FRHS Teacher and Grad Forced Out by Change

September 23, 2005

Hey Folks,

I hope this letter finds everyone in the best of health and happy. I'd like to start by once again thanking all of you who read and/or responded to my emotional letter written in June about leaving Far Rock HS.  It still seems crazy saying it, but with time I will adjust.  In particular, I'd like to thank Carlos Colorado for coming up with this idea for us to keep in touch with one another.
It was only my intention for our graduating class to be informed of what was taking place at our alma mater. But I must tell you all that this letter took off like a wildfire. Within days, I started receiving email from alumni I've never known who gradated in the 60's, 70's, and so on. They've also displayed it on the alumni website It truly displayed to me what the Far Rock family means. And for this, I am truly grateful!

Now for the update! About a week after I received my letter informing me of being excessed from Far Rockaway HS, I get a letter in the mail from the principal telling me to report to Far Rock on Tuesday Sept. 6, unless I receive an email or a telephone call for reassignment.  Imagine how I felt at the time, "We don't want you, but show up Sept. 6 in case we need you, until we determine that we REALLY don't need you and transfer you anyway."  Everyone that I've heard from has told me not to worry and that there is a plan for me. Well you folks were right.

I received a call this past Friday to report to Richmond Hill High School, for my new assignment. It will be strange not heading down Beach Channel Drive to Bay 25th Street in the AM, as I've been doing the past 11 years, but being 10 minutes away from home has its perks too. My new supervisor happens to be a former co-worker of mine at Far Rock (2nd yr. AP Mr. Prekash Persaud) who is a great gentleman and mentor under Tom Campo (our former teacher and my former boss).  I also found out that two of my co-workers in the Math Dept. will be joining me at Richmond Hill.  I will still be coaching Football, Baseball, and hopefully Wrestling at Far Rock (if they restart the program), although the principal still hasn't posted these positions as yet.  I've been coaching Football for 3 weeks now and our first game is this Saturday.  I have retention rights to this position, so I hope I don't have any problems. It just means I have to travel into Far
Rock in the afternoon which I won't mind for something I love.  I still haven't found the words to tell the kids I won't be teaching them in class, but I will on Tuesday. They will find out soon enough that many of their teachers will not be back.

Well folks once again I've rambled on a little too much, but you guys don't seem to mind so thanks for caring.  And yes, I've saved the best news for last. MY WIFE LORI AND I ARE EXPECTING OUR FIRST CHILD IN THE SPRING!!!!!  So I guess the Good Lord does have a plan for me. Continue to pray for us and keep us in your hearts as I always do with you guys. Take Care

Ken Hernandez

Hey folks,

I hope this letter finds everyone in good health and happy. I am writing to let everybody know that I have been excessed (being reassigned to a new school) from Far Rockaway High School, our alma mater.  

This has been a stressful year for myself, as well as the close-knit staff that we've had at Far Rock for a long time.  The region that we are in has basically taken over the school. I have been through six different principals in ten years.

I've always known that for a lot of people, FRHS is a stepping-stone to better opportunities. But I never knew that I would be a casualty of this new administration, even though the handwriting was there all along.  I just chose to ignore it until now.

I think its important for you, as alumni, to know what's going on at your former school. After all, it was an important part of our past.  Those of you who keep up with local news know that in October 2004 we were taken off of the Security Impact List. (Remember, the 12 most dangerous schools in the city?)  It was all bogus to begin with, but that's another story. Bloomberg and his cronies came in and bragged about how they made our school safe again. And here was our current principal, Denise Hallett, smiling away and taking all the credit, yet she had only become principal of FRHS about three weeks prior. That was the beginning of the end!!  They had already pushed our former principal, Cheryll Jones out the door in June. She was really responsible for the turnaround!

The very next day, we were named as a SURR school (School Under Regents Review), The State was coming in to take over!  At any other school in New York State, this process takes two to three years before the state determines whether to redesign the school or not, based on performance and future evaluations.  The State Board of Regents came to evaluate our school the next month, January 2005, and recommended to redesign the school immediately!  No plans!  No warnings!  Nothing! 

All this was going on while a new academy had already been brought into the building as a separate school (Frederick Douglass Academy). This year they will take over the entire third floor.  (They had one-half of the floor this academic year).

In April we were told that they are forming four smaller learning communities for the new school year. No more academic departments, (math, science, English. etc.) only academies (Creative Expressions, Law & Government, Business & Tech, and Health Careers).  

We all know that in Rockaway we have a large Latino population, and they had their own department and culture which nourished incoming foreign and ESL students.  This has always been a vital part of the school.  There is no mention of this department under the new plans.

Now, since there are only four academies, there is no need for eight APs, so guess who goes. Tom Campo (yes, Mr. Campo, who we all had; my boss, who's been at FRHS for 28 years and about to retire in January),  Dr. Ronna Sloan, English AP, and Mr. Gary Nuszer, Physical Education AP.  

Oh, by the way, no plans have been made for the Physical Education Department. That
should have been a clue for me if they were forced to go.

We were next told that since the school is under redesign, up to 50% of the staff would be retained. But if you read between the lines and you are a math teacher, you'd realize that up to means it could be 1% or 49%.   

Here's the kicker...we all had the option of interviewing for our positions. (Why should you have to interview for a position that you've held for the past 20 years?)  I had to dig
into the college files for a résumé and cover letter, for crying out loud! And when were we interviewed?  Just last week; one week before school ended. I only received news yesterday, the last day for teachers on Graduation Day, that I was being let go. If that were not enough, the Regional Superintendent stated at graduation that our principal had been named by the NAACP as Educator of the Year!

Out of 130 teachers, only 41 applied for their jobs. The rest had seen enough and went looking elsewhere.  I realize this is a bit long, but please bear with me. Out of a math department of 15 people, only five will remain in Far Rock. Two are first year teachers.  Ms. Brenner (who taught us calculus) is the Programming Chair; Mr. Ramnarine is the computer expert in the building, and Mr. Gentile heads Virtual Enterprises, a business run by students).   

Everyone else has been let go in my department. In a nutshell, all the veteran teachers were let go, and all the first year and fellowship teachers have been retained. The two new APs that came in with the principal were kept. The appointed, tenured APs were let go. Get the picture? 

I've been personally coaching the football, wrestling, and baseball teams for the past ten years. We made the playoffs in baseball for the first time since 1999. We made the second round for the first time since 1983, before our freshman year. And none of it means a thing to the administration. We've have the best Math Regents score in about 20 years (80% passing) yet she let Mr. Campo go. The Rock is not the same as it used to be, and unfortunately for the kids, it never will be.  

Thanks for reading this, and get back at me when you can. I'm not sure where I'm headed next, another ridiculous part of this process, but I'll keep you informed. Here's the ironic part.  I'll be working the Big Apples Games at Far Rock this summer trying to get the
football team ready for the season. HA HA HA !!!!

Love you guys,

Ken Hernandez, FRHS 1987    Email Address:


Return to Home Page