Daily News: Principal of once top-rated Theatre Arts Production Company School removed for faking way to success: Lynn Passarella has lost her $25k bonus and faces firing
"The behavior uncovered in this report is dishonest and disgraceful, and shows a blatant disregard for principal responsibilities," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, [the lying weasel who knew full well what was going on and could have had the investigation speeded up].
Finally! Why this investigation took 17 months I have no idea; DOE dragging its feet as usual. There’s been so much evidence of malfeasance for so long…the fact that this was the top-rated school in NYC shows how blatant the data manipulation has been.What? The Daily News hasn't sent a reporter and photographer to ambush Passarella at her home for the years this investigation took like they did to teachers (including a good friend of mine) on the data reports?
I posted an article on this school at Ed Notes many months ago.
Over this time there have been 81 comments and comments have continued to flow in. A perfect example of the double standard at the DOE where a teacher sneezes without a handkerchief and is put in the rubber room for corporal punishment.
Given this news it is interesting that his batch came in last night. Imagine leaving the school under her charge and allowing her to ruin more careers over 2 years --- the 17 months is since the investigation began but the stories have been floating around way longer than this. Will the UFT gather these people together and get them a lawyer? Don't bet your hat.
Reading these comments provides a real picture of what was going on at the school.
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Another DOE Scam - TAPCO - Theatre Arts Production...":
AN OPEN LETTER TO CHANCELLOR DENNIS M. WALCOTT AND THE DOE INVESTIGATORS OF TAPCO
I am a former staff member at the school MS/HS225, also known as TAPCO. Although I have not worked at this school for several years, I am intimately familiar with the workings of the school and its principal, Lynn Passarella. I am still in regular and close communication with my students and former colleagues, and have a very strong relationship with a few staff members who are currently employed there. I believe the information contained in this communication is accurate and reflects the current state of the school. It was written after extensive conversation with present and past staff members. Any discussion with a current staff member would support this contention.
It has been over a year since the DOE commenced an investigation into the school and its principal. Countless articles and blogs have appeared. A simple GOOGLE of the name Lynn Passarella reveals many of them:
A Scandalous Success: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/
Grade A Fraud: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/
Bronx School’s Top Ranking Stirs Wider Doubts About Rating System: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/
Nobody Ever Fails At NYC’s ‘Top School’: http://sweetness-light.com/
Scam Checker: Another TAPCo Fraud: http://www.scamchecker.com/
Ed Notes Online, Another Scam: http://ednotesonline.blogspot.
Do Not Apply: http://jd2718.wordpress.com/
Yet despite the investigations and negative press, TAPCO continues on with Passarella at the helm.
So what IS going on at this school? How has the investigation and bad PR affected things? Why is Principal Passarella able to continue running this school despite evidence that she has cheated, falsified documents, mismanaged funds, and is incapable of running the school?
It is the goal of this posting to address these questions, accurately, fairly, and without bias.
When the school opened its doors in September of 2011, many questions remained from the previous years. A handful of teachers had left, but surprisingly many of the core teachers had remained. Discussion with some of these teachers reveals that they believed that Lynn Passarella would be removed, and that they were optimistic that a new, more talented and ethical principal would replace her. Others expressed a loyalty to the students and the community, with a hope that the year-long investigation would have provided a valuable lesson to their principal, and that things would improve. Teachers who left were unanimous in their opinion that as long as Passarella ran the school, things would never improve, and that the process to remove her would take far longer than they could bear.
As the year unfolded, it seemed that this hope that the school would improve, was actually being realized. Passarella displayed a new trust in her staff, supported a new discipline policy run by a former TAPCO teacher (who was pursuing an administrative career), and some of the new hires showed promise.
The new discipline policy (called ARC... not sure what it stands for) seemed to be having a positive effect. Students who came late or misbehaved in class were sent to a designated room monitored by teachers, calls were made home, and students were required to make up any work that they missed. This was in stark contrast to the way things were run at TAPCO before where students virtually got away with everything without consequence. The improvement was noticeable. (CONTINUED BELOW).
Other improvements included the expansion of the school into the areas of the building formally occupied by MS391 (with whom they share the building), and moving the middle school to its own floor. These were great moves. This allowed more teachers to have their own space, and a physical separation of the middle school and high school. Logistically it was now easier to control the flow of traffic between classes, and identify students who were cutting or hanging out in places they shouldn't be.
Another change was the promotion of a new school vice principal, Ms. Janice Acosta (although the school received criticism for not following due process in this promotion). The move was met with mixed opinions. Acosta was perhaps the least liked person in the building, both from students and staff, but at the same time there were some that were willing to give her a chance. Despite her angry disposition and history of backstabbing and manipulation, she was by no means an unintelligent person, and perhaps she too, like her boss, could learn from past mistakes and work toward the betterment of the school. Even though few liked her and even fewer trusted her, she could at least be counted on to help manage a school that had been severely mismanaged since its inception.
But as the first few months passed the signs of inconsistency resurfaced. The discipline program, which was so instrumental in the success of September and October, was neglected and the students took advantage immediately. A few of the new hires began to appear grossly incapable of managing their classes and providing a quality education. The burden to fix these problems fell to experienced teachers who were asked to coach, mentor and push-in with these teachers, further stressing their already over-crowded schedules. Acosta also had problems. She fought with staff, targeted teachers she didn’t like and attacked their pedagogy, and resumed what was perceived as a witch hunt for teachers the principal wanted to get rid of. Staff was also witness to several emotional outbursts, including rages of anger and outbursts, often accompanied by hysterical weeping. Needless to say, this did little in the way of instilling confidence in the school’s leadership. This person, like her principal, seems to bring a lot of her own issues and weaknesses to her job, and it only contributes to the instability and dissention that prevails throughout the school.
Communications were confusing, incomplete, and inconsistent. The first Parent/teacher night was announced a day before the event. Rapid dismissals would happen without notice and students were sometimes stranded without transportation. Town meetings would happen without notice or announcement, and would often be chaotic and without proper planning. Most annoying, Passarella would often grab the school’s microphone and make loud, raucous, celebratory announcements of college acceptances while completely disregarding the fact that lessons (sometimes tests) were in progress. Teachers were constantly caught off-guard. Nobody dared complain.
Breakdowns in the coverage system led to entire classes floating the hallways unsupervised when teachers were absent. Classes were constantly being regrouped and reformed without notice, all without the input of the teachers. Students and staff were left confused, bewildered and unable to see any logic in the sudden regroupings. Teachers have been given new schedules at least 5 or 6 times since September. Once even complained she didn’t even want to waste the paper to print out her new schedule. “Why should I? In two weeks I’ll have yet another one!”(CONTINUED BELOW).PAGE 3
The 37.5 minutes at the end of the day became a nightmare, as students were grouped and regrouped without explanation or proper notification. Students often cut or left the building early. Few received consequences, and as less and less administrative support was given to ARC, the system of discipline and student accountability eroded completely. A visit to TAPCO in January and February 2012 revealed a chaotic, undisciplined environment, and teacher moral at an all-time low. This was particularly true in the high school.
Case in point. One of the school's high school math teachers has had his room ransacked and occupied by students on a number of occasions. Returning to his room from lunch, he would find his room occupied by students without supervision, many of them cutting classes, and the room totally trashed. Despite reporting this to administration, little was done and the offending students received minimal (if any) consequence.
The school took sharp criticism for a teacher resigning at the end of last year (2011). Closer examination reveals that the teacher did not so much leave because of TAPCo's deficiencies, but more because the teacher was unqualified and overwhelmed by the job. Criticism should not have been levied at the school so much for the teacher leaving, but more for why and how this teacher got hired in the first place. The fact that this teacher was unqualified and incapable of handling a class was apparent to everyone (except the principal) from the start. Another example of horrific judgment on her part.
Of greater concern, this teacher was never replaced after resigning. Instead the classes were divided up among the remaining teachers, something that not only increased their already over-extended workloads, but further damaged the already negative perception of the school and its mismanagement of teachers and finances. If the teacher resigned wouldn't the salary be returned to the school? Why wasn't another teacher hired? If not to just cover the classes of the teacher, then to at least provide some relief to the already over-stretched staff? If no competent teacher could be found to cover the main classes, couldn't the money saved at least be used to hire hall monitors or additional staff to keep students from cutting? Or to provide more manpower to the discipline program? Or a teacher to cover the less critical classes without stretching the staff further?]
The answer of course, is no. The perception is that the principal is so incapable of handling money and budgeting for the year that this teacher's salary became necessary to cover mistakes, oversights and misappropriations that have handicapped the school from the start. Simply put, financial management has been horrendous, furthering a perception that the principal’s values and priorities are completely distorted. Money is spent on meaningless things, while the very systems that are essential to properly running a school are neglected.
And funds continue to be mismanaged. The most egregious example is the money paid to an outside consulting agency. It is reported that over $50,000 is being paid some outside consulting organization and its wily director, yet few within the school can point to any tangible benefits this “arrangement” has brought. Certainly this money could have been put to better use. (CONTINUED BELOW)
So why does Principal Passarella choose to spend so much of the school's limited funds on a meaningless consulting agency when there are so many other pressing needs? Perhaps for the same reason she decided to elevate the least liked person in the school to the position of assistant principal: She feels she NEEDS them. They tell her what she wants to hear and sides with her regardless of what the issues are (Of course they do! They are protecting their positions and their paychecks!). Passarella is incapable and unqualified to run things herself, and there is a part of her that knows it. She is unable to figure things out and is in way over her head. Acosta may be disliked and mistrusted by the entire staff, but she backs the principal 100% (right or wrong), reminds her constantly of what she should be doing, tells her who is being disloyal, what compliances are pressing, and where she should focus her attention. The consulting firm may be expensive and unnecessary, but it does and says exactly what she wants. This alone is enough to keep them in place. And they give this unstable, unbalanced leader the “spiritual support” she feels she needs. There is even some kind of ex-principal on the pay roll, a woman who has for years been paid to “mentor” Passarella (don’t know her name... but she has been coming for years). Why is this even necessary? And what does the school have to show for all these years of “mentoring.”? A trumped-up number one rating, an unstable and unqualified leader, an unhappy, disheartened staff, and students who are not receiving the education they deeply deserve.
It’s a crying shame.
The after-school sports program was also taken away from long-time teachers of the school and given to this outside agency. This was done without notice or explanation to the teachers involved. How much additional money is being paid to this agency for this service is anyone’s guess. The teachers who have faithfully served the students as athletic coach for many years were simply left out in the cold. It has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
If you were to judge this school solely based on their ability to meet Chancellor compliances, the principal’s weekly message and contents of the staff meetings, one would think this is an excellent school. They seem to know how to play the “quality review game” well. But the truth is there is little resemblance between this “fantasy school” she presents and the reality. The reality is that the school is mismanaged and people still operate out of fear of incurring her (or Acosta’s) wrath. No one DARES speak their mind. It can only lead to trouble.
This is not leadership. This is tyranny.
Even the hiring of the school secretary is an embarrassment. The staff seems virtually unanimous in their dislike of this person. She is angry, uncooperative, unqualified, unfriendly, and seemingly incapable of performing the basic tasks of a school secretary. So why is she allowed to continue? Because she guards the principal's door like a pitbull, keeping "intruders" and problems away. She faithfully protects Passarella, keeps problems far from her doorstep, and for this, she is greatly valued (shades of Marilyn Arroyo?). It does not matter what the staff thinks. Does not matter if she knows how to fill out a purchase order or that she shows up to work so late teachers cannot clock in. What matters is her blind loyalty to a corrupt, incompetent leader. And everyone knows it.
How about TAPCO's high college acceptance rate? Clearly among the highest in the 5 boros. How is this done? And how are these students doing once they get to college? (CONTINUED BELOW)
See full article belowPAGE 5
Many of TAPCO’s graduates have dropped out or have changed schools. Most have had to take remedial classes. Some are saddled with huge student loans that they are trouble paying back and seem in crisis. Simply, they do not graduate high school with the skills necessary to thrive in a college environment. Is it possible that the school’s mindless pursuit of EVERYONE getting into college has actually harmed some of these kids? Did anyone ever stop to consider that some students are served better by learning a technical skill or craft? How did the school expect these kids to pay back these loans, especially if they have dropped out? Ask ANY student who comes back to visit TAPCO… Did your high school prepare you well for college? The answer is almost unanimously NO. The picture is disheartening.
It is easy to conclude that students have been betrayed by TAPCO. They have contributed to the school’s high college acceptance rate, helped make the school and its principal look good. But attending college for some was only in the school’s best interest. Now, saddled with debt, their futures are being written. Some are even considering the military.
Another interesting area? TAPCO’s uniform policy. The past 4 years have seen the school so inconsistently enforce this policy that few know whether or not it is still in effect. The school will go months without saying anything about it, then suddenly penalize a few students for not observing it. Why is this worth mentioning here? Because it is yet another window into how this school is run and its inability (like ARC) to stick to a policy or system. Make no mistake about it. The issue is NOT whether TAPCO should have a uniform policy. The issue is its inability to enforce it or stick by it. It serves as yet another glaring example of its inability to govern itself.
Another area of mismanagement: Dealing with the Special Education students of the school. Schools receive extra money for each special ed student they take in, but close examination of TAPCO's special ed program will reveal that students do not receive the support that they need. Not by a long shot. This can be seen throughout the school, grades 6 – 12. So where does the extra money that the school receives go to? It is not clear. But logic and history would tell us again that the money is needed to cover other mistakes and misappropriations, while the students continue to be denied the services they are mandated to receive. (CONTINUED BELOW)
NOTE: Michael Berkowitz seems to receive an unfair amount of criticism in this regard. Truth be told, Michael's hands are tied. He has been criticized for being compliant and complacent in the matter, and that he either lacks the courage or ability to take on Passarella and Acosta and fight for what is right. Can he be blamed for that? Not really. He is a capable person, but surely he has to think about his family and his career. And administration seems to work against him. And it must be hard for him to be witness to the incompetency and the poor use of school money while his students continue not receiving the services that they are mandated to have. Some feel that if he would be a little less obsequious and a little more courageous, he would be more effective in advocating for his students, but this too seems unfair. He may know what is right, but to be able to effect change with this kind of leadership in this system is a lot to ask. Safe to say that if Michael leaves, it would be another great loss to the school. Like some his colleagues (Casper, Buchbinder, Sandrowitz, Mudrick, Konisberg, Krakauer, Wold... to name only a few), he represents what is right about TAPCO, and another glaring reason why things need to change before the talent flight begins.
It will happen for sure.
One very important question remains. How is it possible that despite what is known about this principal and her tactics that she is allowed to continue? How is it possible that the investigations have not resulted in her removal or suspension? It is hard to imagine that the DOE and its investigators are unaware of the problems and level of incompetency here. One can make guesses. Here are a few:
1. It is going to happen, but the investigators are waiting until their case is fool proof. Many a crooked administrator has escaped justice because of a case contained too many errors or incomplete investigations. The investigators KNOW they have her, but do not want to take the chance of her union or lawyer finding a hole in their case, or getting her off on a technicality despite her obvious guilt. It’s happened before.
2. The DOE, its chancellor, the former chancellor, and the Mayor himself all have too much to lose on how this story unfolds. Indeed it is not just Passarella who is on trial here. So is the system for rating schools, the Regents system, and the politicians who back these systems. Careers and legacies could be lost or damaged. The DOE has to find a way to spin this story where Passarella takes the fall, and the system (or themselves) end up looking good. She needs to be portrayed as the bad apple that fell far from the healthy tree, and not like the whole tree is compromised and corrupt. And despite her shortcomings, these people may fear that Passarella will not leave quietly. She may try to take a few down with her.
3. Passarella represents the tip of the iceberg. She is far from being alone in her manipulation of grades, Regent scores, attendance data, finances, and parent, teacher and student surveys. To indict her would be equivalent to opening a Pandora's Box of problems for the DOE, and the deeper one investigates, the more it is apparent that this is not just one bad apple, but the inevitable product of a system that is broken and in desperate need of major overhaul. Care must be taken in how she is dealt with. Entire careers are at stake. And no one wants to rock the boat, or be held accountable.
4. They are waiting for her to resign or make a mistake that would make if easy for them to fire her. Again, it needs to appear as if it is SHE who is the problem, not the overall system itself. (CONTINUED BELOW)
When it is all said and done, perhaps common sense and good judgment can still prevail. TAPCO is very much worth saving. It still has a core group of talented, hard-working devoted teachers (the main reason the school has stayed afloat this long) and staff members (including some of the administration), and the students are decent, reasonable kids who deserve a lot more than they are getting. And the community NEEDS a successful, well-run middle school/high school for its children.
But looking at the situation objectively, this cannot happen if Lynn Passarella is the principal. She simply is not qualified. Personal feelings aside, she doesn’t have what it takes. She cheats for a reason. She has to. She has people like Acosta and expensive (NON DOE) advisors around her for a reason. She is incapable of making things work otherwise.
As someone stated earlier in this blog, she is more consumed with looking good, than being good. And in the system she operates this is entirely possible. (In fact, she looked SO good that she brought much of this unwelcomed attention upon herself. Outranking Stuyvesant High School, Bronx Science and the High School For Math, Science and Engineering (CCNY) has cast her into the spotlight, and the facade is clearly not holding up under the scrutiny). And she continues to take little responsibility for her actions. When things go wrong it is the fault of her teachers and staff (and her “non-Acosta” APs). She seems incapable of realizing that the problem lies squarely on her shoulders. And for this reason she will continue to press on indefinitely, blaming her teachers, blaming her APs, blaming the parents. Blaming anyone that might negatively affect her own ranking. Never accepting responsibility herself.
The DOE and its investigators need to operate quickly. It is now time to pull the trigger. To wait will bring upon a talent flight out of TAPCO that has never been seen before. This is for sure. The staff has had it. The very best will leave for sure... many have gone on record as saying so much. It is the hope of almost that she will be replaced soon and the school can finally begin to realize its potential.
This posting is an appeal to what is right, what is just, and what is necessary to help this school and its community. It was written with great care, thought and a desire to avoid being mean-spirited or vindictive. It is the product of extensive discussion with current and former staff at TAPCO.
It also represents an opportunity for the Chancellor, the DOE and its investigators to recognize and correct a problem that should be within their grasp and ability to fix. In short, it is a plea. A plea to act swiftly and effectively.
The students deserve it. The community deserves it.Agree with this posting. I don't think people are out to insult anyone. I think people are frustrated, disheartened, and believe they are working for incompetent, angry people. This blog is merely a forum to express this without punishment. I just stumbled in on this blog, and except for a few immature entries, it seems overall a genuine expression of dissatisfaction with a school's administration, particularly the principal and one of her APs. And so many people are saying different versions of the same thing, it seems unlikely that they are all wrong. Apparently this school is in bad shape, but is some how able to play the game so well that everything seems rosy to the DOE. This blog seems to be lifting the veil. Seems to be the only tool these people have available to them to tell the world what is going on.I wish them luck.
By Rachel Monahan / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, March 9, 2012, 5:38 PM
Viorel Florescu for New York Daily NewsTheatre Arts Production Company School in the Bronx.
Lynn Passarella, of Theatre Arts Production Company School, received a $25,000 bonus when her school earned an A on the high school report cards in 2010 with the highest rating of all high schools.
But she boosted scores by falsifying attendance data and awarding credit to students who never attended classes, the investigative report released to the press Friday afternoon shows.
"The behavior uncovered in this report is dishonest and disgraceful, and shows a blatant disregard for principal responsibilities," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a statement, announcing he would seek to fire Passarella immediately.
Officials said Friday that after the investigation started, city recouped the $25,000 bonus from Passarella, who earns $145,493 a year for her leadership of the 6th- though 12th-grade school.