Democrat Senator José Peralta of Queens wrote a letter to Cathleen P. Black, Chancellor-Designate New York City Department of Education to create a new school for immigrants in his district, most of them of Hispanic origin. The letter was sent last December 3.

Dear Chancellor-Designate Black:   Congratulations on your appointment.  I look forward to working with you on a variety of important issues of concern to my constituents, including school overcrowding, and the low achievement and high dropout rates of minority public school students.

Of immediate concern is the status of Newtown High School, which has been identified by the Department of Education as a school that may be closed.  I want to ensure that families in the communities I represent have access to a quality neighborhood high school.

In discussions of education policy, we often hear, “Replicate what works.”  In New York City, public high schools dedicated to recently arrived English-language learners have worked quite well.  While there are two such schools relatively close to Newtown—Pan American International High School and International High School at LaGuardia Community College—the combined enrollment of the two schools is less than 1,000 students.

At Newtown, where enrollment is almost a third greater than capacity, there are approximately 1,000 English-language learners who would very well benefit from the kind of  environment and services available at the two International High Schools in Queens.    Expanding the two schools to serve more students, however, will not be enough to meet our community’s need.  As a result, I urge you to open an additional high school dedicated to immigrant English-language learners.

A new high school for immigrants in this community, perhaps in conjunction with expanded enrollments at the existing International High Schools, will act to reduce overcrowding at Newtown, which received a “proficient” rating in the 2009-2010 Department of Education Quality Review Report.    With immigrant English-language learners who would otherwise attend Newtown receiving the intensive language-development help they need in a different setting, Newtown could provide more individualized and direct services to students.   It bears noting that many large neighborhood high schools in this city have prepared generations of New Yorkers for success in higher education and the workforce.  One of my highest priorities as state senator is to see that is the case at Newtown.

Easing the overcrowding at Newtown by creating a new high school for immigrants will enable Newtown to realize its full potential and help the young immigrants continuously arriving in my district to fulfill theirs as well.

Thank you for your consideration.  I hope to meet with you in the near future to discuss this matter further.   Sincerely,

Senator Jose R. Peralta