Thursday, October 7, 2010

More on the worst schools in NYC, and their principals

Out of the 33 schools with the lowest Environment scores in 2009-2010, only four of them have new principals this year, according to the DOE website. At least five of their principals were Leadership Academy graduates, from simply checking the web.

Six schools had the absolute worst score: a “0”. One of them is Ross Global charter. An account from Mariama Sanoh, a parent at the school, was posted a few days ago here.

Another school that got a zero is PS 50 in the Bronx. Its principal, Francisco Cruz, was removed from his job last summer, after he was found to have rigged the bids for an afterschool program he had financial interest in.

Tied for seventh worst in the city is MS 571 in Brooklyn. The principal, Santousha Troutman is a graduate of the Leadership Academy, and remains in her job. Eighth worst, tied with four other schools, is PS 11 in the Bronx, run by another Leadership Academy alumni, Elizabeth Hachar. Ms. Hachar appears to be quite a tyrant and has a long history of infuriating parents.

According to a 2008 article in the Highbridge LowDown,

Hachar first made headlines when she fired popular parent teacher coordinator Charles Woods on the final day of term last June. Hachar is in her third year as principal and is a graduate of the New York City Leadership Academy (NYCLA). This June NYCLA was designated the city's official principal training program in NYC's efforts to implement new "Children First" school reforms. A linchpin of the initiative is "empowerment", giving principals "broader discretion over allocating resources, choosing their staffs and creating programming", according to the New York City Department of Education's website.

Problems began before Wood's dismissal, says Nelson Mar, senior staff attorney and education law specialist at Legal Services NYC-Bronx, a civil legal service for low income individuals. On May 2nd of this year, Mar's firm, along with a coalition of community activists, teachers and staff, filed a complaint with school superintendent Dolores Desposito.

Among the allegations was a claim that Hachar's mandate to lock bathrooms led some children to soil themselves. "One mother told me her daughter had to be hospitalized because of an obstruction in her bowel," said Mar. On Sept. 10th at the first PTA meeting of the 2008 school year, the principal addressed the bathroom issue, said attendee Theodore Garcia, first vice president of the Community Education Council for the district. Hachar "stated that 'all the teachers in the building have keys to the bathrooms to let students in'", said Garcia, but did not explain why they were locked at all. Hachar did not respond to multiple attempt s to contact her, and ordered the removal of a reporter from the September 10th PTA meeting by six police officers…. Hachar is currently under investigation because of those allegations, said Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the DOE. Hachar is credited with raising test scores. English proficiency has nearly doubled according to data from New York State School Report Cards, the government's yearly schools assessment….

She's made other changes as well. According to the community organizer, over 30 teachers from the school's full-time teaching staff of 59 have left or been fired in the time she's held office.

Yet perhaps because of her ability to keep test scores up, Hachar remains in her post.

Tied with the above school at no. 9 was the Academy of Business and Community Development. Last year, the principal and founder of the school was Clyde Cole, yet another graduate of the Leadership Academy, who received a bonus of $7,000 from the DOE in 2008-9. Here is an excerpt on his alumni page at NYU’s Steinhardt School:

After graduating from NYU Clyde joined the Aspiring Principals’ Program at the New York City Leadership Academy because he’d be guaranteed a principal position within one year. A few months into the program the Department of Education’s Office of New Schools presented the group with the possibilities and the process of opening a new school in New York City. As per Department of Education requirements, Clyde assembled a Planning Team, which included Urban Assembly, a nonprofit organization that has been founding schools since 1997, a fellow Aspiring Principal, a parent, a high school senior, three middle school principals, his former high school basketball coach, and two teachers, one of whom was once Clyde’s student.

Mr. Cole is gone now, replaced with Simone Mcintosh.

Also tied at 9th worst last year was PS 52 in Staten Island, whose principal was Evelyn Mastroianni. Ms. Mastroianni made headlines last year when she threatened to suspend a 9 year old student who was holding a 2- inch plastic Lego gun. She only relented when the parents threatened to sue. The school has a new principal this year, Jane McCord.

The parents at Muscota, at 15th worst, managed to rid themselves of their much-despised principal Tomasz Graski, another Leadership Academy alum, but now he has been installed instead at ms45/ in East Harlem.

The 20th worst school, according to the surveys, was PS 6 in the Bronx, whose principal is Darlene Mcwhales. That school was afflicted with mold in the portable classrooms last year, and yet the DOE resisted allowing students into classrooms in the main building even though there was apparently room for them. Here is a comment from a teacher on the Yournabe website about Ms. Mcwhales:

I worked in a portable classroom for many years. In one of the classrooms the mold was so bad there was a big gaping hole in the wall. When principal, Darlene Mcwhales at PS 6 saw the hole she responded to the teacher, "place a bookshelf in front of the hole so parents won't complain." I was infuriated with her response, so I contacted every possible agency to respond to the serious mold problems. Mrs. Mcwhales even went as far as firing one of the teachers she believed contacted DOSH.”

Gregory Hodge is the well-known principal of Frederick Douglass Academy, which has the 25th lowest score for environment in the city. Mr. Hodge is famous for his “no excuses” attitude to teachers and students;

“In my final interview with the [teaching] candidate, I lay down the law,” says Hodge. “As quickly as you’re hired, you can be fired. If you don’t perform—

you’re gone.” At this point Hodge says certain candidates get squeamish and ask how they will be evaluated. “How will you evaluate your students? Through test scores,” Hodge replies. “That’s how I’ll evaluate you—through their test scores.”

A former teacher describes the harrowing environment at the school in an article in the Indypendent last month:

The worst part of working at FDA was the principal, whose management style was described by the district United Federation of Teachers representative as “abrasive.” In my experience, shouting was the norm, often peppered with derogatory words and phrases. Neither children nor teachers were spared the kind of verbal abuse one expects from a drill sergeant, not a school principal. But seeing most of my colleagues cowed or resigned to it, I rolled along, until he threatened me one day — saying, “teachers are gonna get their throats cut” — shortly after I and a couple other teachers had called the city and the state to complain about the lack of a certified special education teacher for the sixth grade.

FDA’s not the grittiest school in the city or the country, but its shortcomings highlight many of the problems with urban education. Social services and counseling are almost nonexistent. But as I began to advocate further for certain students, I directly exposed myself to the potential loss of my livelihood. But even our calls didn’t solve the special ed problem. Instead, the sixth-graders got a certified teacher at the expense of another class.

This was only the most obvious example of our principal not doing his job. As the year went on I began to compile documentation of harassment. I first called our district superintendent, whose secretary helpfully suggested I look for a job at another school. I also called the DOE ’s office of special investigations and was told that unless children were being physically harmed at the school, that office was unlikely to investigate any further than calling the school principal. The person I spoke with in the office of special investigations helpfully added that it might “come back on me” if I decided to file a complaint.

Mark Clarke, principal of the Bronx Mathematics Preparatory School, 23rd on the list, strangely took on the job as the chair of East NY Prep charter’s board, right before it was closed down by SUNY last year, because of alleged mismanagement, the principal’s self-dealing, and the pushing out of students with low test scores. According to Gotham Schools, Mr. Clarke said the school had not forced students to leave, but that “they left on their own,”

25th worst school in the city was E. Flatbush Community Research School, run by David Manning, who is another Leadership Academy grad and received a bonus from the DOE in the fall of 2009.

The 27th worst school last year was PS 24 in the Bronx, led by Donna Connelly, known for turning down a grant for two years of music appreciation for the students at her school, apparently because “there was no educational value to it.”


Anonymous said...

Notice that none of these schools are in middle class districts where parents are able to efficiently and effectively advocate for their children. Another example, of putting the most vulnerable children with the least qualified professionals in the system. It's truly disgusting.

gio said...

Donna Connelly is a superb principal with high educational standards who turned down the music "grant" because it was bogus. the program she declined to participate in is far inferior to the music program already in place at our school. it would have given teachers a lot of extra work outside the classroom, while actually degrading the music instruction. we the parents raise a large amount of money each year that goes to support the arts programs at PS 24, so we know this was a good decision on her part and we are not at all mad at it. the story was manufactured by a curmudgeon named andrew wolf who publishes a local paper, and who considers the ps 24 parent association to be his political enemy, for some reason we can't quite fathom....!

joseph zizzo said...

The riverdale review is a publication of very low journalistic standards that is out of touch with the community it purports to serve. The program Principal Connelly declined to participate in is far inferior to the music program already in place at our school. What she turned down was nothing more than a series of cds, which presented a music appreciation program of a very rudimentary, unsophisticated nature, basically a slapped together moneymaker for its producers, and sold to public school programs and grant-givers, apparently because no one else would buy it! it would have given teachers a lot of extra work outside the classroom, while actually degrading the music instruction already in place. The local paper saw fit to make an issue of it, for what appears to be political reasons, but there was really nothing there. Connelly has been an asset to the school in the year she's been here, we love her.

Clifford Stanton said...

PS 24 is an outstanding public school and Donna Connelly is exactly the kind of principal you want in an elementary school. She has a wonderful understanding of children, she will not leave "good enough" alone, and she is an educational visionary. Class dismissed.

Anonymous said...

Mr Stanton, is a known idiot!. Mr Stanton also believes in taking away the freedom of speech. And I am not working for the Riverdale Review. I have lived in Riverdale for 30 years. I wonder if the Mayor is aware that Mr Stanton who works for the PTA is ok with taking away the freedom of speech. Mr Stanon believes in teaching are children that if you stand up and speak about things that are not right, that your voice should be hushed. He needs to lose to his job.

Anonymous said...

Now Ms hachar in Alabama

Anonymous said...

Donna Connelly's school must be rolling in money if she feels it appropriate to discard thousands of dollars worth of tax payer bought desks and filing cabinets.