This week is the end of the school year in many areas, including the public schools in New York City. That by itself is not noteworthy, since it’s a normal event for the end of June. However, the end of this school year also means the official closing of Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, which has served that community since 1897 and where I attended classes many years ago. Like many of us, I have great memories of my high school years. I ran for school-wide office in my senior year, beating my opponent by the largest margin in the school’s history at that time–supposedly beating the record of Newtown Hall of Famer and future comedian Don Rickles in the process.
This isn’t about me, though. Newtown has served the local community well over the years, providing education for future politicians, performers, and business leaders, to name a few. The Elmhurst community has become more multi-cultural the last few decades, and Newtown has changed with it, requiring more classes in English as a Second Language. Sadly, that change in the community also resulted in lower four-year graduation statistics and a lower rating by Department of Education criteria. It’s amazing that a school that taught so many students about New York City is a great melting pot is closing due to lack of tolerance for the special needs of that melting pot.
There’s also the memories of friends and teachers, including one that deserves special mention here. I first met John Ficalora when he was a student teacher in my junior-year math class. John did such a good job as student teacher that he was hired as a full-time teacher before that school year ended. He never left, getting promotions to assistant principal and then principal. Even more unusual, John went to Newtown as a student. Aside from parts of his college years, John Ficalora didn’t leave Newtown High School from the time he was 14 years old until the closing of the school this week.
So along with this week’s Top Ten @ Ten–the hits of June 28, 1958–we’ll spend a few moments tonight saying goodbye to Newtown High School, and a special thank you to John Ficalora. Newtown’s building may still be there after this week along with the iconic tower, but the tradition will forever be gone by Friday.
As always, catch” The Grooveyard” Thursday evening from 9-11 PM on 88.1 FM on Long Island, the 88,1 FM tab on the WCWP website or by searching for WCWP 88.1 FM on your Smart Phone’s Tune In app.
UPDATE: The United Federation of Teachers won an arbitration ruling that will prevent the closing of Newtown and other schools, agreeing with the claim that the changes were “sham closures” designed for political needs. See details here.