Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bronx High Story at NY Times - Drilling Down - What Affects Students More – Bad Principals or Bad Teachers?

“I loved my students, they were great. My coworkers were smart and hardworking. But I have never met anyone as cruel and petty as Principal Valerie Reidy, from whom I had to endure threats, intimidation, and ultimately denial of tenure and the end of my public school teaching career in New York City.” ---Geoffrey Nutter, who taught at Bronx High School of Science for a year.

So the New York Times has (finally) reported in print on the continuing harassment of teachers in my former chapter.... This past year, the administration moved on to focus on the Social Studies department. Legal relief on the implementation of the arbitrator's fact finding regarding the Math department's special complaint is still pending... as the article mentions, the DoE sadly chose not to take action on the arbitrator's recommendations - action which could have saved some turmoil the school - but, in the next month or two, I expect Judge Paul Wooten's ruling on the first U rating I received in retaliation for advocating for my colleagues at the school. The UFT has filed suit on the second U rating, and that will be going to court soon as well.--- Peter Lamphere
The percentage of lousy and incompetent principals far outweighs the percentage of bad teachers.

You hear so much about "teachers are the most important---blah, blah, blah" while the impact of bad principals is fluffed over, especially here in NYC where Tweed will protect serial killers if the press doesn't report it. (Check out the story of Eximius Academy in the NY Post - Bronx principal found to have tampered with students’ transcripts and may be fired - and the email I received from a contact who worked there which I printed at the end of this post.) How can you compare the impact a principal has on so many teachers and students to that of a teacher? I told Joel Klein at meeting after meeting at the PEP that his protection of so many awful principals will result in great difficulty in removing bad teachers. Unfortunately, our union leaders refuse to make this point in some kind of solidarity with the principals' union.

Yesterday while I was at wrist therapy, I was next to an assistant principal at a prestigious Manhattan high school. Friday's NY Times story (At Prestigious Bronx School, an Exodus of Teachers and Criticism) on the travesty of principal Valerie Reidy at Bronx High School of Science came up and she leaned over and said, "I have the real story. It was about her U-rating incompetent teachers." Thus the spin floating around the DOE is that Reidy is fine but some lousy teachers are just out to get her because she is tough on them. I said, "I have the real story as I have been reporting on the Bronx High of Science situation for years. How do you explain the turnover rate at a top high school? Are people leaving your school?" She was silent.

I went on to tell her about the Peter Lamphere case. Peter, a GEM member, was chapter leader and received two U-ratings. By anyone's account he is a superb math teacher but stood up when the math department was decimated. He is the poster boy for LIFO. Yet the UFT leadership rather than fighting this one out in the press and at the top levels as an example of how principals retaliate for union activities - I mean what message does this send to chapter leaders? - they chose to arrange to parachute Peter out of the school. (Interesting that as a member of the opposition, the UFT/Unity Caucus/New Action tandem benefits by removing him from a large high school). I don't blame Peter for taking the lifeline with his career on the line. But it should never have gotten to that point.

Here is Peter's story at Gotham Schools last February: “Merit”? My Experience With Arbitrary U Ratings | GothamSchools. Peter and Rachel Montagano wrote a joint piece at Gotham which I linked to here: Education Notes Online: E4E: Fire Peter Lamphere and Rachel ...

Gail Robinson has a great follow up detailing the historical context of Reidy's rise to power: (Harold) Levy's Legacy at Bronx Science- Gotham Gazette (blog) which is a must read.

It is interesting that former Gotham reporter Anna Philips wrote the Friday's story. She certainly knows the full background of the Bronx High Story and she did a reasonably good job, even including a former student
Sarah Hofer, who graduated in 2005, said she once planned to return to Bronx Science as a math teacher, but abandoned that idea when she saw former teachers she admired head for the door. Ms. Hofer said she now returns her alumni association contribution card every year blank, except for the words “I’ll pay my dues when Reidy leaves.”
(I had contact with a student who was threatened and punished for putting up the "Quack" cartoon on a computer at the school.I had promised Anna I would try to get him to touch base with her for this story but couldn't find his email.)

While the article focused on social studies teachers who left the school (I hear Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's brother was one) Peter Lamphere is mentioned in this context:
The complaints by the Bronx Science social studies teachers are reminiscent of those made in a special complaint in 2008. At that time, 20 of the school’s 22 math teachers accused Rosemarie Jahoda, the math assistant principal, of harassing and intimidating new teachers. In 2010, an arbitrator ruled that both Ms. Jahoda and the school’s chapter leader, Peter Lamphere, should be transferred to other schools. City education officials did not follow the recommendation.
(In fact, Peter is now gone and Jahoda is still there.) But think of it: 20 out or 22 teachers in one department as one of the most prestigious schools in the nation. It is too bad the article did not mention the 2 U-ratings Peter received as that would tie the issue to past and upcoming LIFO wars - I did a piece on how E4E is basically demanding that U-rated teachers like Peter be fired (E4E: Fire Peter Lamphere and Rachel Montagano).

This is not the first time the Times did a piece on Reidy: Battle Over a Principal Spills Outside a School's Walls - New York
Jun 12, 2005 – Valerie Reidy when she was named head of Bronx Science in 2001. The battle turned public in mid-May, when staff members at Bronx Science ...

If you put "Reidy" in the search ed notes box on the side panel you get loads of article I published on Bronx High and Reidy. Here are a few nuggets:
Jan 08, 2009
if you check out some of the blogs of current and former students (many of the latter at top colleges) you can see how reidy is totally despised and disrespected. it's really frightening actually. today, the principal and her cronies ...
Jun 26, 2009
to put it lightly, mrs. reidy has been notorious for not getting along with the teaching staff of bronx science. it has been in the news on more than one occasion. this time, however, mrs. reidy made a personal attack on a veteran ...
Sep 09, 2010
Bob Drake was one of Bronx HS of Science principal Valerie Reidy's victims. Reidy had received an honorary PhD and called herself "doctor". Drake, a real PhD made some objections. At some point Reidy was called a "quack". ...
Jan 08, 2009
Joel Klein, who has been aware of what has been going on there, has never wavered in his support for Reidy. His inaction only reinforces the case for teachers. Too bad the UFT has also failed to use all its resources to take these ...
Oct 07, 2007
Reasons cited for departures are: interference by Principal Reidy and her sycophantic Assistant Principals in the classroom, lack of professionalism in their treatment of staff, several givings of U ratings to staff who did not kowtow ...

Oct 11, 2007
the animosity towards reidy by the kids seems to be more intense than that of teachers. and i received an email from a parent leader that indicates many of them feel the same. wow! reidy has united parents, teachers and students. ...
Apr 27, 2010
I'm amazed that the fact finder also recommends that chapter leader Peter Lamphere, who has been active in the opposition, also transfer when the crimes have clearly been perpetrated by Reidy and Jahoda. I recently met one of the young ...
May 26, 2008
while known for attacks on teachers (which seems ok to the anti-teacher world out there) the bronx high administration under reidy has also engaged in attacks on students and parents. i became personally involved with a bronx high ...
Sep 02, 2010
I think the first case we (Betsy Combier) raised was that of Dr. Bob Drake, a chemistry teacher at Bronx HS of Science who was fired by PFH Valerie Reidy because he objected to her using "Dr." before her title since she was not a phd. ...
Email on Eximius Academy Principal:
I worked at Eximius(eczema/scrofula/bubonic plague)Academy from late Sept.09 after I had been illegally excessed from JFK HS until Jan. 2010 when I managed to escape.
It was the worst scene that I have ever encountered in my 23 years as a teacher.It had the feeling of a bizarre cult a la the Rev.Jim Jones and Jonestown replete with plenty of purple kool-aid (metaphorically speaking).
Tammy Smith was, in my opinion, a psychopath.
While most of us are aware of the roles that the mayor,Adolph Bloomberg , and his chancellor ,Adolph Klein, have played in the ongoing destruction of the NYC public school system we must must never forget nor forgive the leadership of the UFT and their open and ongoing collaboration with Bloomscum and his minions.They are our Vidkun Quislings,our Pierre Lavals,our Axis Sallys and our Tokyo Roses.Their betrayal and abandonment of the Eximius staff was particularly abominable.
Brothers and Sisters ,let's flush the present leadership of the UFT down the commode of history and build a powerful and militant union that will fight tooth and nail for it's memberships rights and well-being..

In Solidarity

Oy! Is it my age or is there just so much information coming in that I can't keep up?

Here is just a selection from a daily digest from listserves:

New City Tests Coming for Teacher Evaluations. We Explain.
Fwd: City Hands Off Part of Teacher Evaluation Effort to the State -
Fwd: School cuts hurt: Survey & Action! AQE needs your help 
Attention Press: FMPR Statement to the Press regarding visit of Sect From: Angel Gonzalez
Fwd: [nyceducationnews] Leo Casey admits at last Bill Gates is not 
Labor Notes: High SchoolTeachers in south Brooklyn create a coalitio From: Angel Gonzalez
Fwd: [Highlights fr. our day in court  re charter co-locations 
Fwd:open letter to Michael Moore from Sharon Higgins 
Tacoma teachers strike From: guitarnboots 
Fwd: [Highlights fr. our day in court  re charter co-locations 
Fwd: Bill to expand charter school moves on to U.S. Senate 
Fwd: [nyceducationnews] Wall Street Protest Begins, With Demonstrato 
Fwd: Dan Rather on Testing and Scoring  Industry: Sept. 20 

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

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