Columbus HS benefit nets $16G

Before several young sports men and women, Sen. Jeff Klein, standing with principal Lisa Maffei-Fuentes (l) and Partnership for Student Advocacy executive director Mary Conway-Spiegel (r), donates $14,000 to Christopher Columbus High School, now settled into its final year. The money’s earmarked for resources that were left out in this year’s budget.
Photo by Alex Belisle

With help from a non-profit, Christopher Columbus High School has secured $16,000 to restore resources removed from the school’s budget as it settles in its final year.

The Partnership for Student Advocacy, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that’s served as the school’s guardian angel, organized a Sept. 17th fundraiser to cobble funds on its own, with Senator Jeff Klein, an school alum, handing a $14,000 check in state funds to cover CCHS’s athletic and band program.

“That was a very pleasant surprise,” said principal Lisa Maffei-Fuentes, adding a portion of the funds will go to a school trip to Washington D.C.

“The students at Christopher Columbus High School should not be shortchanged out of a well-rounded education just because their school is in its final year,” said Klein, who was swarmed by students in their team uniforms at the fundraiser.

He was one of over a hundred guests at the fundraiser, featuring other elected officials and retired NBA player John Starks, one of the stars at the benefit as he autographed hats while flanked by admirers.

“John Starks was a huge hit,” said Partnership executive director Mary Conway-Spiegel, who urged Sen. Klein and other elected officials to help secure funds for the forsaken school.

CCHS has been forced to work with a shoestring budget as it graduates the final 200 students at the school.

Maffei-Fuentes no longer has Advanced Placement, language or other elective courses, given the lack of teachers qualified to teach the subject.

Offering courses has been a crutch for Maffei-Fuentes, who’s remained with the school for 29 years, seeing it once flourish as a school offering a wealth of courses to a student body of 3,500. These days the school’s been reduced to virtually nothing.

Because of CCHS’s poor academic performance, ranked a D in its latest report card, the city Department of Education sought to close the school in 2003, resulting in lawsuits by the teacher’s union.

The city agency succeeded in ordering the school closed in 2009, no longer admitting any ninth grade students.

The Bloomberg administration, overseeing control of schools, added six smaller schools to the enormous campus in the interim, believing a more personalized setting translates to better grades. But as part of its standard operating procedure, the DOE siphoned sources from failing schools and re-allocated them to newer schools.

Losing its war with the DOE, CCHS continues to fight for the students till the end, even hosting a bake sale in Manhattan to cobble funds for it’s lofty goal of $600,000 – the funding amount denied by the DOE.

“The sale will…raise awareness/the profile of the tens of thousands of students who are affected/cheated by this damaging policy,” said Conway-Spiegel, blasting the DOE’s decision to re-distribute the school’s former funds elsewhere.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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