Jamaica Hills school flouts hiring regulation: Parents

By Sarina Trangle

Queens Gateway parents say the city skirted administrative hiring practices when appointing a principal in 2012, but they are not going to let similar violations slide this time.

The Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Parent-Teacher Association co-presidents said the so-called C-30 process used to hire principals and assistant principals was violated in 2012 when Superintendent Juan Mendez hired Judy Henry as principal despite concerns about his being listed as her professional reference.

Now, the PTA leaders allege the city Department of Education is not upholding a three-month cap on the C-30 process and they believe the delay is intended to benefit one assistant principal candidate.

PTA Co-Presidents Sandra Williams and Derek Braithwaite said they first encountered violations of the C-30 process in 2012, when candidate names were leaked to the committee of parents, teachers and a student before it was convened to interview prospective principals.

This contributed to concerns about cronyism when Superintendent Mendez, who supervises Districts 24, 25, 26, 28 and 29, hired Henry as principal back in 2012. The parent leaders and then-Student Body President Rafi Reyasat said the committee ranked Henry poorly and had concerns about Mendez being listed as her reference.

Mendez referred inquires to the DOE, which had no comment on the C-30 established before Henry was hired.

“Judy Henry didn’t even answer any of the questions in-depth. She came in like, ‘This is my job,’” Williams said. “Next thing you know, she was appointed even though she had the lowest ranking.”

Henry did not respond to requests for comment.

Under her tenure, Gateway received a “B” grade on its 2012-13 middle-school progress report and an “A” on it high school progress report. However, both reviews gave Gateway a “C” for school environment, which measures attendance rates and a survey of how staff, students and parents view academic expectations, safety, respect and communication.

Now in 2014, the parent leaders and current Student Body President David Aronov said they are again fighting the DOE to uphold C-30 regulations at Gateway. They said the DOE began the C-30 process nearly eight months ago and refused to repost an assistant principal opening when they pointed out the chancellor’s regulations require that the C-30 committee conclude its activities within three months.

They believe the C-30 process, designed to give a committee of school staff, parents and sometimes a student the chance to share feedback on prospective administrators is being skirted to benefit an interim acting principal at Gateway.

The department said the three-month time frame for such committees is not set in stone.

“We have an overload of administrators,” Williams said, noting the new hire would boost to four the number of administrators working with the principal to manage roughly 800 pupils. “This principal is bringing on one of her friends.”

Under the chancellor’s regulations, superintendents serve as hiring managers for principal positions and principals assume that role for assistant principals. Hiring managers are charged with narrowing applicants down to three or five candidates, presenting them to a C-30 committee for interviews and feedback and then settling on a hire.

After Henry was hired, Braithwaite said the C-30 reached out to then Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the special commissioner of investigation.

He said the chancellor never responded. An employee dispatched from the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation — which is described as a DOE unit independent from the chancellor — lost parents’ trust when he showed them a card indicating he worked for Walcott, according to Braithwaite.

Tensions have been exacerbated now that Gateway wants to permanently hire an assistant principal. PTA leaders and the student body president said Henry should be able to manage with the two assistant principals on staff and a retired administrator contracted as a consultant. They would prefer to see the school invest in a science teacher tasked with reviving its partnership with Queens Hospital.

The three walked out of a scheduled C-30 meeting earlier this month, but said they noticed that one of the candidates waiting to be interviewed was interim acting Principal Delia Joseph, who worked with Henry at a previous school and was hired to temporarily oversee guidance in September.

They said the BOE told them the three-month cap on C-30 proceedings could be lifted because of the harsh winter and other extenuating circumstances.

“We are questioning the whole process because it smells,” Braithwaite said.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at [email protected].