New principals for five ‘turnaround’ schools

New principals for five ‘turnaround’ schools
Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rich Bockmann

Despite a recent court ruling striking down the city’s controversial attempt to restructure 24 struggling schools throughout the five boroughs, principals at five of those high schools in Queens have rejected offers to return to their schools, according to the city Department of Education.

Flushing, August Martin, Richmond Hill, John Adams and Long Island City high schools will all open their doors in September with new principals. Newtown and William Cullen Bryant high schools will keep the same principals they had last year.

The DOE started introducing new principals at some of the troubled high schools as early as April, even before the city Panel for Educational Policy voted to approve the “turnaround” plan, which calls for replacing the principal and more than half of the teachers at each school.

At the end of the school year, the department started reviewing the teachers at each of the schools, and a number of them were told they would not have a job at their school next year. These teachers were not fired and were encouraged to seek new jobs at other schools through the open market. Some of these teachers have been picked up by other schools.

In the meantime, the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators took the department to arbitration over the turnaround plan, and last week a State Supreme Court judge upheld the arbitrator’s ruling that the method violated a stipulation in the unions’ contracts about removing teachers and principals from the class based on seniority.

The city said it intended to appeal the ruling, but a decision was unlikely to be made in time before the school year starts. The DOE sent letters to the principals and teachers who had been let go, offering them their jobs back.

Five of the principals declined to return, according to the DOE. Friday was the deadline for teachers to return their letters, and the department said it would not know until later this summer how many decided to return to their schools.

Another thing that was not clear if any of the turnaround schools’ names would be changed in the fall. The city announced new names for the schools in May, and a DOE spokesman said there are still discussions going on about what name each school will have.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), chairman of the Queens delegation, was opposed to the mayor’s plan and said he was not surprised the principals chose not to return.

“It’s a mess,” he said. “The DOE is not serious about retention and giving them the resources to do well. Why would they come back with that kind of cloud hanging over them? The city needs to drop the appeals and focus on the kids.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.