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Roosevelt officials vow to fight "struggling" status for middle school

Robert Summerville, president of the board of education

Robert Summerville, president of the board of education for the Roosevelt School District, speaks to a crowd inside the auditorium at Roosevelt Middle School, Saturday, August 8, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Roosevelt school district leaders said Saturday they are planning to petition Albany to repeal the middle school's "struggling" status, handed down by the state Education Department last month.

Roosevelt Middle School is one of five schools on Long Island and 144 statewide that the state placed under receivership in July.

"We do have petitions we're sending up to the governor and to everybody to let them know that Roosevelt does not want receivership," school board member Willa Scott told a supportive crowd of about 50 at a public hearing Saturday in the middle school auditorium.

If demonstrable improvements in student test scores and other criteria aren't made in the next two years at Roosevelt Middle School, it could be turned over to an outside manager.

The receivership law, adopted in April, is the state's first major attempt to intervene in local school management since the state took over the Roosevelt district in 2002.

When state control of Roosevelt ended in 2013, high school graduation rates had improved, but student passage rates on state tests in grades three to eight were chronically low.

Roosevelt High School was placed on the receivership list after the law was adopted, but the district was successful in having it removed through an appeal that noted improving graduation rates, Superintendent Deborah Wortham said.

They're hoping to do the same with the middle school -- but, as officials told residents Saturday, despite the petition they still have to follow the law and prepare for life under receivership.

"We are fighting this and we are going to continue to fight this, but we have a timeline to do certain things," board president Robert Summerville said.

The board must complete and pass a comprehensive education plan for the middle school by the week's end, Summerville said.

Roosevelt Middle School Principal Nateasha McVea offered a brief outline: Starting this year, students will be divided into teams, or "houses," where they will take classes with the same students and teachers and see the same guidance counselor and assistant principal.

"Students will be housed with one set of four core teachers: English, math, social studies and science," she explained. "Those four teachers have the same students, same routines -- there is nothing foreign throughout the course of the day for the students."

McVea said this system will make it easier to track student progress as collective teams, and allow teachers to focus more closely on their group of students.


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