI investigators that as soon as Avonte was noticed to be missing, at 12:45 p.m., they asked the high school principal, Edgar Rodriguez, who's in charge of the building, to put the entire building on "soft lockdown" so a better search could be conducted. Rodriguez refused, on the grounds that it would "alarm" his students.

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Queens Elementary School Goes Completely Vegetarian, First To Do So In U.S.

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Wikimedia
P.S. 244Q in Flushing is known to students, teachers and parents alike as "The Active Learning Elementary School." It was opened five years ago by its principal, Robert Groff, as an experimental institution focused on nutrition. The school is the Bloomberg administration's educational dream, placing a heavy emphasis on learning and public health.

In January, the school began to limit the meat in breakfast and lunch meals to specific days of the week. But, yesterday, the school made an unprecedented move: now, it will be the first public school in the United States of America to serve an all-vegetarian menu.


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Some Public School Students Will Sit Out State Tests This Week in Protest

Categories: Schools

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"These tests are harmful. They do nothing but stress us out and take away precious learning time. They don't make learning fun, they are all-consuming. ... We do not learn from these tests. Do we not go to school to learn?"

Owen Hotaling, a freckled fifth grader in a sweatshirt and a bright red knit cap, read his open letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a rapid but clear voice. His highly appreciative audience: about 60 parents, educators, and activists in the auditorium of the Earth School, PS 364 in the East Village, on April 14, two days before statewide standardized tests were to begin.

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Bus Stop: Striking Bus Drivers to Lose Benefits Today

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The City Council urged Mayor Bloomberg to postpone the negotiations of school bus driver contracts yesterday in a letter that called for "restoring much needed normalcy to the thousands of students and families affected by the strike." The stakes get higher for workers today as health insurance for the striking members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1181 expires.

44 members of the 50-person council signed off on the letter, which encouraged the mayor to accept a "cooling off" period proposed by retired Justice Milton Mollen, which would allow drivers to return to their routes while the union renegotiates its contract with the city. The council members pointed to the impact on school attendance as reason enough to stop the strike.

"Unnecessarily prolonging this strike puts the education of thousands of students, especially special needs students, at risk," the council wrote. It's not just a claim intended to tug the heartstrings -- the Department of Education reported that attendance has dropped since the strike began. Regular schools had a 89.4 percent attendance rate yesterday, while District 75, which serves special needs and disabled students, was at 70.6 percent.

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City Advocates Shine National Spotlight on Bloomberg's Reign of School Closure

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Advocates from across the nation to meet with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (above) to demand school closure moratorium.
New York City education advocates, along with activists from 17 other cities, are bringing their fight against school closures to the U.S. Department of Education today.

The advocates have filed complaints with the Office of Civil Rights arguing that school closure policies in their cities have disproportionately impacted poor students of color, English Language Learners and special-education students. Thus, they are demanding a national moratorium on all school closures.

Zakiyah Ansari, a public school parent and founder of the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, filed complaints in July and earlier this month with the OCR documenting the failed and discriminatory results of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 12-year reign of closure on city public schools.

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Bus Stop: Day 2 of the School Bus Strike

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It's Day 2 of the School Bus Driver's strike or "If It's Yellow Let It Mellow 2013". Many parents are working themselves up to a white hot rage that is almost as bad as when you threw that party and your friends left beer cans in the microwave.  Many children are psyched to finally be able to silence their parents' "I walked to school and it was uphill both ways" stories.

It does not seem like there will be an agreement reached between the two sides anytime soon.  While we can't be absolutely sure that this isn't a Ferris Bueller-style plan set in motion by students to avoid an Earth Science mid-term, the story for now is that city and TWA Local 1181 are fighting over job protections. The DOE says it is illegal to offer such clauses as it opens up bids on certain bus routes for the first time in thirty years. 

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N.J. Town Agrees With the NRA's Advice, Puts Armed Guards in Schools

Categories: Guns, Schools

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Marlboro Township Public Schools
Marlboro Township's Defino Central Elementary School
Amid the backlash NRA President Wayne LaPierre received after calling for the installment of armed guards in U.S. schools, one New Jersey district began the new year with the NRA's preferred method of security.

Students attending Marlboro Township Public Schools returned to class this morning with armed police officers patrolling their campuses. The district's board of education has partnered with Marlboro Township Police to institute a 90-day pilot program in which every school has one armed police officer on duty.

District leaders moved to implement the measure in response to last month's shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children and eight adults dead. After a week of remaining "respectfully silent" about the tragedy, LaPierre dropped a masterfully timed call to arm all schools with "a good guy with a gun" to protect against "a bad guy with a gun."

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Hey DOE! It's Kind of Your Fault Boys and Girls High School is Under-Performing, Community Says

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Jason Lewis/Village Voice
Principal Bernard Gassaway urges the community to play their part in ensuring that kids get educated.
Those advocating to preserve the current structure of Boys and Girls High School say the New York City Department of Education has failed to calculate the role it has played in contributing to the school's drop in performance in recent years.

The historic Bedford-Stuyvesant high school is facing the prospect of being phased out, radically redesigned and divided into several different district or charter schools -- after receiving poor performance grades from the DOE for the last three years.

Members of the Boys and Girls family, politicians and members of the surrounding community passionately reminded the DOE -- at a community meeting held at Boys and Girls last night -- that the school has admitted nearly 2000 underachieving students from around the borough in the last three years.

"You cannot ask a school to absorb 1800 students from all over the borough, who themselves have been dislocated, and expect that they will come together under one roof and...really function at optimal capacity," Congressman-elect Hakeem Jeffries told District 16 Superintendent Karen Watts and another DOE representative at last night's forum.

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Bloomberg Fail: 'Hit List' Seeks to Close Down 36 Public Schools

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Two days ago, City Hall released its 'Progress Report' for the country's largest public school system. In it, 217 of New York City's public schools were blacklisted for receiving either an F, D or the third C in a row on the Department of Education's report cards.

It was the highest amount of academic centers for youth so far to be considered 'failing' institutions -- last year, only 116 schools were scrutinized for underwhelming achievement. However, after immediate scrutiny from teachers and parents alike, the DOE has scratched a bunch of schools off of its 'hit list.'

Now, according to the Daily News, only 36 schools -  are at risk of being closed down. Here is how the numbers break down by county: 16 schools in the Bronx, 12 in Brooklyn, 4 in Manhattan and 4 in Queens. Staten Island schools, somehow, remains untouched.

The move by Bloomberg's administration is a combination of two notions: the onslaught of budget cuts on the horizon and the remnants of a No Child Left Behind mindset.
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Students Can Get Plan B Pills At a Few NYC Public Schools Now

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The last thing hardcore right-wing conservatives need is more cannon fodder for their whole "America is burning to the ground" argument. But, whatever; we're not worried about them here -- that's fellow Voice scribe Roy Edroso's job.

According to the Post, the Department of Health confirmed that 13 public schools across the New York City area have stocked up with morning-after pills in an effort to combat teen pregnancy -- according to recent numbers, more than 7,000 underage NYC residents are pregnant before the age of 17. 

Parents were told about the move and they were given the option of opting-out of the program for their offspring. As of now, only 1 to 2 percent of parents have chosen to do so.

The inclusion of Plan B in public schools is part of a new Department of Education program called CATCH (Connecting Adolescents to Contraceptive Health), which seeks to encourage a healthy sexual lifestyle for teenagers in school. Free condoms at school is another provision in this city-wide program but this is the first time the City has ever offered Plan B in its schools. 

And, furthermore, it might be the first time any school system in the country has, too.
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