Friday, June 10, 2016

Does DOE have a race problem? Preet Bharara says yes

Yesterday,  US Attorney Preet Bharara sued NYC DOE for taking no action against a principal, Minerva Zanca, who allegedly discriminated against three black  teachers at the Pan American International High School in Elmhurst - making outrageously racist comments and urging the Assistant Principal to find their performance unsatisfactory so they could be fired. The DOE's refusal to act continued even after protests at the school, the media ran stories about the case in July 2013, the teachers filed lawsuits, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in their favor in May 2014.

See Norm Scott's blog today about a letter sent to the Superintendent and several DOE administrators from the teachers at the school in June 2013..  The staff complained about the principal creating an "abusive environment and culture of fear",  cuts to programs for students with interrupted formal education [SIFE],  and an  increase in class sizes, leading to the decision of many teachers to flee the school.

When the DOE took no action, this was followed by a petition that garnered more than 45,000 signatures, highlighting the racist behavior of the principal, press releases from the school's staff, and rallies at the school in July 2013 which were covered by the media, when these teachers filed complaints.   See below, a TV news segment from Channel 11 news and Channel 7 news, with interviews with two of the teachers and the assistant principal involved.

Norm also mentions that the other Assistant Principal at the school at the time, who didn't go public with any complaints was Monica Garg, now the controversial principal of Central Park East II.

According to the US Attorney's office, the DoE refused to act even when the EEOC tried to resolve the issue through conciliation. At that point the EEOC referred the case to their office.

The allegations in the legal papers are stunning.  Here is the press release and here is the legal complaint.

The Chancellor is ultimately responsible for inaction, but in my experience the DOE attorneys are also profoundly incompetent and irresponsible. Read the articles here:  Buzzfeed , NYPost,  Mo4ch News, and the  NYTimes.

The Perdido St blogger contends that these unfair attacks on teachers are rampant at NYC schools, compounded by the fact that they no longer have the right to grieve unsatisfactory ratings by administrators and enough U ratings can lead to loss of their jobs - though the blatant racism exhibited in this case makes it more offensive (and if true, clearly illegal).  CORRECTION: Arthur Goldstein points out that the lowest ratings are now called Ineffective, not U, that all teachers can appeal Ineffective ratings, though only 13% to a panel that includes a neutral arbitrator. The rest are appealed back to the DOE.

This case provides the most telling evidence yet that the DOE has a real blind spot when it comes to race, or worse.  Add to this the administration's slowness to take action to improve diversity and integration at public schools until recently, and their refusal to change the admissions policies of five of the specialized high schools and the evidence grows. More on this soon. 


Anonymous said...

Monica came on board after Zanca fired Riccardo. Minerva was the worst school leader I have ever seen. She had the demeanor of a Nazi camp guard with the staff. She used to yell at teachers over the loudspeaker. When she announced she was retiring, the students cheered. No joke.

Anonymous said...

The only race problem that NYC schools or any other NYS school ever faced was that 'The Race to the Top' nonsense.