Chancellor Unveils Plan for New Health Centers

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Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott unveiled an initiative Wednesday to open 20 health and mental health centers in middle and high schools. He outlined the plan at the City Council's hearing on next year's budget for the Education Department.

While council members welcomed the $30 million initiative, some noted that the new centers come after more than 70 school-based mental health centers were closed over the last two years.

For an example of what a health clinic in a school can mean to a community, read what the Riverdale Press says about the two-month-old clinic run by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital on the John F. Kennedy High School campus in the Bronx.

The total school budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 is $19.7 billion. That's about 1.5 percent higher than the current year. The chancellor told council members that he expected class sizes to rise slightly, but that he would be able to add some teachers to the payroll.

Gotham Schools reports that the budget includes a $91.5 million increase for charter schools. The 12.4 percent increase will support the opening of 24 charter schools and the expansion of student enrollment in existing charters this September.

Much of the heat at the meeting centered on proposed cuts to early childhood and after-school programs even though they are managed by different departments, the Administration for Children's Services and the Department of Youth and Community Development. Council members urged Mr. Walcott to work with those departments to minimize the cuts.

In other news, our congratulations go to Patricia Lockhart, a science teacher at Hubert Humphrey School P.S. 57 in Park Hill, Staten Island. She was one of 18 teachers awarded the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators for her work in environmental science. According to the announcement, Ms. Lockhart uses the school gardens and nearby Eibs Pond Park to teach her students about airborne toxins, asthma and childhood obesity.

Among other things, Ms. Lockhart created a healthy children’s garden at the school for students to grow their own fruit and vegetables, and a butterfly and bee garden to attract pollinators and help students learn about plant and insect life. Her students consistently score between 60 and 70 percent above grade level on the fourth-grade state science tests, the announcement said.

The Daily News reports a James Madison High School teacher has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. The student's family has filed a legal notice that they intend to sue the city for more than $10 million.

An Education Department spokeswoman, Margie Feinberg, tells The News the city is investigating the allegation and has removed the teacher from the classroom.

For more education news, check out Gotham Schools's Rise and Shine round-up.

The fight to save after-school programs from budget cuts continues on Thursday. Students and families from the Sunset Park, Brooklyn, community plan to rally this afternoon at P.S. 24 in support of its PAZ program.

And, back to Staten Island, there is a free workshop Thursday for parents who want to learn more about arts education. The Center for Arts Education will share tips and tools to build support for arts programming. It's at 5:30 p.m. at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center.