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Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Jellybean100
Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Jellybean100

Amid the upheaval at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing over its interim principal, Borough President Melinda Katz on Tuesday called on the city Department of Education (DOE) to listen to the school community.

“Townsend Harris is one of the city’s top-ranking, high-performing schools and a source of tremendous pride here in Queens,” Katz said in a release. “Yet there is substantial unrest at the moment regarding the C-30 process [the selection of a new principal], which is being undertaken at the school.”

On Dec. 8, students live-streamed a sit-in protest from the school located at 149-11 Melbourne Ave. According to students, the demonstration was conducted to ask that their interim principal, Rosemarie Jahoda, not be considered for a permanent position after reports of strained relations between Jahoda and the school community.

A week later, the Townsend Harris community discussed the matter at hand during a Parents Teacher Association (PTA) meeting. Despite Jahoda’s attempts at the gathering to convince parents that she was devoted to the safety and security of their children, the PTA voted that the Department of Education take several actions, including removing Jahoda from her position “immediately.”

“Such a significant outcry from the school community simply cannot be ignored,” Katz said on Tuesday, Dec. 20. “Faculty, parents, students and alumni of this coveted high school are demanding a fair, open transition of its leadership.”

Katz has sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña — which, she writes, is a follow up to a previous conversation — and references the sit-in video, PTA resolution and other current controversy surrounding the school.

“In more than 20 years in elected office I have not been inundated with so much material around the process of picking a principal,” Katz writes.

The borough president addressed concerns regarding the C-30 process, which is the DOE’s current procedure for hiring school leadership. Katz writes to Fariña that, while she “appreciates” that the C-30 meeting originally scheduled for Dec. 8 was postponed to conduct an investigation that the process is being fairly followed, “the DOE should not ignore the aforementioned concerns from parents, students and teachers.”

“I am requesting that the C-30 process start over with transparency so that a principal who is supportive and fosters a positive nurturing learning environment is chosen for a school that was ranked eighth by U.S. News as one of the best high schools in 2016,” Katz said.

Regarding interim acting principal Jahoda, Katz requested “that the DOE send a high ranking official to address the teachers, parents and students and answer any questions regarding the current choice of principal.”

“In addition, it will enable the Department of Education to hear first-hand the concerns of the different groups that have opined,” Katz said.

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