Bleier, Class of 1947
Honored as FRHS Principal for a Day
Dear FRHS Alumni:
This Alumni website, organized so well by Skip Weinstock, reinvolved many of us in the severe problems currently confronting the school, which gave so many of its Alumni a big lift in life.
Also, the terrific initiative of Susan Gottlieb Beckerman ('63) raised $28,275 from the sale of seat plaques which was matched by Carl Icahn so the school received $52,000. Like many Alumni, Mr. Icahn has told me of his gratitude to FRHS.
Thus, last week I joined the Principal for a Day program (which I hope many of you will do in future years) to appraise the situation firsthand. Rather than report on many obvious problems -- mostly under-motivation and under-funding -- the following report focuses mainly on solutions, particularly expanded support from the Alumni and the wonderful new Principal, Ms. Cheryll Jones.
Despite - or because of - its dismal statistics (low graduation, SAT and college rates), Far Rockaway High School could be greatly improved for its current and future students.
FRHS -- which produced three Nobel Laureates! -- and thousands of successful alumni, has a greatly under-utilized asset that could help both the short and long term: Its recently organized Alumni Association, with an active website (www.farrockaway.com).
…In the future, the website should feature a periodic (bi-monthly?) "Report from the Principal".
…The website should also feature a periodic (bi-monthly?) list of items needed from donation. Several follow.
…Motivation/Jobs: Many of the boys I talked to lacked motivation to graduate, unaware or indifferent to job opportunities; or futile about college. The only apparent good news: Marine Corps. recruiters. Needed are: 1) comprehensive programs teaching the advantages of graduation; and 2) specific appropriate placement services and/or job offers from governmental agencies and/or alumni.
…Arts Connection - is an excellent volunteer organization, trying to fill the arts and music void left by school budget cutbacks. FRHS has many talented students. Music and art don't necessarily require formal educational skills - and, if supported, FRHS's struggling programs will directly help many kids, and be a great motivator for the school at large.
…Thus, donations of appropriate books, art supplies, music cassettes/CD's and video cassettes/ DVD's will enhance both teaching and the library, and can be given as "rewards" to children of limited means - who may not own a book of their own.
…One of two small miracles: the athletic field has been stunningly rebuilt by the pro bono activities of Bob Tisch (of Loew's and NY Giants). It is a source of enormous pride - and the football team made the PSAL playoffs for the first time in history. Girls track and girls soccer also benefit, along with other teams.
…Like music and art, athletic talent is largely independent of academic standing - but the teams need greater support to keep all students motivated and keep the athletes in school.
…FRHS sponsors teams in every sport, but is considerably disadvantaged by PSAL's per capita funding - for only 1400 students (vs. schools of 3000 -- per capita works least well in sports.)
…They need money, equipment of all sorts (even usable tennis racquets) and any "surplus" (for which the tax benefits would be greater than a liquidation sale).
…They've scrimped for an exercise/weight room, which is a great success; but the boys' locker room desperately needs new, clean lockers.
… If former athletes were to contribute, I'm sure the school would put acknowledgment plaques on the tennis courts, bleachers, in the gyms, or the weight room.
…It is thrilling to see the names of contributing alumni on seats in the auditorium; more of which are needed.
…The other "miracle": the baby nursery. Yes, a nursery, with professional help looking after infants -- so their teenage mothers don't drop-out! Except for infant care, the mothers are treated as normal students. No penalty, but no reward for the mothers, who are helped to stay in school.
…The new principal, Ms. Cheryll C. Jones, is highly motivated and very experienced. But, she is the third in four years and has had to restart the office's momentum.
…The Assistant Principals, administrators and teachers I met were all dedicated, serious professionals in a frustrating and always challenging environment. They earn their pay!
…I was encouraged the staff could stay focused on improving the students' education - despite constant problems of underfunding, security, bureaucratic paperwork, students' domestic problems, drugs and indifference - particularly among the boys (the small graduating class is 80% female!).
…The leadership and staff are up to the challenge, if they get the help needed inside and outside the Board of Education system.
…One faculty member worried that FRHS' Alumni Association and website could provide entrepreneurial benefits, rather than for the school. I explained my willingness to help reimburse the initiators because the Alumni/website are the school's greatest asset. Both sides must cooperate closely to help the school.
…Unlike today's students, many of the Alumni are affluent and influential; have fond recollections of good times, in an excellent school.
…Many direct contributions have already been of great value, particularly Carl Ichan's substantial matching grant.
…The old building is in okay shape (most graffiti is covered immediately), but they still need the assignment of a full-time custodian.
…Security is a major issue and distraction: all students enter in one location through metal detectors; and exit through one location, and are quickly dispersed with police cars at each corner to keep the drug dealers away. Exits and halls are patrolled by security guards and teachers.
…The community was impoverished enough, and is still recovering from being hit with a double trauma: heavy losses in the 9/11 attacks, quickly followed by the carnage of the Belle Harbor plane crash.
…With the city's straightened finances,
the Board of Education must not, and Alumni cannot, let the current and
future students of this school fall between the cracks. Though it
is "out-of-sight", it cannot be out-of-mind, all efforts truly can be of
Edward Bleier, Class of 1947
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ed for his willingness to get involved, and his desire to assist the current students at Far Rockaway High School. Through his contacts at the school, I have been assured that I will be receiving a periodic update from the current Principal, Ms. Cheryll Jones, and will post her letters on this website. I have suggested that those who are interested in assisting Ed and his efforts to assist the school, form a coordinating committee so that efforts are not duplicated. I know that there are many alumni who are willing to help if they know exactly in what form that help can best be contributed. I hope to hear from many of you on this topic and I will be happy to post your letters.