Sunday, June 27, 2010

A DOE Favored Principal Takes A Hit - Way too Late: Where Was the UFT?

Leonie Haimson has done yeowoman work at the NYC Parents blog this weekend following up on the retired - suddenly retired - Principal of JFK HS in the Bronx after he learned he was being investigated a few months ago based on the misuse of money by staffers. (He was then hired as a principal in Pleasantville, NY. Good luck, guys!)

Saturday's Daily News reports that Anthony Rotunno, who retired as principal of Kennedy HS last month, allowed staffers to improperly spend money from student bake sales on parties, among other financial improprieties, according to a new audit from State Comptroller DiNapoli.

teachers despised Rotunno, and in 2005 charges were made by many English teachers at the school that he had improperly student Regents scores to passing. When the DOE finally finished their “investigation” they concluded that he did change scores, but that this was perfectly okay. So much for accountability at DOE!

Michael Winerip wrote in 2006 about the resolution of these allegations, backed up by written evidence of changed scores:

So far, only one person has been punished, Maria Colon, Kennedy's union representative, who was the first to speak out publicly about the changed scores. She was removed from Kennedy and assigned to a holding room pending a hearing on her case. Her crime? She allegedly used a school fax to send a Newsday reporter documents revealing the scoring changes.

A few months later, Winerip wrote a follow-up column, called "Cheapening the Cap and Gown," about new accusations made by guidance counselors that Rotunno had allowed kids to graduate without the required credits.

Read it all at: Anthony Rotunno, and the culture of "accountability" at Tweed: read "anything goes"

The NY Times' Elissa Gutman had done a puff piece in 2004 lauding his “tough guy” approach but the Times ignored it when Rotunno destroyed her career. (Ironically, today Gutman has a piece on a principal who takes the opposite approach to "tough Guy".)

Note Leonie's mention of pal Maria Colon, who was placed in the rubber room for exposing the scandals. Maria was the chapter leader and to my mind the lack of strong UFT response in cases of chapter leaders coming under attack (see Peter Lamphere at Bronx HS of Science) is one of the lynch pins of the DOE assault on teacher rights due to the failure of the union to protect people. Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that many principals are being trained to go after "non-cooperative" chapter leaders but the UFT has no answer for chapter leaders in defense - it would probably take something the union has no stomach for - job action. Or at the very least, declaring to the DOE - NO DEALS. NO DEALS ON ANY ISSUE (MERIT PAY, TEACHER EVALS, ETC.) UNTIL YOU STOP TAKING OUR PEOPLE HOSTAGE!

Leonie followed up with this:

More on Anthony Rotunno and the culture of "empowerment" at DOE

More on this in today's Daily News:

Pleasantville School District officials said it wasn't until they saw the Daily News' front-page story Friday that they learned Rotunno was in charge of a school where staffers ran a giant swindle. "Reference checks were extremely positive and no wrongdoings of any nature were reported," the statement says...

But Kennedy PTA President Robert Bosolet Sr., said he long suspected staffers were plundering the students' account. "Each year, there were always kids complaining that they did fund-raising, and they never saw a dime from it," fumed Bosolet, whose triplet sons graduated this year.

"Every time an event happened, and we asked where did that money go, we were never provided with that information."Bosolet said he e-mailed his concerns to the Department of Education, but he couldn't provide evidence.

A DOE spokesman said it "hadn't received a credible accusation of financial mismanagement at the school" prior to the audit.

And then a link to blogger jd2718 (Rotunno and JFK High School Investigations: A History) where a piece written by former Bronx HS District Rep Lynne Wynderbaum who had preceded Maria Colon as UFT Chapter leader at JFK is posted. Lynne is one of the UFT/Unity Caucus staffers who had a clue but unfortunately when UFT top-level policy is to do little the soldiers have to go along. She is now retired.

Lynne writes:

There have been at least four major investigations into allegations involving Mr. Rotunno since 2004 by the Department of Education’s investigatory arms, the Office of Special Investigations, the Special Commissioner of Investigations, and the Auditor General. Each time, the investigators returned with a finding of no guilt. I do not know what it took to get the state comptroller’s office to finally step in, but it can reasonably be said that if the Department of Education’s investigators had conducted fair investigations, this principal’s wrongdoing could have been revealed years ago.

Some of my points about the UFT relative silence are being fought out in the comment section where Under Assault says:

I admire the individuals staffers who fight, and told them so. My problem is that the UFT is not using its enormous weight to expose all the levels of misconduct that has become commonplace in the DoE at this time. How many hundreds of professional educators have to lose their careers before the UFT plants its feet on the ground and says: Not on our watch.

Unity hacks back with this comment by Rick Mangone:
The UFT has repeatedly fought the DOE and complained in the media and in court about the unfair practices by the DOE when needed.

Jeez Rick, give us a break. Wouldn't Lynne's piece have looked nice in the NY Teacher? What about using the UFT bloated PR machine to actually tell the world something useful?

JD2718 follows with (my emphasis added):

It’s one thing to complain about the DoE’s unfair practices – we do do that, though less than we should. Those happen at the school level, and centrally. It is quite another to expose the anti-teacher bias of the investigative units, which Lynne has done here. Lynne documents a pattern of ignoring misconduct. Some might conclude that that pattern was in and of itself misconduct. We need to speak openly about the conduct of the investigators. Thank you, Lynne.

I thank you too Lynne. I don't blame you and I bet you were willing to push against the UFT leadership resistance to making a big case out of the DOE unfair practices but hit a stone wall. And as an Exec Bd New Action member I would hope JD2718 would make the "less than we should" point at every single meeting until they stopped doing less than they should. Since I don't go to EB meetings I don't know what New Action does there but from past history New Action leaders are reluctant to go too far in pushing the UFT leaders since the entire caucus is so dependent on the support of the leadership.

Under Assault responds with:

Again, when you say “We need to speak openly about the conduct of the investigators,” who is the “We” ? Whistleblowers have certainly spoken out, and so have a number of brave CLs and DRs. The opposition caucuses and practically all of the edblog community has been consistently, comprehensively and tirelessly speaking out. The great big missing “We” that has most certainly NOT been speaking out is the entire leadership: Randi Weingarten then, Michael Mulgrew now, plus most members on the union’s successive executive boards. They couldn’t because their strategy — top-down from the getgo — has always been clandestine deal-making and preemptive participation. As long as they stay this course, we’re going down.

I won't hold my breath that we will see much of a change in the way the UFT functions.

There is another scandal that the NYC Parent blog discusses:
Leadership, empowerment and accountability according to the Chancellor...not to mention tax fraud

On the other hand, I was originally suspicious of Sunday's NY Times piece in the Metropolitan section by Elissa Gootman that appeared to be another puff piece on a principal in the Bronx (posted at

But then I got an email from a trusted source who has talked about this principal before. Here is his email:

I've spoken about the school and the principal, but this is a chance to see it for yourself. It's exciting for us. We were on a planning retreat when it came out.

Nice article. Even better video.

If this guy is the real deal, there's nothing like tossing off the Rotunno slime and taking things in a better direction. But if it turns out to be another puff piece you would have to wonder what can be believed in the Times. Mike Weinrip is no longer doing ed columns to contradict the puff pieces.

1 comment:

  1. I'm one of those whistleblowing chapter leaders abandoned by the UFT.

    Randi promised to give a press conference on the steps of City Hall defending me against a corrupt SCI investigation smearing me as a false accuser in a Regents tampering case substantiated by OSI. She made this promise in the presence of Secretary Michael Mendel, NYSUT attorney Chris Callagy, and NEW YORK TEACHER reporter Jim Callaghan. She repeated her promise to vouch for my credibility last summer just before heading off to DC. But she reneged without explanation.

    Last December, when Mendel invited me to a meeting to spin Randi's broken promise, he insisted that I come alone, that is, he excluded Callagy and Callaghan. I demurred, telling Mendel that even the DOE allows witnesses at meetings. Never heard from him again.

    The UFT's betrayal flies in the face of the DA's May '09 resolution promising full force protection for targeted chapter leaders and independent-minded teachers.

    No surprise: Mulgrew's secret rubber room agreement provided no safeguards against the DOE probes it recognized as "biased" in the DA resolution. Topping off his contempt for due (and fair) process, Mulgrew blew off requests to sit down with us rubber roomers to defend his secret TRC pact with Klein.


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