Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña tried to reassure the Townsend Harris High School community in Flushing last week after months of public outcry regarding the school’s search for a permanent principal.
“I just want to say that the C-30 process is being totally followed by the letter of the law [at Townsend Harris],” Fariña said on March 22. “Because someone interviews doesn’t mean they’re getting the job. It is a C-30 process; it has been totally verified it is going on in the appropriate manner and there should be a resolution within two or three weeks.”
The remarks came during the most recent Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) meeting, where Parent Teacher Association (PTA) co-president Edward Tan and Freshman-Sophomore Class President Max Kurant continued to speak out about the tension between interim acting principal Rosemarie Jahoda and the school community, as well as the DOE’s C-30 hiring process for a permanent principal, which Queens Borough President Melinda Katz recently said does not give parents “effective input.”
Since late last year, the school community has publicly called for Jahoda’s removal and expressed its frustration with the DOE’s hiring process through a student protest, a rally outside of the school, a demonstration in front of City Hall, and most recently, a second student sit-in during principal candidate interviews.
Two members of the school community have also recently received responses from Fariña via email, according to PTA co-president Susan Karlic, who had previously voiced concerns about the one-sided conversation the school community appeared to be having with the city agency.
On March 15, Debra Michlewitz, a longtime educator and previous teacher at Townsend Harris High School, reached out to the chancellor, stating that “careful action is necessary now to preserve Townsend Harris HS as the invaluable public education resource and asset for the students and citizens of NYC.”
Fariña replied, thanking Michlewitz for her letter and stating she is “sure a good solution will be found.”
A concerned parent, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed her dismay with the DOE’s hiring process in another email to the chancellor on March 17. The parent stated that he or she is concerned that Jahoda is still being considered a candidate for the permanent position despite showing “poor leadership and disrespect to the students and faculty.”
Fariña responded, “I truly believe letting the process take its course is [the] way to promote democracy.”
After these three responses, Karlic said the school community is “cautiously hopeful.”
“We are hopeful that the democratic process will be allowed to take its course and [that] everyone [will] respect that process,” Karlic said. “We’re confident that the person selected as the top choice in the true democratic fashion — i.e., the candidate receiving the highest scores and ranking, with each Level 1 C-30 participant carrying equal weight — will be the best person to lead Townsend Harris as permanent principal.”
Selina Lee, co-president of the school’s alumni association, said she remains concerned about what the outcome of the hiring process will be.
“I am so thankful and proud of Max and Edward for going to the PEP to represent the Townsend Harris community,” said Selina Lee, co-president of the school’s alumni association. “The chancellor’s comment that the C-30 is being followed to the letter of the law does not provide any kind of reassurance or support to our community since the regulation does state that the superintendent can choose any interviewee from the Level 1 interviews to be principal regardless of the committee’s ranking, which is only advisory. The whole community is distraught that, despite so much press and action around the current interim principal, she was recorded coming out of the interview room by the school newspaper, and therefore can still be permanent principal under the C-30 regulations.”
The C-30 hiring process is now in Level II, where the hiring manager, Superintendent Elaine Lindsey, conducts her own set of interviews and selects the permanent principal. C-30 regulation states that a permanent principal must be appointed within 90 days of the job posting. The position was posted by the DOE on Feb. 1.