Cutting classes

One of the best high schools in Brooklyn has slashed its celebrated math and science program, endangering students’ chances of getting into elite colleges.

The principal at Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences in Manhattan Beach said he got rid of college-level programs like environmental science, plus Advanced Placement Spanish and other courses for top students because of city budget cuts.

“This is horrible,” said Mary Thomas, a Goldstein High sophomore. “My plan all along was to take as many advanced courses as possible.”

Students are required to take three years of math and science, but Goldstein, which is in the Kingsborough Community College Campus, has always offered a fourth year. Principal Joseph Zaza said those electives, which aren’t available at most schools, are what helped the school get ranked 19th out of 405 high schools in the city by the New York Post last year.

“These cuts could hinder student performance and affect our ranking,” said Zaza.

The principal also cut after-school activities such as concert band because he doesn’t have the money to pay instructors. Sports teams will have to raise money to buy gear because Goldstein HS can’t afford their supplies. However, Zaza did not cut any teams because coaches are paid separately by the Public School Athletic League.

Zaza did lay off two science teachers, a move that he said prevents more than 60 qualified students from enrolling in AP classes.

“I have friends with only three classes on their schedule right now because they couldn’t get the AP courses they wanted,” said Alex Novoselovo.

Zaza took full responsibility for eliminating the classes, but said his back was against the wall.

“It’s the recession,” Zaza said. “I was given a limited budget to work with.”

The city reduced all schools’ budgets by four percent, so Zaza isn’t the only administrator grappling with tough choices. Intermediate School 68 in Canarsie cut its tutoring services and PS 172 in Sunset Park laid off two teachers, according to reports by The New York Times.

In response to the city-wide shake-ups, the Department of Education blamed the same demon as Principal Zaza: the economic downturn.

“Principal Zaza made school-based budgetary decisions given the current economic realities we are facing,” said Department of Education spokeswoman Barbara Morgan. “We trust he made those budgetary decisions with the best interest of his students in mind.”

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