The story of Rosemarie Jahoda, Interim Acting Principal at Townsend Harris High School, is now well documented in the press and on the blogs. Jahoda was an assistant principal at Bronx High School of Science who had 20 teachers in the Math Department file a harassment complaint that was substantiated by an arbitrator but rejected by the Department of Education's Office of Labor Relations. What a great background to be promoted to principal. Jahoda is upsetting the entire school community in her new job at Townsend Harris.
She is not a rogue principal. Queens has two other interim acting high school principals who deserve to be publicly blasted as they too are creating extremely hostile teaching and learning environments in their buildings.
Kayode Ayetiwa is the Interim Acting Principal at Humanities and the Arts Magnet High School. For full disclosure let the record show that my wife Camille is an English teacher at Humanities as well as being the UFT Delegate. Each evening Camille comes home with another horror story of Ayetiwa or two of his assistants AP Moussa or Stergiopolous disrespecting staff members and/or students and getting away with it.
Teachers are working five or six periods in a row in violation of the UFT Contract; administrators are entering classes and berating teachers in front of students; observations with mostly 1's and 2 ratings on the Danielson scale are given out with regularity to many of the veteran teachers; bulletin boards are micromanaged beyond belief as are substitute lesson plans.
When Camille and Chapter Leader Lowena Howard complain to the Principal, he does nothing. Camille has filed many APPR complaints, grievances - including several for union busting - and is appealing for arbitration over last year's ineffective rating that was done by Stergiopolous and the previous principal Rosemarie Omard.
In response to grievances or APPR complaints, Ayetiwa either ignores them or he goes well beyond the time limits specified in the contract. When he finally hears grievances, he denies all of them, no matter how obvious the contractual violation, while telling Camille to sign his decisions as if she agrees with them. In one hearing, Ayetiwa actually sat there and laughed through the entire conference as Camille meticulously exposed numerous contractual violations. No resolutions to the violations are ever sought by the principal even though Chapter Leader Howard continuously asks how the issues can be resolved.
To their credit, the UFT has taken all of Camille's grievances to the Chancellor's level and she is one of the 13% going to arbitration on her rating. However, the central UFT refuses to do anything to publicly expose Ayetiwa or any principal from hell. They leave it up to the school. AFT President and former UFT President Randi Weingarten used to say the UFT would come down on abusive administrators like an 800 pound gorilla. The gorilla must be asleep these days or maybe sleeping with the administration (figuratively that is).
Harsh publicity is what is needed to reign in the likes of Jahoda and Ayetiwa, particularly since we are entering a mayoral election year and Mayor Bill de Blasio needs to be held accountable for keeping former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's appointments at the DOE essentially in place. de Blasio and his Chancellor Carmen Farina have shown virtually no respect for us as they continue the war on teachers started by the previous administration.
Townsend Harris and Humanties and the Arts are not alone. This past week another story came to us about a different school with an interim acting principal abusing people. We heard from both staffers and other members of the school community at the High School of Applied Communications in Long Island City. There is video of a student walkout last week protesting new principal Michael Weinstein's policies. The UFT knows about it and had a presence at the protest but again there is public silence from the union. There is another new principal in a different school who we have heard negative reports on that we are attempting to confirm.
When there are multiple schools in the same superintendency that all have the same issue, isn't it time for our union to do something more than just having behind the scenes conversations with the Superintendent while telling members to file grievances? Add in the veteran principals such as Jose Cruz at Math/Science, Howard Kwait at Bowne and Namita Dwarka at Bryant who have been abusing staff with impunity for years and it adds up to a real crisis. Complaints have also come in multiple times concerning two of the principals at the building where I used to work, Jamaica High School. Jamie Dubei and Carlos Borrero are two principals who have been able to get away with problematic behavior for a long time. Dubei has had almost a complete turnover of staff since the school started in 2008 while Borrero is the subject of a lawsuit that would have gotten a teacher removed from a school in about five seconds.
Much more needs to be done by the UFT to expose these bully principals. The Chancellor and Mayor need to know we are not going to stand for this a second longer.
Instead, AFT President Randi Weingarten will soon be holding a fundraiser for Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection at AFT Headquarters. Randi might want to consider what her members are facing here in Queens High Schools under Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina before raising big bucks for the Mayor.
As for UFT President Michael Mulgrew, I have been to three Delegate Assemblies this fall and I haven't heard Mulgrew talking much about abusive principals. Mulgrew calls NYC schools a model for the country. He obviously doesn't see or want to see what is going on in many of the schools he is responsible for.