2001-09-01 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk by Howard Schwach

From the Editor’s Desk by Howard Schwach

District school superintendent Matt Bromme does a good job of talking up his administration and how well the schools – particularly the middle schools, are doing.

Two years ago, Bromme appointed Rose Molinelli as an additional high-level (and, high-paid) district supervisor to oversee the middle schools.

When I wrote last year about the discipline problems in our district’s middle schools and about the fact that he Bromme and Molinelli cared only for bulletin boards and lesson plans and that there was a "quota system" to rate supervisors and teachers "unsatisfactory," I was vilified by those at the district office. The word from the top was that I "didn’t know what I was talking about."

Now, it appears that Bromme agrees with everything that I said. At least, in private.

In a memo sent by Bromme to a select list of recipients (middle school principals, his cabinet and Marie DeVitto), dated May 19, 1901 (I always did think that he’s back in the last century), the superintendent laid out the things that he "found troubling" on his May visits to the schools.

He wrote: "Bulletin boards were vandalized, students were walking through the halls with hats on, students were eating and drinking in the hall, teachers were sitting and lecturing students while they themselves were drinking coffee, there was a failure to address students to move on to the next class, to sit down and open their notebooks, parents and/or staff did not speak to each other in a respectful manner, there was a lack of a formal color-coded pass system, staff members were not reporting to their assignments in a timely manner and SSA staff were sitting ‘somewhere’ because there was no SSA schedule available during our visit."

Judging by the memo, the "intermediate supervisors" are responsible for those problems. Problems, I might add, Bromme refuses to acknowledge in public.

What have those assistant principals done wrong?

According to Bromme, there is a "failure to document with letters for file and/or unsatisfactory observations – failure to visit the classrooms on a daily basis – failure to review the use of computers in the classroom – failure to address students in the hallways regarding behavior – failure to walk through the halls during the change of class – failure to visit the lunchroom to make sure that it is being properly supervised – an ‘attitude’ that the student is not in my core/team/house, instead of realizing that every child in the school is everyone’s responsibility."

In fact, in his memo, Bromme gets downright threatening.

"We have more intermediate supervisors in our middle schools than most districts in the City of New York," he wrote. "However, I am troubled by the manner in which they are being used and their lack of leadership in instruction."

"What also troubles me," Bromme adds," is that during the school year Mrs. Molinelli has spoken to all of the principals about these same concerns and has given you the guidance about the manner in which these concerns should be addressed. I fail to understand why a principal would not embrace that guidance."

How will Bromme solve the "problem" of principals failing to "embrace that guidance."

"I will order two principals to rate two tenured AP’s ‘U’," he writes emphatically.

Holy quota system!

"I will review the work of all IA (ed note: Interim Acting) assistant principals in the middle schools – based on my review I will decide whether or not they will continue in their positions," he continued.

"I need to have the middle school leadership move their schools forward," Bromme adds. "If that can not be done by those in place, than (sic) I will need to look elsewhere."

Holy threats!

What you have to remember as you read this memo from Bromme is that he still fails to acknowledge the problems he speaks about in his memo with either the school board of the public.

Also remember that Bromme and his no suspense policy is a major reason for the chaos that he so blithely blames on the "intermediate supervisors."

As we go into the new school year, remember that there will be a massive shortage of licensed and experienced teachers. Remember that few qualified teachers want to become supervisors and ask yourself why that it true.

It is true because of memos such as this on and the burden that is put on AP’s to do the things that do not need to be done, which takes them away from the things that they should be doing.

Both the principals and the AP’s are buried in paperwork and treated by the district like mushrooms.

If you don’t know what I mean by that, E-mail me and I’ll let you know.

Education must be collegial. Threats will not do it. Burying ones head in the sand and refusing to admit to a bad situation will not do it.

We need a change, and Bromme’s letter is not the change we need.

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