By Phil Corso
The city Department of Education said it was unaware of the fact that the new principal of Flushing High School had been accused of sexual harassment and racist remarks when he headed a Long Island middle school.
James Brown, 48, previously worked as principal of Baldwin Middle School in Baldwin Harbor, L,I., where he was faced with accusations of harassment and cost the school district $1.6 million to settle the suit filed by the dean of students in 2010, the Post reported. But despite his questionable past, he was still hired this year to serve as principal of Flushing High School, at 35-01 Union St., at a salary of $132,633.
A spokeswoman for the DOE said the city knew nothing about the lawsuit against Brown or the settlement when he was hired to serve as principal for Flushing High School.
“When DOE officials contacted the Baldwin school district for a recommendation, they did not disclose this information,” she said in a statement.
The city would not comment on whether or not a background check was conducted on the former Long Island educator, but the New York Post reported that Brown’s past only came to light once teachers at Flushing High School ran his name through Google in the days leading up to the new school year.
Brown could not be reached for comment. The school’s website, however, still listed Brown as principal at press time.
The educator’s appointment infuriated members of Community Board 7, who voiced their opposition to the DOE’s decision to hire him.
During a Monday meeting, CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty encouraged City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) to investigate how Brown’s installation at the troubled institution happened.
In the 2010 suit, former Baldwin Middle School Dean of Students Cheryl Farb accused Brown of various verbal improprieties, including asking her to file a school report as “tight as a virgin’s, well, you know what is tight on a virgin,” the Post reported.
Complaints also alleged Brown had told a staffer at the school to use her “womanly skills to fake an apology,” among other accusations.
The resurfacing of Brown’s questionable past came at a murky time for Flushing High School, one year after Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried shutting the school down and reopening it with fewer staffers along with 23 others throughout the city in November. The DOE chose schools throughout the city based on their progress report scores, but a state appellate court order blocked the proposal after the United Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit saying it violated the union’s contract with the DOE.
The DOE said Brown had previous experience working in the city, having been a substitute teacher in 1988 as well as a middle-school math teacher, assistant principal and principal in Brooklyn before resigning in 2001 to take the Baldwin Middle School job.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.