Friday, September 25, 2009

Did Tweed and the Leadership Academy Pull the Plug on New (and old) PS 84 Principal?

The Sordid Hand of Tweed and the Leadership Academy at PS 84 revealed, how they throw their own under the bus.

Tweed worried over how actions at PS 84 will affect the Latino community's support for Bloomberg.

The PS 84 community objects to another LA grad:

This the second “in a row” inexperienced graduate of the School Leadership Academy to be assigned to P.S. 84. THE LATINO AND AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILDREN OF P.S. 84 CANNOT CONTINUE TO BE USED AS A TRAINING GROUND FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF RAW, UNTESTED “POTENTIAL” PRINCIPALS TRAINED BY THE ACADEMY. Would you have sent either of these candidates to Stuyvesant? How would you expect those parents would react?

Principal of PS 84 resigns

When the Leadership Academy grad principal of PS 84 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn suddenly resigned last Thursday afternoon (Sept. 17), Tweed moved quickly to appoint another Leadership Academy grad as interim acting principal. The appointment was made from the very top levels of Tweed and the Leadership Academy, with James Quail, the District 14 Superintendent being notified but having no say.

With the new version of mayoral control supposedly giving back some powers to the local superintendents, this is a clear sign that Tweed will continue to go around them.

Parent activist Lisa Donlan has discovered that there is a line of LA grads (38) longer than the line at a Kennedy runway on July 4th weekend waiting to be placed and that they are being forced down people's throats.

But wait, this story gets better and better.

The teacher union response
On Friday morning (Sept. 18), a scheduled union meeting was taking place before school began. The union was under a new and more aggressive leadership, mostly in response to the tactics of the old principal, one of the Leadership Academy fave types - young, aggressive and with a mission to decimate the union and any organized parent opposition. She failed in that task, but that is for a follow-up story.

Even though it was her last day in the school, she felt comfortable interrupting the union meeting by bringing her replacement in for an introduction. The chapter leader, expressing years of frustration at the arrogant actions of this principal said, "Sorry, we are having a union meeting" and shut the door, sending a message that milquetoast unionism was at an end at PS 84. Later, at a luncheon for the new principal, the teachers went in to introduce themselves. They were impressed by the new guy's willingness to meet with the UFT reps immediately on Monday to discuss all issues of their concern,

The community response
In the meantime, lots of stuff was going on in the community. There is no official PTA at PS 84 because no elections were held in the spring. Sources say they were told it was not necessary by people in the office of family engagement. (There needs to be a lot more investigation of the political role Martine Guerrier's operation plays at the local level.) Maybe someone at Tweed knew of the coming resignation (there was an investigation going on) and didn't want any PTA interference in their plans, so they "discouraged" elections so there would be no functioning PTA.

But that didn't stop active elements in the old PTA from contacting local community forces, who came to the school on Friday (Sept. 18).

Former PTA president Jaime Estades and long-time District 14 activist Juan Martinez, founder of Progress HS based at Eastern District HS campus in Williamsburg, met with the principal, who had been an AP at Legal Studies, another HS at that campus that had its principal removed, before entering the Leadership Academy, but seems to have had no previous contact with them).

They told him in no uncertain terms they did not want him as the new principal as imposed on them by Tweed. It was nothing personal, but a process that brings in a total outsider with no elementary school experience and without any consultation with any of the interested parties was just not acceptable.

They raised concerns about the fact that the school is overwhelming Latino/a and the process didn't give them an opportunity to urge the placement of a supervisor who had been part of the community and had a similar background to the children. They also pointed out that the current Assistant Principal was a long-time teacher at the school and would have certainly been a natural choice as interim acting principal, especially considering the fact that the Tweed appointee had zero experience in elementary schools.

That the current AP who spent her career at the school and who would have made for a seamless transition was not even a consideration certainly creates suspicions about Tweed intentions, which we view as twofold:

  1. getting someone in with no ties to the school or community to make sure there is no stakeholder in trying to keep PS 84 from being a target for closing or for charter school invasion
  2. cutting into the 38 person Principal Academy ATR list – where's the press when supervisors get paid for nothing?

There was some back and forth and the principal said a few things that have come back to haunt him.

Before I go on, I want to say that the teachers and some of the parents have nothing bad to say about this guy and in fact in the last week he has impressed people with an attitude totally different from his predecessor. But it's less than a week and people say all kinds of things. Besides, the process is under discussion, not the person.

They send a letter to Klein
I won't get into the details of exactly what he said (you can read it all at the link to the letter sent by the parents below), but when he was asked how he could deal with a community of children he was not familiar with, he responded he was used to dealing with foreigners. While he meant it fairly innocuously and the people present understand that and bear him no ill will, they used his response to make a point about having someone who has been involved in the community branding their kids as "foreigners". The upshot was that a letter was sent to Joel Klein and released on listserves with 10 points opposing the appointment, one of the key points being:

This the second “in a row” inexperienced graduate of the School Leadership Academy to be assigned to P.S. 84. THE LATINO AND AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILDREN OF P.S. 84 CANNOT CONTINUE TO BE USED AS A TRAINING GROUND FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF RAW, UNTESTED “POTENTIAL” PRINCIPALS TRAINED BY THE ACADEMY. Would you have sent either of these candidates to Stuyvesant? How would you expect those parents would react?

You can read the entire letter at Norms Notes.

This resistance on the part of the community as push back against a Tweed appointment is remarkable considering the almost total lack of community action in the BloomKlein years and may be a harbinger to come. I don't expect Bloomberg's third term to be as peaceful as the first two as school politics at the local level begin to bubble to the surface. Martine should have her hands full running around putting out these fires.

Tweed responds

Just as remarkable was the response of Tweed.

The Klein administration immediately cut off communications with the parent and community group and charged this was all a stunt to create animosity towards Bloomberg among the Latino/a community in the upcoming election, which shows you what the Children First people really have on their mind.

Now comes the part which shows it's all about public relations with Tweed.

El Diario got involved towards the end of the week (they were busy with UN stuff earlier) and called Tweed about the story.

They blamed it all on James Quail, the superintendent of District 14 who was ignored a week before over who would be principal of PS 84. "It was his appointment," the Tweed press department told the paper, claiming no responsibility, an out and out lie.

When El Diario was informed later they were blatantly lied to, they supposedly blew a gasket. An article was supposed to appear today.

The acting principal soon after announced he was withdrawing from consideration as the permanent principal of PS 84. It is pretty clear he was ordered to do so by Tweed and the Principal's Academy, which is desperate to avoid scrutiny over how they pour money into a ditch.

My guess is this has to do with the Bloomberg election and when it's over things will be back to Tweed normal time.

As I said, the principal had started winning people over in the last week. He supposedly sounds like a real educator. But I warned my contacts that it is not what he says but how he will function. PS 84 is a prime target for charter school invasion. The principal may think he is there to really address educational issues, when in fact he will be expected to make sure there will be no opposition when the charters come calling.

There is a lot more back story that I will try to get up over the weekend.
Was the resigned principal forced out? Was an investigation of the resigned principal covered up? How the UFT chapter, under brand new leadership, responded.

To understand how PS 84 is a target for charter schools, read these Ed Notes back pieces of how the PS 84 community fought off charter schools in the past.

January 12, 2009
The Impact of Gentrification on One School in Williamsburg

January 29, 2008
Victory at PS 84K: Tweed Backs Down

January 28, 2008
PTA of PS 84K Protest on Wed at noon- I spent 5 years at this school and this is beyond outrage


  1. The DOE always appoints INEXPERIENCED 22 year olds from the Academy as new principals. They just need to be white.

  2. to the person who responded before...please get your facts straight!!!! Stefanie Greco WAS "homegrown" and NOT from the leadership academy!!!! she actually went up the ranks....our current principal who was FORCED and INTIMDATED to re sign IS from the Leadership Academy...however he is MOST CERTAINLY qualified with 17 years experience!!!! I am apalled by this controversy...especially after a monummental election!!!!! It appears that we were moving backwards when we should be moving foward!!! It is our intention...the intention of the real parents in this community to object to policies that are dictated by ANYONE!!!!

  3. Very thoughtfull post on leadership. It should be very much helpfull.

    Karim - Mind Power

  4. First, the new Interim Principal is a Brazilian with over 17 years of school based DOE experience; anonymous one, Karim Moubarak, Jaime and Erika Estades should mind their facts. Second, Jaime and Erika Estades, the authors of the letter to the Chancellor along with Karim Moubarak, should look to themselves before criticizing whether others are up to the job, given that the President of the PTA could not maintain his own PTA and did not hold elections as outlined in PTA regulations. The excuse that the DOE advised them not to hold elections sounds like someone trying to lay blame to others. The Chancellors Regs and additional PTA resources clearly outline PTA election procedures (ask any well run PTA in the city). These resources are public and the former PTA President, who is also a lawyer, should be able to follow directions, especially when they are so clear. Third, the claim attacking Mr. Hobson's experience is not only refuted by his 17 years in the DOE alone, but also seems be a personal attack on the Interim Principal, given that the four suggestions in Jaime and Erika Estades' letter also have NO experience as a Principal. Fourth, it doesn't take much digging to find out that Interim Acting Principals are appointed only in cases when there is a sudden change in leadership so that a school is not left without a leader until the community's selection process (known as a C-30) begins. It is not that Mr. and Mrs Estrades were not consulted; in fact, had they gotten themselves re-elected to the PTA, they would know that they will be a large part of the final decision on who becomes principal. Perhaps to their dismay, they will not, however, be the only voice in choosing the new leader.


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