Jeopardy! Pays Homage to Queens, NY

Street art in Astoria

Street art in Astoria

Hell Gate Bridge, Astoria Park

Hell Gate Bridge, Astoria Park

I was so excited yesterday to see a whole category devoted to my hometown – Queens, NY – on Jeopardy! last night! What’s more, there was even a $2,000 question about my neighborhood:

It ain’t no Waldorf, but this neighborhood has lots of Greeks, & Telly’s Taverna–To Die For.

The answer? What is Astoria.

I have to say, though, I was a little disappointed by Alex Trebek’s accent. He sounded like a cross between a gangster and Fran Drescher. People from Queens do not sound like that.

Here’s a link to all the questions from last night’s Queens category.

Also check out my Ode to Astoria post.


Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

 

Advertisements

Another P.S. 122 Update – it’s good news this time

May 2013 Update
I have a ton of updates in this post – sorry if it’s getting confusing – but this one is good news: the 122 G&T program has been saved! The DOE has listened! Read about it here.

March 12 Update
THE D.O.E. NEVER TOLD US THEIR
PLANS TO DISMANTLE P.S.122! WHERE WAS THE COMMUNITY OUTREACH??

JOIN OUR RALLY TO THE D.O.E. Tweed Building
Departure: P.S. 122
21-21 Ditmars Blvd.
Astoria, NY 11105

Date: Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Departure Time: 9:30am
Press Conference: 11:00am (with Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.)
Return Time: 12:30pm

Transportation: Free Private Coach Bus (to seat 100) from P.S.122
or take 4, 5 & 6 trains to Brooklyn Bridge

We all witnessed the outpouring of parents and residents at our emergency meeting last week, attended by over 650 people! Our community stood united.

The D.O.E. never reached out to our community like they are supposed to. Instead, they went ahead with their own agenda, never taking our children into consideration. We were clear last week that WE DO NOT WANT THIS CHANGE MADE TO P.S.122. Let’s ask Chancellor Walcott why we were not consulted about this plan.

Please join us at the upcoming RALLY and press conference departing from P.S. 122 to the D.O.E. Tweed Building located at 52 Chambers Streeton Thursday, March 14th, 2013 via bus or meet us there.

Please email: savedistrict30schools@yahoo.com to confirm you’ll be able to attend the rally!

I was honored yesterday to speak to a packed auditorium at my alma mater, P.S. 122 (The Mamie Fay School) in Queens. I went to middle school here in the Gifted and Talented program. The PTA held an emergency meeting because the DOE wants to make major changes that will drastically reduce G&T seats and put the school at 129% capacity in the coming years. There was an amazing turnout and the community is really infuriated about this. I’m just trying to do my part to save a program I love and that has one of the best records in the city.

Here are some pictures from last night’s event. Sorry for the poor picture quality – I didn’t have my regular camera.

Packed auditorium at 122

Packed auditorium at 122

Me speaking at the meeting

Me speaking at the meeting

If you weren’t at the meeting yesterday, they gave out a very useful information packet. Please click here to see what you can do.

For a summary of the meeting, check out this article.

3/10/13 Update:
Last week’s emergency PTA meeting at P.S. 122 brought over 700 people to the school’s auditorium. The evening’s event proved that the community is outraged at the DOE’s plans to phase out one of the best schools in the city: The Academy for the Intellectually Gifted. Although no one expected to hear a reversal of the plan, the night did demonstrate residents’ resolve to fight this plan.

This upcoming Thursday, March 14, 2013, the struggle continues. Buses will be leaving from the front of P.S. 122, at 9 A.M., and head over to the DOE’s Tweed Building (52 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007). Rally participants will be joined by Councilman Vallone who will hold a press conference in support of the entire school community.

P.S. 122 needs your presence at this rally! We need to show Chancellor Walcott that the greater Astoria community is not willing to permit one of its prized schools be destroyed. If you cannot make the 9 A.M. departure time, we hope that you can meet us on the steps of Tweed by 10 A.M. Participants are hoping to demonstrate with signs showing their love for our school and all of District 30.

Once again, please let the world know about this event. Use all means of spreading the word in order to ensure the same kind of impressive turnout as that at this previous Wednesday’s meeting!


Give your child the gift of great grades.  Order a copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Update on P.S. 122 G&T Program

Please click here for the continuation of this post.

This is an update of my previous post, P.S. 122 Gifted Program in Danger of Closing.

P.S. 122 - The Mamie Fay School

P.S. 122 – The Mamie Fay School

3/1/13 Update: There’s an emergency meeting coming up on Wednesday, March 6. Below is the text from the flyer.

HELP SAVE OUR PRESTIGIOUS P.S.122!!!
Dear School District 30 Residents,
The Department of Education (DOE) is proposing drastic cuts to P.S. 122’s Talented and Gifted program known as “The Academy” and the addition of a zoned middle school program in the same building. The surge in enrollment and overcrowding that would result will take away resources from all P.S. 122 students.
The impact of these actions will be felt beyond the borders of P.S. 122, potentially also affecting local schools such as P.S. 85, I.S. 141, P.S. 150, P.S. 166 and P.S./I.S. 126 in an adverse way.
The impact of the DOE’s proposal will be felt beyond school walls. Many hard-working families have chosen to move to and even buy homes in School District 30 because of its successful schools. Damaging our schools will only serve to break apart our community and could potentially threaten real estate values of our respective neighborhoods.
Our community cannot sit by as our schools’ abilities to serve the needs of all our children are severely diminished. We need your help!
Please join us at the upcoming general community meeting to learn more about the DOE’s proposal, its potential impact, and how we can work to stop it.

Meeting Information
Location :
P.S. 122 (Auditorium)
21-21 Ditmars Blvd.
Astoria, NY 11105
(718) 721-6410

Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Time: 6:30 P.M.

Together, let’s protect our schools and our community!

So, I attended the Community District Education Council 30 meeting yesterday, February 21, 2013, and boy, was it intense! People are very upset about potential changes to the Gifted and Talented program at P.S. 122. I’ll just give a brief rundown of what was said. I apologize for not knowing the names of speakers and if I got some of the facts wrong.

The Proposed Plan

Some representatives from the Office of Portfolio Management and the Office of Student Enrollment explained the plan. It appears that the DOE is proposing to change the organization of the G&T (Gifted and Talented) programs in District 30 in Astoria, Queens. The basic idea is that they regard P.S. 122 as a K-8 school, and based on a chancellor’s rule, any student entering the school in kindergarten must be guaranteed a seat in the school until eighth grade. This means that the G&T program (6th through 8th grade) in P.S. 122 would be greatly reduced. They would open up a new program in P.S. 126 modeled after the one in P.S. 122, although what this means is not clear. The effects of these changes would not be seen until 2019.

The Reaction

One of the council members called this a “back-handed deal.” She and various other speakers said that this would mean the loss of approximately 60 G&T seats throughout the district and would “destroy one of the most successful middle school programs” in the city. The district is already short of G&T seats. Many (including the principal of 122) said that P.S. 122 is not and has never been a K-8 school. It is/was a K-5 school with a 6-8th grade G&T program. The DOE’s proposal would also worsen overcrowding in the school.

There were many speakers last night, and none of them supported the DOE’s proposal. They said they wanted more G&T seats, not less. One speaker said the DOE “just took a community and pissed them off.”
Other memorable quotes:
“Keep 122 intact!”
“Who on earth asked for this?”
“We are passionate about 122.”
This is a “hugely successful, beloved program . . . and you are destroying it.”
“This school is a gem in the entire city.”

What You Can Do

To express your support of 122, here are some things you can do:

3/1/13 Update: I’ve been told it’s extremely important to contact the following individuals:

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott
(212) 374-0200
DMWalcott@schools.nyc.gov

Sandy Ferguson
Deputy Chief Executive for Admissions, Office of Student Enrollment
(212) 374-7636
SFergus@schools.nyc.gov

The following is the text of a sample letter you can send to these people. Please modify it to suit your own style, etc.

Dear Chancellor Dennis Walcott,

I am writing this letter to support one of our community’s biggest assets, P.S. 122 and The Academy for the Intellectually Gifted that has existed there for almost 30 years.

For all these years P.S. 122 has helped shape some of our community’s brightest minds. It has been a refuge for children with a variety of needs and has discharged its responsibility in an effective and extremely successful manner.

Given P.S. 122’s success record, we feel that the program and structure there should not be altered. The plan, which was announced recently, will clearly harm our most prized school and, consequently, our entire community.

We look forward to hearing from you regarding the reversal of this decision which has galvanized our members the broader community.

Sincerely,

One of the council members said to contact Marc Sternberg, Deputy Chancellor of the Division of Portfolio Planning. I don’t currently have his contact information. If anybody knows it, please let me know.

As mentioned in my previous post, you can also:
Sign this petition.

Some other local contacts:
Councilman Peter Vallone : 718.274-4500
District Leader Costas Constantinides: costa4astoria@gmail.com
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas: 718.545.3889
State Senator Michael Gianaris: 718.728.0960

You can find more information on the Astorians website.

Thank you!

P.S. If there are any P.S. 122 students or teachers (past or present) reading this, please feel free to post a comment below.


Give your child the gift of great grades.  Order a copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

P.S. 122 Gifted Program in Danger of Closing

Please click here for the continuation of this post.

P.S. 122 - The Mamie Fay School

P.S. 122 – The Mamie Fay School

It has come to my attention that one of my alma maters is in danger of closing. It’s The Academy for the Gifted and Talented at P.S. 122 in Astoria, Queens (aka The Mamie Fay School – I never did find out who Mamie Fay was), a program I attended from sixth to eighth grade. I loved this school and all the teachers and students were wonderful. I feel I got a great education without my parents having to spend a fortune on private school. We were taking Regents exams in the eighth grade. Plus, it prepared me extremely well for the rigors of Stuyvesant High School. I feel 122 was the best school I attended – better than my high school, my college, my elementary school, etc. It was such a supportive environment.

I don’t know why they’re planning on shutting it down, but apparently they are. I think it would be a great loss for the community. To support the program, please contact one of these representatives:

Councilman Peter Vallone : 718.274-4500 [this is the corrected number]
District Leader Costas Constantinides: costa4astoria@gmail.com
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas: 718.545.3889
State Senator Michael Gianaris: 718.728.0960

3/2/13 Update: I’ve been told it’s extremely important to contact the following individuals:

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott
(212) 374-0200
DMWalcott@schools.nyc.gov

Sandy Ferguson
Deputy Chief Executive for Admissions, Office of Student Enrollment
(212) 374-7636
SFergus@schools.nyc.gov

You can also sign this petition: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-academy-at-ps-122/

There’s also a council meeting taking place on Feb. 21st:
“Please come to February 21st Community Council Meeting at P.S. 234 to voice your concern. P.S. 234 is located at 30-15 29th St, Astoria, 11102. Also, contact your local representatives and ask them to support one of the most successful schools in the state.”

3/2/13 Update: There’s an emergency meeting coming up on Wednesday, March 6. Below is the text from the flyer.

HELP SAVE OUR PRESTIGIOUS P.S.122!!!
Dear School District 30 Residents,
The Department of Education (DOE) is proposing drastic cuts to P.S. 122’s Talented and Gifted program known as “The Academy” and the addition of a zoned middle school program in the same building. The surge in enrollment and overcrowding that would result will take away resources from all P.S. 122 students.
The impact of these actions will be felt beyond the borders of P.S. 122, potentially also affecting local schools such as P.S. 85, I.S. 141, P.S. 150, P.S. 166 and P.S./I.S. 126 in an adverse way.
The impact of the DOE’s proposal will be felt beyond school walls. Many hard-working families have chosen to move to and even buy homes in School District 30 because of its successful schools. Damaging our schools will only serve to break apart our community and could potentially threaten real estate values of our respective neighborhoods.
Our community cannot sit by as our schools’ abilities to serve the needs of all our children are severely diminished. We need your help!
Please join us at the upcoming general community meeting to learn more about the DOE’s proposal, its potential impact, and how we can work to stop it.

Meeting Information
Location :
P.S. 122 (Auditorium)
21-21 Ditmars Blvd.
Astoria, NY 11105
(718) 721-6410

Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Time: 6:30 P.M.

Together, let’s protect our schools and our community!


Give your child the gift of great grades.  Order a copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Ode to Astoria

I’m taking a short break from education issues to explore the town where I was born, raised, and still live: Astoria, Queens. I’ve seen Astoria grow from a working class, mostly Greek neighborhood to a haven for young urban professionals. The Greeks are still here though, and they’ve been joined by large numbers of Egyptians, Brazilians, and countless others. Needless to say, the food here is phenomenal.

Fun fact: Astoria was named for John Jacob Astor, in an attempt to persuade him to give the town lots of money. The ploy didn’t work too well, though – he forked over only $500 and never even set foot in the place.

The weather was so nice last weekend that I took my camera out and photographed some of my favorite local spots. Hope you like them.

A view of Hell Gate Bridge from Astoria Park


A strange Astoria mural - on Steinway Street


My favorite church in Astoria: St. Irene Chrysovalantou Greek Orthodox Monastery


A store window in Little Egypt, Steinway Street


Some local fare - Greek salad at Taverna Kyclades


Tour of the Steinway piano factory. You have to sign up in advance to go on the tour. Their phone number is (718) 721-2600.


Hawks live in Astoria - here's one on my air conditioner!