Townsend Harris students protest temp principal

Townsend Harris students protest temp principal
Students held a sit-in at Townsend Harris High School last Thursday to protest the school’s interim principal.
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By Patrick Donachie

The acting principal of Townsend Harris High School is facing criticism from students, teachers and alumni, some of whom are calling on the city Department of Education to ensure she is not installed as the school’s permanent principal.

Rosemarie Jahoda was appointed as interim principal after Anthony Barbetta, the school’s previous principal, left the school in September. A change.org petition requesting Jahoda not be named the permanent principal had gathered 3,463 signatures as of presstime.

“There was unfortunately no input as to the selection of Ms. Jahoda as interim acting principal when Mr. Barbetta transferred. In her three months as interim acting principal, Ms. Jahoda has demonstrated that she is not the right fit for this school,” the petition said. “This semester, there have been rumors of numerous instances of faculty harassment, significant changes to programs and course offerings without input from the faculty and SLT (Student Leadership Team), and as time has passed, less parent engagement. She has simply not been as approachable as previous principals.”

Students at the school also engaged in a sit-in protest Dec. 8, which students streamed on Facebook Live. The video shows lines of students sitting against lockers in a school hallway. The video was later uploaded to the YouTube channel for The Classic, the school’s newspaper.

“We’re here to protest making Principal Johada a permanent principal at Townsend Harris,” one student said during the video. “She treats teachers unfairly, everything she is doing is unfair to everyone in the school.”

A call for comment from Principal Jahoda’s office was not returned. A DOE spokesman stressed that the process for hiring a permanent principal, known as “C-30,” had not yet been initiated.

“Principal hiring and assignment decisions are made by the superintendent in accordance with the chancellor’s regulations, and based on consultations with members of the school community,” the spokesman said. “We listen closely to the feedback and concerns of all school communities and engage them as part of the C-30 process.”

The change.org petition cited Jahoda’s tenure as assistant principal at the Bronx High School of Science as an additional cause for concern. An independent arbiter found in 2010 that 20 of the 22 mathematics teachers under Jahoda’s supervision expressed concern about her leadership, including the “creation of a hostile work environment through the harassment and intimidation of teachers” and the “inequitable implementation of department and school policies.”

Townsend Harris High School is renowned for its high academic standards and college enrollment. The New York Post listed the school as the best high school in the city in its annual high school performance list released in September. The Post reported that nearly 6,000 students throughout the city applied for 306 freshman seats last school year. Inside Schools reported that 100 percent of students graduated in four years and enrolled in college, with an average 640 SAT reading score and a 680 math score. The school is located on the Queens College campus.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona[email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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