DOE Axing Wife of Retired Brooklyn Tech High School Principal

By Michèle De Meglio

It’s a new day at Brooklyn Technical High School. Lee McCaskill retired from his post as principal of the school on February 6. But this was not a typical retirement. McCaskill is leaving Brooklyn Tech after it was revealed that he enrolled his daughter in a Cobble Hill elementary school even though they reside in Piscataway, N.J. Although city schools do welcome students from outside of New York City for an annual fee of $5,000, McCaskill did not pay a penny. To register his daughter at P.S. 29, 425 Henry Street, he allegedly falsified admissions documents, listing the address of Brooklyn Tech as his residence, according to sources at the high school. McCaskill could not be reached for comment. The city Department of Education (DOE) released a statement about McCaskill’s departure. It read, “As part of his retirement, Dr. McCaskill agreed to pay restitution to the Department of Education for tuition he owed the department for sending his child to a New York City public school although the family does not live in New York. In return, the department agreed that it will not bring disciplinary charges against McCaskill in regard to that tuition.” To reimburse the city for the four years his daughter spent at P.S. 29, McCaskill will pay $19,441. In a surprising twist, Brooklyn Tech students were given a different reason for McCaskill’s exit. As written in a letter distributed to students, which was signed by “The Brooklyn Technical High School Administration” and dated February 7, “On the advisement of his physician, Dr. McCaskill is taking a medical leave, effective immediately, and will retire at the end of the medical leave.” During the 14 years that McCaskill led Brooklyn Tech, located at 29 Ft. Greene Place, he endured quarrels with teachers and calls for his removal. In spite of these incidents, Howard Gleich, a biology teacher at Brooklyn Tech and the school’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader, said he will miss McCaskill. “With all the negative things, there are still a lot of positive things he accomplished in the school. The students are better now then they’ve ever been. In the last six months, he started some major renovation plans for the school. He updated the computers,” Gleich said. “He’s done some good things for the school.” “I was never for getting rid of him,” he explained. “I didn’t want to see him go. I wanted to see the A.P. go.” He is referring to Tracy Atkins-Zoughlami, assistant principal of the English Department, who, along with McCaskill, was embroiled in a scandal last fall. Charging that they were being mistreated, disgruntled teachers publicly leveled allegations of mismanagement and harassment suffered at the hands of the administrators. Among the allegations was that McCaskill and Atkins-Zoughlami unfairly placed letters citing unsatisfactory work and behavior in the files of tenured teachers. While teachers claimed that the only educators receiving critical letters were those who had spoken unfavorably about inner workings at the school, DOE sources said McCaskill was just cracking down on unsatisfactory teachers. The DOE supported McCaskill during the ordeal. With McCaskill making his exit, Gleich hopes tensions at Brooklyn Tech, one of the city’s most prestigious schools, will die down. “I hope it will be a good thing,” he said. “I hope that the school will move ahead from here.” UFT President Randi Weingarten also wants to see conditions improve at the high school. “It’s no secret that there have been many problems at Brooklyn Tech. It’s the right decision that the principal, Dr. McCaskill, will no longer be there. There was lots of contentiousness and it will be good to focus once again on teaching and learning at what ought to be a great institution,” she said. The conflicts between Brooklyn Tech’s teachers and administration placed a stigma on the famed high school, said Rep. Anthony Weiner, a graduate of the school. “Tech has a proud tradition that had been obscured,” he said. With the administration shakeup, “Hopefully this will permit Brooklyn Technical High School to put its divisions and tensions in the past,” he said. Randy Jay Asher has been named Brooklyn Tech’s interim acting principal. He previously served as principal of the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York. From 2000-2002, Asher was Brooklyn Tech’s assistant principal for mathematics and computer science.

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