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 forever.  

Your comments are welcome and if sent to me will be reprinted on this page.  Please send to Skip Weinstock, Class of 1963 at rockaway@astound.net.  You can also send your comments directly to Howard at editor@rockawave.com

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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.
Miguel       Email Address:  Thoopermig@aol.com

March 20, 2005

Hi Skip,
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:  bdeboop@socal.rr.com

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 Pizza.
William Vailati    Email Address:  fastpace63@comcast.net

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 work.

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:  joe@barbecuejoe.com

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 today. 

There are probably those who disagree but they are entitled to their opinions.
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: 

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!

I was appalled when I read the article about changing the name of Far Rockaway High School.  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 been changed to reflect a particular ethnic group.  Students need to appreciate the heritage of a school & the community of which they are a part.  When they know its history, and that past graduates of the school have been successful; they 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. Joyce Brothers, Basketball star Sid Tanenbaum, Westinghouse Science winners, doctors, lawyers, & other professionals too numerous to mention. And in 1950 Far Rockaway was runner-up for the NYC basketball championship & played in Madison Square Garden. This is only part of the heritage that the students will not know if the school’s name is changed.

Myrna Lande Lewis, Class of 1953     Email Address:  pmlewis6391@optonline.net

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

Dear Skip,
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 swinging!"
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:  flmass11801@optonline.net

January 24, 2005

Dear Skip,

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.

Yours, George Berger   (FRHS 1960) Email Address:   alicebesch@wanadoo.nl


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