Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lehman HS, School for Scandal

We've been hearing stories since last year out of the Lehman HS in the Bronx, one of the few large schools remaining, about how the new principal, Janet Saraceno, who replaced the legendary ogre principal, Robert Leder, was considered even worse.

I was tipped to the 19credits blog when it first began last February and put a link on Ed Notes. It started out as somewhat cryptic with a fictional motif, calling Lehman "Herman High". I spoke to one of the authors, who is known as moral obligation, last March. We discussed giving the blog more of a direct link to Lehman to get more traction. This year they did so. And it is paying off.

I was slipped a letter of resignation from a fed up Lehman teacher in late June which I passed on to Anna Philips, Phylissa Cramer and Elizabeth Green at Gotham at the time. With summer coming on, nothing was done. But today, the stuff should start flying out of the fan.

Gotham just published an explosive report on the Lehman situation written by Anna Philips. Congrats to Anna and the crew for sticking with the story and putting together this excellent in-depth report.

Our sources report that Joel Klein has been directly informed about the situation at Lehman for quite some time, making this quote from David Cantor a total joke: “The Office of Special Investigations is investigating allegations of grading improprieties at Lehman,” said a spokesman for the Department of Education, David Cantor. “We’ll comment once we have findings.”

Sure David. You should have asked Joel about Lehman, since he's known about it for a long time. Send the investigator over there and ask why Klein sat on the information he received.

Excerpts from Anna Philips' report:

As part of a Department of Education program to lure principals to the city’s most challenging schools, she was given a bonus and the title “executive principal.” At the time, this perplexed more than a few parents and teachers, who told the city’s daily newspapers that they couldn’t understand why a school with a “B” on its latest report card needed to offer its new principal an extra $25,000 a year.

According to current and former teachers, Saraceno methodically set about increasing the school’s 47 percent graduation rate by changing students’ grades from failing to passing over the objections of their teachers and, in some instances, in violation of state regulations.

“Leder was not a perfect human. We had hoped that anybody would have been better,” said a current teacher. “It turned out his replacement was much much worse. She has changed Lehman into a diploma mill.”

Grade changing is not an entirely foreign phenomenon at Lehman. Teachers who worked under Leder said he sometimes asked them to change student athletes’ grades if their grade point average slipped below the minimum required for them to play, or if a student was mere points away from passing a class. But that process involved conversations with teachers in which Leder persuaded them to sign the paperwork, they said. Today, failing grades disappear from transcripts without warning, teachers said.

“Leder’s corruption was at least confined to a cohort of 50 kids,” said a former teacher who was one of eight math teachers to leave Lehman last year. Former and current math teachers said their department has borne the brunt of the grade changes, as it has the lowest pass rate within the school.

“Saraceno is actually worse. It’s sickening that I would take him over her,” said the teacher, who now works at a charter school.

Our sources at Lehman, who while admitting that Leder was a tyrant, felt he was the tyrant you knew. "He had an educator's mentality and if he believed you were serious he left you alone," said a teacher. "If he said he was going to consult with teachers and let them run the ship he meant it. There was no bull." Saraceno, on the other hand was described as duplicitous, going through phony charades to make it look like she was consulting with teachers, but still pushing her own program in a dictatorial way that at times made Leder look mild mannered. Well, maybe not exactly but maybe it was the devil you know factor operating. Her move to break Lehman into Small Learning Communities (SLC's) was fraught with manipulations and fear mongering against recalcitrant teachers. The SLC situation caused as much consternation as the credit recovery game.

Make sure to check out the 19credits blog to get the full background scoop.

There is a pro-admin blog, 19stepsahead, that has 2 posts so far. If you have nothing good to report, say nothing but make sure to put down the critical blog that says it all. This sounds familiar when shills come out:

For months conversation about Lehman High School, the new direction of the administration, and its development into SLC's has been dominated by what it would appear are a minority of loud complaining people... with lots of time on their hands to write "creative" stories, but with little real steps being offered to make effective change.

Hmmm. Joel Klein could be writing this.


  1. Worth Sharing from Steve Koss:

    Why anyone should be the least bit surprised about Ms. Saraceno's alleged (mis)behavior is beyond me. It's the only logical outcome under the Bloomberg/Klein school administration regime for any school with a significant portion of "marginal" students. They've put every conceivable incentive in place to make exactly this sort of institutionalized lying and cheating occur.

    We lose as a city (we're becoming an educational laughingstock, parading around proclaiming our successes based on false statistics) and the NYC public education system forfeits whatever integrity it still had left side. Worst of all, the students lose their motivation (as the Gotham Schools report attests) and they and their families are victimized by a billionaire whose policies encourage such educational fraud.

    Steve Koss

  2. this is happening everywhere


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