2002-03-16 / Letters

Favoritism At PS 114

Favoritism At PS 114

Dear Editor,

We are writing on behalf of many concerned and disgusted parents of students at P.S. 114. Over the past several years, there have been incidents so disturbing, so reeking of political favoritism at our wonderful school, that we, as parents, are left with no other avenues by which to express our outrage. Parents have tried to address these particular issues with our former Principal, as well as our district Superintendent, to no avail. It appears that many decisions involving our local school are influenced by District politics, and may involve at least one school board member. Our school best serves the needs of the loudest and most politically connected parents in our neighborhood.

There are a very small group of parents in our school who appear so completely devoid of any moral fiber that they would gladly destroy a teacher's reputation with false allegation just to obtain a transfer for their children into what they deem a more "desirable" class. This same group of parent bullies were also involved in bringing unfounded allegations against a former Principal (Mrs. Mellone) several years ago, which some say was partially responsible for her transfer. Over the years, these parents have filled all sorts of official grievances against the P.T.A., the former principal and at least one teacher. Unofficially, scores of parents have had the misfortune of dealing with these people, with unpleasant encounters too numerous to list.

In P.S. 114, most grades are grouped "homogeneously", which means the children are grouped in rank order, with the highest scoring children in one class, and then on down the line. This grouping is a source of vicarious, reflective pride for some parents, who feel that their children must be in the "top" class, deservedly or not. Each year, the same small group of parents practically camp out in the Principal's office a few days before class placements are decided (generally in May), demanding certain classes or teachers for their children. Coincidentally, some of the children in question are related to, or friends of, a member of the Community School Board, who shows up to these sessions as well, presumably to assure that the relative's and friend's children are placed with their desired teacher, regardless of their class ranking. Inevitably, these children are placed in "top" classes, at the expense of more highly ranked students who don't have friends or relatives on the school board. One year a desperate parent brought the student into the principals office, allegedly crying & pleading to be placed in the desired class for the following September, before the class placements were even made public! What these parents are doing to their children is unspeakable, but that's another topic for another letter.

One of the most egregious incidents occurred this year. Two parents n this group decided, less than a month into the school year, that they weren't happy with their teacher. By October, they were demanding that their children be switched into another class, citing everything from mistreatment to corporal punishment to the teacher deliberately losing student's work. No other parents in the class seemed to echo these concerns. The "desired" teacher's class was full, there were two other classes where the children could have been moved. Surprisingly, with all the allegations leveled at this teacher, these parents chose to leave their children in the class. Weeks later, additional allegations were brought against this teacher by these parents, with the apparent intent of having her removed from the classroom. Of course, the allegations were unfounded, and the teacher remained. The parents still chose to leave their children in this class because their favorite teacher's class was still full.

Months later, two spots opened up in the "desired" teacher's classroom and these two children were promptly moved into this class. There were other children, with legitimate educational needs waiting for transfer, who went through proper evaluation procedures and were passed over for transfer in favor of the 2 children in question, the relative and friend of the school board member. Coincidentally, one of the families in question had their children moved from a "number 2" class, where the child was appropriately placed, to the "number 1" class, one day before classes began this past September.

During this ordeal, one of the parents in question was found in the child's classroom, after school hours, allegedly searching in the area of the teacher's desk. After complaints by the teacher and affected parents, the offending parent was given only limited access to certain areas of the school. Mysteriously, this limited access order was rescinded three weeks later, and the parent was again allowed full access to the school building. When affected parents complained to the Principal, Superintendent, Teacher and the P.T.A. as to how this could be allowed to occur, they were told by the Superintendent that the specifics could not discussed, but the matter was "resolved appropriately." To many parents of the 30 affected students in the class, allowing this parent back into the school who entered and allegedly searched their classroom while bringing allegations against the teacher, is by no means to รข018appropriate action." These parent bullies continued to harass this teacher with letters and comments several times a week.

When an active volunteer parent tried to speak up about these transfers, as well as the other incidents injustices involving these same families, he was promptly banned from any further volunteer duties in the school. For years, this person was an invaluable resource in keeping every classroom computer in working order, many times at his own personal expense. He dared to speak out against these parents who were connected to the school board and was suddenly, after years of volunteer service, persona non grata inside the school. The depths to which these parents and their school board connection will sink , including every child whose computers are down, boggles the mind. Even if you are blessed with not having children in these particular classes, these people in some way are negatively affecting every one of your children in P.S. 114.

Many parents were shocked to hear of this parent's "banishment". We now have a new Principal, who may not be familiar with all that has transpired over the past few years. When approached about reinstating this valuable computer parent to volunteer duties, the Principal said she didn't know enough about the situation and would not make a decision as important as this one right away. Yet, one of the students who was transferred into the "desired" teacher's classroom was moved 3 days after the new principal took office. The child did not go through proper evaluative procedures, as did others awaiting transfer. These decisions appear to be politically motivated, perhaps coming from the District level. We are sick of the cloak of secrecy, which protects the current system of political patronage. More than one parent, when questioning an inappropriate placement of a child, was told that the test scores were "lost", or the parent was simply not allowed to see the results. We will no longer accept this kind of treatment. Our fervent hope is that the new Principal will not be beholden to anyone when making decisions concerning our children. We demand a fair and just system of placement, and parent bullies with political clout can not be allowed to simply chose their children's' teachers year after year. We will no longer observe in disbelief as the loudest, crudest, most belligerent parent bullies eventually get what they want from the administration.

This is a new beginning for all of us. We are watchful and hopeful that it is a new day for P.S. 114. If it turns out that the District and the School Board are still pulling the strings, we are prepared to take wherever it leads. Thank you.

FOUR CONCERNED PARENTS


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