NYC Principal Hall of Shame: Why does DOE protect abusive principals?

There was a rally yesterday at Bronxdale High School to protest the DOE's refusal to remove its principal John Chase, despite his horrific record of sexually harassment; this follows last week's rally at Bronx Science, of former students protesting the egregious behavior of principal Valerie Reidy, which has led to a steady exodus of teachers leaving the school. (See also the NY Magazine article about Reidy's mismanagement of the school, especially the hundreds of comments from former students and teachers.)  Below are the comments of Lynne Winderbaum, former Bronx UFT HS district leader, about how DOE protecting abusive principals is standard operating procedure:

John Chase
Chancellor Walcott was quoted in the Daily News: “I’m not going to remove him, but he knows he cannot have any similar type of comments. He is on a very strict line as far as his behavior'…he added that some school staffers want Chase to remain in his post.”
 Following the deplorable moral standards of his predecessors under Bloomberg, Dennis Walcott staunchly asserts that he will not remove principal John Chase from his leadership position at Bronxdale High School. 

I represented teachers for many years as a UFT chapter leader and borough representative. Given the unique position of teachers and the damage done if they display immoral behavior in front of children, there has been no tolerance for them to remain in the classroom after even an allegation of misconduct. Teachers are immediately removed pending a hearing to err on the side of safety.  Yet the Department of Education does not apparently see the need to protect staff or students from abusive principals. 

The article in yesterday’s Daily News focuses on a disgusting sexual remark Chase recently made regarding the copy machine but omits inappropriate comments he made earlier made to female employees for which he has already been found guilty. 

 As far as school staffers wanting him to remain in his post, his entire teaching staff consists of eight untenured teachers (another good argument for tenure). They can be fired for any reason at any time while on probation. So their position must be taken with a grain of salt until they can speak without fear of consequences.

But this is just the latest example of the practice of DOE ignoring abusive and even illegal behavior on the part of principals:
Iris Blige
  • When 400 people marched outside Roosevelt High School in support of teacher Raqnel James, a respected and beloved tenured teacher on March 13, 2009, the Department of Education stood idly by as she was shipped to the rubber room and arrested. 
      The principal, Iris Blige, had fabricated charges to have her removed from the school after James had taken the principal’s friend to court for unpaid rent. It cost James her job, three years of salary and legal battles until she was finally found “not guilty” last month in a trial.  Previously, the Special Investigator had reported that Blige had told assistant principals to give teachers “U” (for Unsatisfactory) ratings, which can imperil their careers, on the basis of personal grudges. And yet DOE has done nothing but fine her a measly $7500.

Richard Bost
The Department of Education ignored years of allegations of sexual misconduct by Richard  Bost, former principal of Fordham Leadership Academy, who was also found guilty of abusing a secretary and stealing $7000 of school money to give to his AP. Finally, after committing unwanted sexual advances against a parent, Sen. Jeffrey Klein’s office got involved and Bost was removed.  

Valerie Reidy
The Department of Education continues to support Valerie Reidy, principal of Bronx Science, though her egregious behavior has led to a well-documented mass-exodus of excellent teachers from the school and an independent arbitrator found that she unfairly harassed and gave a “U” rating to Peter Lamphere, a former teacher at the school.

Barbara Kirkweg
  • The NYC DOE keeps Barbara Kirkweg, principal of Bronx Aerospace HS, in place even after numerous complaints by parents of harsh and unfair disciplinary practices, teachers accusing her of falsifying grades, and a finding by the Air Force that $66,800 in ROTC funds were unaccounted for.  
Anthony Rotunno   
  • Despite five years of allegations about the misrule of Anthony Rotunno, principal of Kennedy HS, including changing test scores, he remained in his job until the state comptroller found him guilty in 2010 of allowing staff to misuse $90,000 raised by  students.  Then he finally forced to resign

The protection of abusive principals at all costs appears to be the unwavering policy of the Department of Education. It is again time to fight back against this policy and demand the removal of John Chase.  -- Lynne Winderbaum
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