Tuesday, March 11, 2008

PS 106 Redux

Here is a section of a piece that appeared in my School Scope column in The Wave on Friday, March 7. The rest of the column included sections published on this blog here (Why Doesn't Queens borough pres. appoint a member of the PEP) and here (Tweed closes UFT, opens 6 unions in its place).

Will the PS 106 story ever die? Guess not. There’s so much going on – much of which we can’t write about to protect people from retaliation. To summarize: My Feb. 8 column (Queen Bee Meets Queen Bee) talked about Randi Weingarten’s visit to the school where she was not given the warmest welcome by principal Marcella Sills, who has created a war-like atmosphere in the school between her and many teachers and teachers and parents. We also reported the charges by teachers that she forged their names to observations that never took place.

A week later, The Wave printed a story abut a parent protest over some things Weingarten supposedly said at the meeting (PS 106 Parents: UFT Says 'Sabotage Test Scores'), which was looked at as a vote of confidence in Sills, though few parents attended the protest (the PA president pointed out the low turnout was due to the short notice given to parents who have to work.) Some teachers feel the “protest” had Sills’ fingerprints all over it.

Teachers report that of the things Sills did upon taking over the school was drive out the old PA and put in her own brand, but this is standard operating procedure for many principals in schools without a very active parent base.

In that same Feb. 15 edition, Michael Catron, a learning leader/certified volunteer – what exactly is that – wrote a letter castigating me for my column, even calling me a moron. My joke response on Feb. 22 that I was a moron – more-on than off – GET IT – about events at PS 106 – apparently gave the wrong impression I was agreeing with Catron. Teachers have said it is not clear what exactly Catron does at the school. But they raise the same questions about others in the building who are close to Sills and seemingly have duties that are hard to pin down.

The story continued last week in The Wave’s “My Turn” column with teacher M. Baum, a reading specialist at PS 106, taking both Catron and the parent protest to task with a scathing critique of Sills, a very gutsy thing to do. Baum is an 18-year vet who teachers say has been sitting in the school without being given an assignment. Our independent inquiries are that she is a very caring, extremely capable teacher who is on the wrong side of the political tracks.

Here is a brief section from her extensive report:
Mr. Cantron refers to Ms. Sills being covered with tears, snot and vomit during the course of a day. This is so absurd, it’s actually funny. Ms. Sills spends most of her day in her office with minimal close contact with the early childhood population who might possibly get to soil her suits, however with a school nurse on premises, this is highly unlikely.

There has been an awful lot of mud-slinging going on of late. Our teachers have been “bad mouthed” and slandered before the parent body. Spreading false rumors about professional hard working staff is hitting me and my colleagues below the belt as well. Sending letters to parents claiming teachers are abusing students (unproven and undocumented) is not only underhanded and deplorable, it is pure slander. This is a way to initiate a riot and negative impressions and it is not reflective of an interest into an honest investigation to seek the truth.

Sills is a graduate of the dreaded Leadership Academy, where prospective principals are trained with an attack dog mentality to go after experienced (higher salaried) teachers using certain techniques that may include water boarding. Baum better wear a scuba mask.

You know the drill: immediately target some teachers for harassment, mostly senior, to put fear into the rest of the staff and start forcing people out. If you have to use forgery, go right ahead. Bring in younger inexperienced, teachers who will be easily intimidated.

Make sure to purge the former parents association, which might have allegiance to the old principal and set them against those “horrible” teachers.

It is only a rumor that LA people are given a pet animal which they must kill before they are allowed to graduate.

Word is that the Wave stories have sparked some interest from the higher ups, who couldn’t give a crap until stuff gets into the press. They want people to cool it, but this will not happen without an olive branch from Sills, whose future career cannot be helped by these revelations.

Sills is not without her supporters amongst the teachers – the very same newer people she has brought in. Word to the wise: when all the older teachers have been purged, watch out! Your turn will come.

Follow the entire PS 106Q chronology and on going story here. The link is also posted on the sidebar.

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