What's In A Name?
An Editorial That Appeared in the Rockaway Wave Newspaper
After reading this editorial,
click here to find out how many
Nobel Prize winners Far Rockaway High School has produced.
Don’t Throw Out History
With Educational Reform
by Howard Schwach
Campus Magnet High School has a nice ring to
it. It makes the school sound like a preppy rambling campus that brings
all sorts of people together. It has not graduated too many students,
however, because it did not exist until eight years ago. Until then, it
was Andrew Jackson High School. Under the rubric of educational reform
and the “small schools” movement, Campus Magnet became first a small
part of Jackson and then, like Topsy, it grew until it took over and
Jackson is no more – much to the ire of those people who graduated from
the former school over the years.
We now understand that both Far Rockaway High
School and Beach Channel High School are slated for the same treatment
by the Department of Education. Just this year, a new small high
school, Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School, with its own staff
and administration, took over one hallway at Far Rockaway High School.
The academy has about 100 students, but looks to expand exponentially
over the next few years.
How long will it be before the physical building
on Bay 25 Street, which has been Far Rockaway High School for more than
100 years, becomes something else? Nobody is sure, but one indication
that the DOE has plans for Far Rockaway High School is that it cut the
number of students slated for this year’s freshman class way down. In
the same vein, a new grades 6-12 program called the Channel View
Academy for Research has taken a portion of Beach Channel High School.
There is a promise that the program will add hundreds of students over
the next few years.
How long will it be before the Frederick
Douglass Seahorses are competing against the Channel View Dolphins in
football? Probably not long, but the losers in the mix will be all of
the alumni of the two schools who no longer have anywhere to go to
celebrate their teenaged years and their high school experience. It
seems to us that the DOE should understand that schools such as Far
Rockaway, and Beach Channel (to a lesser degree because it is not as
old) played a large part in the development of the community and that
it would be a great loss if the name and its history disappear
Your comments are welcome and if sent to me
will be reprinted on this page. Please send to Skip Weinstock,
Class of 1963 at
You can also send your comments directly to Howard at
April 2, 2005
Dear Ex-Far Rockaway Graduates
I avoided going to Far Rockaway high school like the
plague. I entered high school in 1996 and thankfully got to go to Stuyvesant
high school in Manhattan. This new wave of alternative high schools really
seems like the way to go. The new schoos like Bard High School Early College
and Urban Academy in Manhattan have really worked in placing city kids in
college and hopefully the new school inside Far Rockaway High School will do
the same for a high school with a reputation of low graduation rates and
college placements. The fact that so many of you are so against progress
simply because you want your precious school name to remain seems pretty
selfish. Like a previous post said, the schools are for the current children,
not for people that graduated decades ago. How many of you have maintained
your ties to Far Rock High? If so many of you are in such high positions now,
where are your donations to your school? Have you come talk to the current
students and inspire them to be successful like you are now? Reliving your
past is something that should not stand in the way of a community's
education. Maybe this change will allow Far Rockaway's bright students from
fleeing to schools out of the community.
March 20, 2005
In response to the article about the possible 'burial' of FRHS, it really
saddens me to hear this.
My husband and his mother both graduated from Eastern District High School
in Brooklyn and it was a kick when we knew that his mother was the oldest
living graduate before she passed away last summer at the age of 103.
How sad that this may never happen to some FRHS graduate. My brother
graduated from Andrew Jackson in 1945 and he no longer has a high school
Alma Mater. I hope that I won't be saying the same thing. I live 3000 miles
away now and have such great memories.
Betty Shapiro (Brass) Jan.'49 Email Address:
February 28, 2005
"The old order changes, yielding way to new, and God fulfills himself in many
ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
I don't know if this will be a good idea or a bad one, but I do believe that
schools are for the students going there, not for the alumni. As we get older,
we wish to have some stability to reinforce our memories and bemoan the loss of
what we knew to be good. If we remember that good time well, we will recall that
it included older people who did not like the changes to the icons of their
youth. What would our lives be like if we were living by the rules and mores of
our parents' generation? Better in some ways, perhaps, worse in others, but not
well suited to us. As I say, from a practical point of view, I have no idea if
this is a good development. I will say that my daughter went to a "magnet
school" in the NYC system for middle and high school and benefited from it.
Whether good or bad, the decisions should be based on the needs of the current
students as I hope they were when we were there.
Herb Stein, '62 Email Address:
February 28, 2005
HI! This name change for Rockaway High School is pretty
sad. But the sad fact is Rockaway Beach will just be a memory in the minds who
knew Rockaway in its glory. Respectfully William Vailati. Charlotte Hall,
Maryland. My memory is 1 dozen cherry stone clams on the shell and a NY style
William Vailati Email Address:
February 25, 2005
I read the article and letters on the website: http://www.farrockaway.com/disturbingnewsaboutfrhs.html
It seems that what is going on here is this: People have decided that reforming
something like the NYC public high schools is too hard a job. So someone
suggests that they reform just one high school. The answer comes back that even
that is impossible. So a new approach is tried.
This consists of “starting” a new school within the school! The theory is that
the small school will cater to a subset of the total population, and this subset
will respond positively and thrive. As this elite group grows, more resources
will be devoted to it. Of course these resources will come at the expense of the
rest of the co-resident and larger population of the “old school,” because there
is no free lunch. But somehow, by magic, the new school grows, eventually
completely replacing the old school. Presto change-o, new school, new name, new
results. Everyone wins. And it should only take ten to twenty years, a
microsecond in the glacial timescale of New York City DOE bureaucratic politics.
And the beauty is this: you can replicate this “small experiment” many times
over, and in so doing achieve this miracle simultaneously in multiple
neighborhoods. It is kind of a stealth maneuver; you do it “small,” but in lots
of places, so it is really not small at all.
What the letter writers don’t grasp is that the traditions they admire are
irrelevant to most of the current population. The white Jewish middle-class fled
Rockaway long ago. The population today is mostly black and poor, and they have
other priorities. Yes, respect for education and a desire to learn should be
universal, but we are not going to instill that by harking back to Richard
Feynman, as much as we would like to. Feynman means nothing to these students. A
Nobel Prize in physics? Are you for real? All most of these kids can aspire to
is getting a good job and getting out of Rockaway, and, unfortunately, their
educational system is not even providing them the tools to do that. Ours did.
The approach being tried is wrong, but appealing to the loss of a great
tradition as an argument doesn’t work.
These days when someone says they graduated from City College, I ask “When?”
Because City was a great institution until Open Enrollment dragged it down.
People still remember the fine education you could once get there. If FRHS were
to disappear tomorrow, its graduates would still stand tall in the world.
Nothing can change that. The real issue is not the sentimentality of those who
have gone before, but what the school is doing today (and tomorrow) for the
current generation of students who live there. That is what is important. That
is the legacy we should all want to preserve. So we must answer the question,
“Are academies the answer?”
What I lament is that while the ideas laid out in the opening paragraphs
represent good intention, I believe they will fail. Any approach that attempts
to carve out a small piece of anything and then make it successful at the
expense of what’s left is divisive. In a zero-sum game, for one part to win
another part must lose. Until someone can demonstrate that more total resources
are being thrown into the local pot, I believe that the hypocrisy of this
approach will come out. We will now do EVEN LESS for the majority of the
students consigned to the “old school.” Does this make sense?
One of the tenets of public education is to do the greatest good for the
greatest number. I will admit that my generation profited greatly from programs
that advanced the best students. I think specialized high schools like Music and
Art, Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, and the Bronx High School of Science are still a
good idea. These centers profit from concentration and critical mass. But trying
to recreate this on a small scale locally within each high school seems doomed
to failure to me. Given ever-more-limited resources, I don’t see how this can
It is for these reasons that I think the approach being tried is wrong-headed.
I would be glad to discuss this with others if you believe I have missed
something fundamental here.
Joe Marasco, Class of 1962 Email Address:
January 30, 2005
Smaller schools means smaller classes hence
better education. This is a notion whose time is long overdue BUT
will never make a difference. I have taught in inner city Miami
for 21 years. Nothing works! Down here we call them charter
schools or academies. The students still have problems, there's still
violence, state literacy testing is more important than educating
students and the only thing anyone seems to be interested in is
sports. These smaller schools are not doing any better on
the state exams either. We are doomed!
The only thing that will ever make a difference is when the students
buy into the idea that education is important. The only way that
will ever happen is when the children get the message at home that
education is important and they are not getting that message. If
we think back to when we were in school, for the most part our parents
were far more involved in the schools than anything that happens
There are probably those who disagree but they are entitled to their
It is with this in mind, that I scream from the hills, Far Rockaway
High School cannot go the way of Andrew Jackson. It shouldn't be
allowed to fade away in the dust. We have our memories and we
know how important school was in our day. If FRHS or any school
with a past as rich as ours fades into the dust, the world/our world is
a little less for its passing. The next question, is there
anything we can do to stop it?
Bev Caplan FRHS Class of 1974
Email Address: BCaplan721@aol.com
January 30, 2005
I for one
appreciate the fantastic effort you & Carol have continued
to put into the website. You are our link to our past,
& those in our past. Keep up the good work!
was appalled when I read the article about changing the
name of Far Rockaway
For students to want to excel in a school,
they have to have pride in that school.
But this does not occur automatically when a school’s name has
changed to reflect a particular ethnic group.
Students need to appreciate the heritage of a school & the
of which they are a part. When they know
its history, and that past graduates of the school have been
will understand that they also can be successful. That
is when they will take pride in their
school and want the school to take pride in them. The
legacy of Far Rockaway High School is its
graduates that include 3 Nobel Prize winners, Financier Carl Icahn, Dr.
Brothers, Basketball star Sid Tanenbaum, Westinghouse Science winners,
lawyers, & other professionals too numerous to mention. And in 1950
Rockaway was runner-up for the NYC basketball championship & played
in Madison Square
is only part of the heritage that the students will not know if the
name is changed.
Lande Lewis, Class of 1953 Email Address:
January 25, 2005
A friend and fellow classmate
sent me your article, and I agree. You lose the history and continuity
by changing names willy-nilly, after all how many Westinghouse winners
came from Far Rockaway HS, as well as Mega corporate names, and didn't
Feinman attend FRHS? I know he was a Rockaway boy. If so, there's at
least one Noble Laureate.
Gayle Jacobson Fishkin
'53 Email Address: Gaylefishkin@aol.com
January 25, 2005
I read the article about FRHS and this new high school taking over a
hallway of the building. I agree with the article, and I don't think I
could have put it any better. It will be a great loss if we lose the
FRHS name. It would be an even greater loss if we didn't "go down
Whether you realize it or not, the FRHS website has a huge following.
If an article were to be written by someone totally familiar with
what's happening, and ask everyone who has graduated from FRHS and who
loves the school and the community, to mobilize and inundate the DOE
with letters, emails, and whatever influence they can muster.
I only remember a few people, but I'll bet there are plenty of
important and highly influential people around who would be willing to
throw around their weight and that influence to stop something like
what is mentioned in the article, from happening. It just needs someone
with access to the site to coordinate the effort. It probably would
have to be someone with political saavy that knows his way around city
government even just a little.
I'm just throwing out an idea - a suggestion because I don't have that
political saavy or any connections. However, I'm fairly sure if you
wanted to do something, you could find out who does have the
connections and who might want to coordinate this effort to make sure
it never happens.
Fred Mass Email Address:
January 24, 2005
I just read your piece about the
disturbing news. It would be a real shame, and a disappointment to me
personally, if FRHS would cease to exist. It played a very important
role in my life. Indeed, my geometry class with Mr. Falkenheim helped
me learn to think rationally.
I wonder what the rationale is
for the move towards smaller schools. Since I live in Amsterdam in The
Netherlands I have difficulty in following news about NYC and its high
schools. I suppose that this is just a move to save money. If so, then
that is a bad sign for the future of a (once-) great educational system.
Return to Menu