2000-07-15 / Letters

Tainted Process At PS 114

Dear Editor;

P.S. 114 has been the shining beacon of District 27 for many years. Now someone is trying to dim that light. Rather than treating 114 as an example for all schools in the district to emulate, it is receiving the short end of the stick, and its needs and requests are not part of the district’s priorities. Here is the story of what has happened during the process to appoint a new Principal at P.S. 114.

At the end of the 1998-99 school year, Phyllis Mellone departed P.S. 114, leaving the position of principal open once again. At the same time, Brenda Isaacs retired as superintendent of District 27. Over the ensuing summer, Matthew Bromme was named interim acting superintendent of District 27, and in turn Gerard McCarthy was named interim acting principal of P.S. 114.

At the first PTA meeting in September 1999, nominations were taken, and a committee (C-30) formed for the purpose of reviewing applications and submitting candidates to the superintendent for selection of an appointed principal. This committee was elected by the members of the P.S. 114 PTA.

Many months passed without any action. This was largely due to the resignation of NYC Schools Chancellor Crew and the ongoing C-37 process to select an appointed superintendent for District 27. When Mr. Levy succeeded Chancellor Crew, and Mr. Bromme subsequently received his appointment and confirmation, the wheels were finally set in motion.

On April 13, 2000, the committee was called to District 27 offices to receive orientation on the C-30 process under the guidance of Sandy Brawer, director of Operations, and with assistance from Martin Weinstein, deputy superintendent. The committee began reviewing resumes on April 17, continuing over the following 16 days including 10 days, which comprised spring vacation.

What became immediately apparent was the true extent of the crisis in leadership facing all NYC public schools. What is clearly one of the most attractive elementary school positions in the city failed to garner more than 40 applicants. Of this meager number, very few were suitably qualified to receive consideration.

At our meeting on May 4, we selected 12 candidates to be interviewed by the committee, two more than required by Chancellor’s Regulations. On May 11, we interviewed 11 candidates (one declined the interview offer). Following the interviews, we selected five candidates to be forwarded to the superintendent for a Level II interview, as prescribed by Chancellor’s Regulations. These five candidates were selected on the strengths of their resume and their interview. Two candidates were unanimously selected and were the clear choices of the committee. Nonetheless, the committee forwarded the five candidates we felt were best suited to serve as Principal of P.S. 114, as prescribed by Chancellor’s Regulations.

In all, our committee completed its task in 14 school business days. During this process, we were assured by Mr. Weinstein that Mr. Bromme will choose a principal from among our five candidates and that a new principal will be named by May 31, 2000. When specifically questioned on the issue of supervisory experience, we were led to believe by Mr. Weinstein and Mr. Brawer that it would not be an issue.

On Friday May 26, the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Brawer contacted the chair of our committee to inform him that one of our candidates had accepted a position in another district and had withdrawn from consideration. He requested the chair to canvass the committee to either submit our sixth candidate or set a date to reconvene and select a sixth candidate. This answer was requested by that evening.

The time frame was not sufficient to contact all the committee members, nor was a subsequent attempt to contact the committee on May 31 to convene on June 1. On that basis, no other candidate was submitted.

On June 6, the committee was notified to reconvene at district offices on June 12. Mr. Brawer informed the committee of the superintendent’s reasons for his request of an additional candidate. Among those reasons stated was that two of our candidates did not have the required supervisory experience. This ran counter to what we had been led to believe by Mr. Brawer and Mr. Weinstein. In the interim, we had learned that after submitting the names to the Superintendent on May 11, interviews were scheduled for May 30, 19 days later, a time period greater than that taken by our committee to fully complete our part of the process. This time gap could have easily been foreseen to create the opportunity for our candidates to be hired elsewhere. Additionally the candidate’s letter of withdrawal was dated May 19 and received on May 23, indicating that the superintendent’s office was either delinquent in beginning their process, or delinquent in notifying the committee of what had happened, eating up precious days when action could have been taken.

In any event, Chancellor’s Regulations make no mention of providing additional candidates in the event of a candidate withdrawing during the Level II process. We resolved that we were in compliance with Chancellor’s Regulations, that four viable candidates remained, and we chose not to put forth another candidate. We did this in writing, stating our reasons for the superintendent.

On June 19, we met with the superintendent. He stated that he could not accept our list of candidates because he needs to think of all the schools in the district, and cannot place any of these candidates at P.S. 114. He did state that if we had provided a fifth (sixth) candidate on May 26, he would have selected a principal, yet he refused to confirm that the additional candidate would have been selected at the same time that he stated he cannot place any of the other four at P.S. 114. All along he has stood behind the premise that he needed an additional candidate, yet when questioned directly, confirmed that he could indeed make a selection from the four if he chose to do so. He was not being held up by regulations but by his own choice. Mr. Bromme indicated that he would consider the points we had made and make a decision quickly as time was of the essence.

Once again the superintendent’s office employed a stalling tactic. With the end of the school year approaching, no answer was heard. Anticipating his action, the committee drafted and faxed a statement and letter of appeal to Chancellor Levy on the evening of June 22, with a hard copy signed by the members of the committee, sent by messenger and received on June 23. On Saturday June 24, our fears proved true. In a memo mailed on June 23 to deliberately be received on a Saturday when offices are closed, the committee received notice that it had been dissolved by the superintendent. The letter contained a statement that was inaccurate regarding our position on our candidates. We did not state that we would only accept one of our top two candidates. We merely stated that two candidates were unanimously selected by the committee as was our prerogative under Chancellor’s Regulations.

During this past week, the two candidates whom we were told lacked the required supervisory experience were hired as principals of other schools in the district. We have also learned that the superintendent conducted Level II interviews and proceeded with the C-30 process at another district school that had only four candidates. The choice there? Another of our candidates. Clearly rules are being arbitrarily applied.

In our appeal to the chancellor, we asked that he place a moratorium on appointments and suspend the C-30 process in District 27, pending resolution of our appeal due to the adverse effect on P.S. 114 should these actions continue. We did not receive a response for almost two weeks.

On July 5, the Committee was contacted by the Chief Executive of Chancellor Levy’s staff. After reviewing our situation, he determined it was a matter for the Department of Human Resources, and to contact him on July 11 for a decision. Not surprisingly, they sided with the superintendent.

The Committee maintains that we have performed our duties admirably and expediently, and in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of Chancellor’s Regulations. We have done so with the best interests of P.S. 114 in mind. We started with 40 candidates and ended with five, four of whom have now been hired elsewhere in the district or the city, and a fifth who has been named interim acting principal at another district school close to our heart, which is dealing with a totally different situation. Could we have done our job better? All five candidates are now running other schools. There was not an unqualified candidate on our list. And yet none could be selected for P.S. 114.

This action clearly shows that P.S. 114’s needs and desires for a Principal are considered less important than those of the other schools in the district. We believe our travails have exposed parent involvement in the process to be nothing more than window dressing, to give the appearance that all constituencies have a voice. If the superintendent’s choice is the only one that matters, let it clearly be so and understood by all. The superintendent’s actions and the chancellor’s failure to act clearly demonstrate their lack of interest in the integrity of the process and in P.S. 114. You may express your opinion to the Office of the Community Superintendent at 718-642-5700, fax 718-642-5714 or the Office of the Chancellor at 718-935-2794, fax 718-935-3383 or e-mail to Hlevy@nycboe.net.




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