The latest in the NY Post from Sue Edelman shows that there are consequences to giving principals unchecked power. Some are using part of the school day to promote ed-tech products.
At least 12 NYC principals have lent their names and schools to be used in promotional materials for a software vendor, which raked in more than $1.1 million from the Department of Education this year.
The school chiefs may have violated ethics rules by helping plug Operoo, a for-profit company that sells a system to remotely manage paperwork and communicate with parents, numerous materials show.
In one instance, an April 14 webinar titled “Live Principal Panel: COVID-19, One Year On,” and viewed by The Post, took place at 2 p.m. on a school day. Widely advertised online, It featured six principals, including Mark Erlenwein of elite Staten Island Tech, and was hosted by Phil Weinberg, a former DOE deputy chancellor.
Weinberg, who hung up on The Post when called about the event, asked the principals “how they’ve harnessed technology to both survive and lead the transformation.” Each of the principals praised Operoo, one calling it “a godsend.”
“It’s outrageous that these principals are promoting a for-profit product like Operoo, and during the school day no less,” said Leonie Haimson, a DOE watchdog and executive director of Class Size Matters.
“During a very challenging and difficult year, they should be focused on ensuring kids are getting all the support and services they need, rather than acting as sales reps for the ed-tech industry.”
Other principals involved in the promotions included Karen Ditolla, Mark Twain IS for the Gifted and Talented; Deirdre DeAngelis, New Dorp HS; Trish Peterson, PS 8; Tiffany Hicks, Magnet School of the Arts; Moses Ojeda, Thomas Edison HS; and Nora deRosa, IS 7. None returned messages.
The Special Commissioner of Investigations has been informed according to the article. I predict nothing or next to nothing will happen to these principals. It will just be another DOE embarrassment. Had it been teachers using school time, even if it was non-teaching time, to promote products, there probably would be theft of services charges thrown at them and they would be facing termination hearings very shortly.
The DOE apparently is okay with the principals using school time to pitch ed-tech as long as they inform the Conflicts of Interests Board about what they are doing.
The principals did not ask permission, according to the DOE. Ethics officer Samantha Biletsky “reached out to remind them of the COIB rules,” said spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon.
The principals were not compensated by Operoo, O’Hanlon said. While getting paid their DOE salaries, they are free to attend “education-relevant conferences” during work hours and “share their wisdom.”