Network Ambassadors Program Leads Campus Visits for Legislators to Foster Awareness of Nonpublic School Education
Queens, N.Y. – Yeshiva of Central Queens (YCQ) and leaders representing Teach NYS, an education advocacy group and division of the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, recently hosted New York State Senator Leroy Comrie at a visit to the school.
Senator Comrie was accompanied by Teach NYS Executive Director Sydney Altfield. As part of its advocacy efforts, Teach NYS coordinates visits by local legislators to Jewish schools so they can learn, in person, about the unique needs of both the students enrolled there and their families.
Senator Comrie represents the 14th Senatorial District of Queens, which includes portions of Jamaica, Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Hollis, St. Albans, Laurelton, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Hillcrest and Kew Gardens.
Elected to the New York Senate in 2014, Senator Comrie is a staunch advocate of quality education and served as president of his local community school board prior to taking office. Senator Comrie has an extensive record of legislative accomplishments and works tirelessly to ensure that his constituents benefit from the very best possible opportunities and quality of life.
At the conclusion of the visit, Altfield and Senator Comrie sat down for a Q&A about the legislator’s impression of YCQ and his upcoming legislative priorities. Following is a transcript of their conversation, edited for brevity; listen to the full interview here.
Sydney Altfield: Why did you run for office?
Senator Comrie: I wanted to make a change. Growing up, I didn’t see enough representatives from my community and I wanted to make a change from inside.
Altfield: What is your relationship with the Jewish community in your district?
Senator Comrie: I have been honored to work with many established members of the Jewish community for over 20 years, since I was on the City Council and even before. I’ve been honored that major figures in the Jewish community have endorsed and embraced me, and have asked me to work with them on particular issues. It’s been very humbling. I’m honored that the Jewish community has embraced me so heartily.
Altfield: What do you think is important to the Jewish community in your district?
Senator Comrie: Making sure that their traditions are respected, that they have safety and security, and that their schools are respected. I think what happened with the State Board of Education last year was horrible: to say that all yeshivas are not educating properly. I know that yeshivas in Queens have been doing a great job and they should not be caught under that blanket or given bad ratings. Everyone should have an opportunity to prove themselves.
Altfield: Was this your first visit to a Jewish day school?
Senator Comrie: No, I’ve had the honor of visiting many Jewish day schools over the years.
Altfield: How does YCQ compare to others?
Senator Comrie: This school is exciting. You can feel the positive vibes in the building; you can hear kids learning; you don’t hear kids running up and down, being raucous or disruptive. You can tell this is a positive learning environment.
Altfield: What are your takeaways from this visit?
Senator Comrie: My takeaways are that this is a good school that focuses on tradition and excellence and on making sure children are ready to be the next leaders.
Altfield: Why do you believe that a strong and affordable nonpublic school education system is important for New York?
Senator Comrie: I think especially in New York, we have so many different cultures that want to make sure that their traditions are passed on, and the Jewish tradition is a tradition to be celebrated and maintained. The yeshiva network of private school systems is an opportunity for children to learn their tradition, to understand it, and to pass it on. It’s something to be admired.
Altfield: What are your legislative priorities this session?
Senator Comrie: I have a few. Focusing on education, making sure that we have money for mental health for kids and for after-school programs, ensuring that kids can have services from the hours of 1 – 10 p.m. every day — support services, educational services, recreation services, services for the family as well.