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Poll: Mayor gets F for school control

Maryam Abdul-Aleem | 4/12/2011, 5:31 p.m.

"New York is a very big system with over a million students, so there's a place in a system this big for small schools and large schools," he said, reasoning that Jamaica should be allowed to continue to exist because it offers a diversified experience with a variety of academic courses that smaller schools couldn't provide.

Jamaica High had suffered from cuts to its educational operations over the years, which may have contributed to its low graduation rates that put the large historic school on the DOE's radar, Eterno said.

The money that would go into the new schools could be used to improve Jamaica with lower class sizes and lowering guidance case loads, Eterno continued. These resources, which are lacking, could help boost graduation rates for students who face a multitude of issues, such as being English-language learners or battling societal and economic pressures that could affect a student's ability to graduate in four years.

"But they have their agenda," he said, referring to the DOE. "Well, they want everybody graduating as fast as possible within four years, so we have to adapt. We're trying, but it's not so easy. They should give us credit for improvement and growth."

Eterno, who has taught at Jamaica for over 20 years, used an analogy to express the condition of some English-language learners by saying that if you, "Put me in Italy where I don't know any Italian, and put me in an [Italian high school. It] might take me a little bit longer to learn the language. That shouldn't be held against those kids or the school because it takes extra time."

However, Deputy Chancellor Eric Nadelstern, who heads the DOE's Division of School Support and Instruction, told a group of journalists at an education seminar organized by New York Community Media Alliance, that he believes smaller, themed schools was the solution to fix the city's graduation rates in public schools instead of "throwing money at large, failing schools."

However, students in Jamaica High said they enjoyed their experience at Jamaica.

A previous student of Jamaica High who attends New York City College of Technology in downtown Brooklyn for computers information systems said he and his friend, James Simons, had a good learning experience at Jamaica because of the teachers and athletic activities that he credited for building up students' character alongside academic studies.

Simons, 19, who is enrolled at Delaware State University, said he was attending the university because of the education he received at Jamaica High.

"So, the education they gave me, I was able to take that and go to college with it," he said. Both students said they wanted the historic high school to stay the way it was, which Eterno called a "comprehensive school."