Friday, January 17, 2014

PS 106 Update: Retired Teacher Writes to Farina About Principal Marcella Sills' Leadership

When will Farina end the misery? If this were about teachers they would be out of there in the blink of an eye. Let me point out once again, that this information has been out there for many years and the NY Post missed it -- until their pals BloomKleinCott were gone. And by the way, that licensed librarian who put so much into the library and the school and was a wonderful teachers is a friend of mine. (There's even more to that story that makes Sills look even more disgusting than she even appears here but I won't go there now.)

Was this school in a devastated area of Rockaway flourishing before Sills arrived? Surely not. But it was a solid school community that Sills as a Leadership Acad grad went in to consciously destroy. In my world that is a criminal act.

Chancellor Carmen Farina 52 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007 January 16, 2014

Dear Chancellor Farina,

I am a retired Reading/ Writing teacher of District 27Q. I worked at P.S.106Q for about twenty-two years, providing AIS under six principals. (I have enclosed my resume so you have an idea of who I am, and how I have served the children and staff in my district.)

I must tell you how thrilled I was to hear that the new Chancellor of NYC DOE was a person of integrity that “came up through the ranks” of the education system. It is this fact, and your reputation of course, and the recent revelations in the media, that have inspired me to pen this letter to you.

I am one of the teachers who was unfortunately disrespected, abused and suffered greatly under the incompetent leadership of Principal Marcella Sills at PS 106Q. As a matter of fact, at this writing I am still involved in a grievance against Ms. Sills going back to 2009 and awaiting resolve of the issue. Ms. Sills neglected to sign and send in a Medical Leave form that I completed and gave to the payroll secretary. Ms. Sills actually claimed that she never received it. This is a grave untruth and I have a signed statement from the school payroll secretary, stating that she indeed gave her the form for signature. As a result of Ms.Sills’ negligence and deliberate retribution, I now suffer the consequences of possibly losing this grievance.

This would result in a loss of three months of pension monies. I am currently repaying the DOE for minus attendance days of my last year of service, during which time I struggled with breast cancer and underwent several surgeries.

I and my colleagues were quite disheartened by the appointment of such an unknowledgeable and incompetent school administrator (graduate of the PLA), to PS 106. It is the opinion of the majority of staff, those who left, were forced out or chose to retire as early as possible from PS106, that this Principal was unintelligible, dishonest, uninterested in the students and their well- being, and simply vicious toward others.

We did make several attempts to follow protocol via the UFT, to gain DOE notice of what was happening at PS 106, but alas to no avail. None of the staff members could understand how Ms. Sills remained in her position after exhibiting pedagogically poor judgment in decision making and a lack of basic pedagogic knowledge; (not to mention the inability to write or speak coherent and grammatically correct English). We have all been appalled at what the NYCDOE considered an appropriate “leader” of an educational facility.

After Hurricane Irene flooded our Early Childhood Academy, we were never asked to submit any lists of professional and teaching materials that were destroyed. Nor were we asked what we needed in basic supplies for our classrooms. Surely, any competent school administrator would have done so, and would have attempted to obtain resources from the DOE and community at large. I can’t even begin to list the injustices to the children, parents and staff of PS 106, that were incurred as a result of ineffectual leadership over a period of eight or more years.

While serving on the SLT, we were never privileged to see a copy of the budget for PS106. It was as if we were lame duck committee members. We felt that our school should have had a financial audit under Ms. Sills, but it never happened. We were told there were no funds for supplies in the past few years, despite the fact that Ms. Sills ordered in hot breakfasts and lunches for staff and a catered BBQ at the end of the school year, which took place on the schoolyard.

There are a few catering places that refused to deliver to our school again, after Ms. Sills did not remit the incurred expenses. In the past three years, parents were requested to purchase reams of copy paper along with their children’s school supplies, so that teachers could duplicate teaching materials. What happened to all the funds amassed from the daily sale of ice cream at the school? Why weren’t these funds directed to purchasing a store of school supplies for families that could not afford to purchase any for their children?

Under Ms. Sills as principal, parents were asked to pay $12 to cover the costs of buses and a movie ticket for a June excursion to a movie theater. (Note: there are no free buses in June.) Was it an educational event? Was it an appropriate film for all grade levels? Can Pre-K and Kindergarten children sit that long in a movie theater? Was it necessary to send the entire school to a movie on the day the fifth grade had their stepping up program, (which was out of the building)? This is an example of how funds were disbursed at PS 106.

Ms Sills chose to close the PS106 Library. The library was sorely needed as a source of available free books to our students, many of whom were not taken to the Public Library by their parents. For several years, the library remained unused and the licensed librarian on staff was assigned to a classroom. What happened to the allocated funds to purchase new books for our library?

The IEP teacher hired personally by Ms.Sills, a friend of her mother’s, is totally unknowledgeable and incapable of the tasks required of his position. Yet, he is there as one of the Principal’s “cheer leaders”. This can be validated by all personnel involved with assessment, SBST, and Special Education.

On a personal note, for one entire school year, Ms. Sills refused to list my name on the Organization sheet and did not allow me to provide needed AIS services, in what was perceived as retribution for filing a grievance with the UFT. I did receive my salary for the year, but the students in the primary grades did not receive any support instruction in literacy that year. The grievance went as far as meeting with the Principal at the American Arbitration Association in New York City.

Ms.Sills, however, did not appear and claimed she had a family emergency. Please be aware, that Ms. Sills was at school instead. The city had to pay the cost of the appointed meeting. At the beginning of the next school year, Ms.Sills gave me the use of a small storage closet to use as an instructional area. I was able to make use of the space until the Fire Department declared it unsafe for children.

It is probably not beneficial to continue to list more examples of what appears to be poor leadership; you may be well aware of other examples yourself. I feel certain you will conduct a thorough investigation, including the apparent cover-up by District 27 leadership, of Ms. Sills’ actions and her gross incompetence as a principal of a NYC school.
Thank you for your ear.

Miriam Baum Benkoe Retired Reading Teacher 


  1. Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was an employee of District 27. Serviced P106 for many years. Had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Baum. I felt that she was a wonderful and most caring teacher. I sit here astounded at what I am sure took place at P106. I do realize that the DoE must do a thorough investigation before acting. I anxiously await the outcome, hoping that Ms. Sills gets just what she deserves!!! Hate to say that someone should feel miserable, but to all of those that Sills tore apart emotionally, I myself would be happy today knowing that she must be devastated. But then again, maybe she is not smart enough to be devastated

  2. Fariña is losing big points as the days pass. As my colleagues talk each day about educational issues in NYC, principal Sills is continuously brought up due to the incomprehensible situation. The same teachers who were applauding Fariña's appointment are now shaking their heads. Everyone from teachers to administrators to parents are stunned that this principal is still at ps106. Fariña really made a big mistake here. The news on this principal will get worse by the day. When is the RALLY OUTSIDE PS 106????

  3. Ms. Baum was an excellent teacher and also very brave. She spoke up and would say what everyone was thinking. Her voice was always directed towards helping to improve the school. She personally cared for students and would mentor teachers although being constantly maligned by Ms. Sills as incompetent or ineffective. She also did not judge others on rumors or gossip. She treated me with kindness and respect when no one else cared. She was also this way with the students. So many times she cried out for help for our school and received only deaf ears. She received unwarranted "progressive discipline" and pulled out of classrooms where she truly a significant help. Everything she stated was true although no one would believe the extent of her viciousness. It was never about the students but her ruling with a iron fist.

  4. Time for the teachers, both past and present to come together and take some sort of united stand on this awful situation-Friday anon. at 10:45 has it right.

  5. I think that the new chancellor should send representatives to every school to find out what is happening in the schools especially schools that are in low income area. I believe that some of these principals have the money but donot know how to spend it and because of this many students and teachers do not have the necessary tools to work with. Please help

  6. Well she was fired!! There are so many schools in NYC with corrupt principals. Many of us feel that the UFT does little if anything to protect us. We need a method by which we can make ourselves heard. Nine teachers in my Queens school are currently investigating illegal activities my principal has been committing with the purpose of making himself look good while everyone else suffers.But we have to do all of the work while fearing we will be found out. The DOE will do nothing unless forced to do so. Using the media can help, but the risk you run is giving up your identity and leaking DOE documents can be a tricky issue from a legal standpoint. The children simply don't matter.


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