A local city councilman gearing up for a fight with the city Department of Education over zoned neighborhood schools, has won a small victory for a local youth.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca intervened on behalf of a Throggs Neck teen who was told he could not attend Lehman High School with his brother.
Vacca is warning that students from Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay, and Zerega will not be guaranteed a seat at Lehman come September.
Saleh Mohamed Saleh, 16, a recent immigrant from Yemen, was denied admission to the Lehman when his older brother and guardian Ibrahim Saleh tried to register him.
Saleh, who lives on East Tremont Avenue, within the Lehman High School zone, was denied admission despite his other brother Mayhoub, 17, being enrolled at Lehman. The The three brothers recently moved to Throggs Neck from Queens, with Saleh Mohamed still learning English having been in the United States only about four months.
Instead of enrolling Saleh at Lehman, the district office first sent him to Holcombe Rucker High School in Hunts Point.
“I asked to have him enrolled in Lehman because I wanted him to go to school with his brother,” said the oldest brother. “He speaks better English, and could go to and come back from school with him.”
The registrar still insisted that Saleh Mohamed go to Holcombe Rucker, he said.
“I think this is unfortunately what people may have to look forward to if the Department of Education gets it way,” Vacca said of a DOE plan to do away with guaranteeing seats in zoned-neighborhood high schools including Lehman that will undergo enrollment reduction next September. Two other high schools in Queens are also affected.
“It will not be a given that if your child lives in the zone of Lehman you will guaranteed a seat in Lehman or any of the five small schools inside the building,” Vacca added.
He noted that there are more than enough seats in the building and he does not understand why zoned children cannot be guaranteed a slot in Lehman or one of the smaller schools there next year if they want to stay in the local community.
Ibrahim was lucky, he said, that he recognized Vacca when he stopped in at the older brother’s deli on E. Tremont and Lafayette avenues one morning for coffee and heard the tale of woe.
“I am sure that the DOE deals with many parents who do not know their rights. Certainly this parent did not know his rights,” said Vacca. “He is new to this country and to the neighborhood. He lives on E. Tremont Avenue and he is being told that his child cannot go to Lehman, just a few blocks away.”
A DOE source said that even if students from the zone are no longer guaranteed a spot in the school next year as Lehman is scaled down to just over 1,000 students, they will be given priority over other students not from the zone.