2004-07-02 / Community

Rockaway HS Principals Feel DOE Axe

By Howard Schwach

Rockaway HS Principals Feel DOE Axe

In better Days, Jones (left) with  Kathleen Cashin.In better Days, Jones (left) with Kathleen Cashin.

By Howard Schwach

With the school year just ended on Monday, Chancellor Joel Klein announced this week that 45 principals had either been fired or demoted, including the principal of Far Rockaway High School, the former principal of Beach Channel High School and at least one other whose career included stints in Rockaway schools.

According to the Department of Education (DOE), 18 were forced to retire, while 25 were demoted to assistant principal rank. Two are fighting the demotion.

Far Rockaway High School principal Cheryll Jones was one of those forced to retire. The DOE had cited the school as one of the city’s "Most Dangerous" earlier this year.

Parent Association President Marva Richardson says that Jones "did not deserve to be treated in that way" by the chancellor.

"In the age of No Child Left Behind, it is the leadership of the school that determines whether these words hold any meeting," Richardson said in a letter to Region Five Superintendent Kathleen Cashin. "Jones has personified this vision."

"By going above and beyond and doing all within her power to help keeep our students on track, she has proven time and again her dedication to our students," Richardson wrote. "She considers all of the students she encounters as her own and reaches out to those in need. As a result, this year Far Rockaway High School had the highest number of graduating students in the last five years and reading and math scores have increased significantly."

Richardson said that he has a petition with hundreds of signatures of both parents and teachers requesting that Jones remain in the school.

"We implore you to allow her to remain with us," the letter ends. "Do not allow yourself to lose one of the best assets you have right now."

The case at Beach Channel High School is more clear-cut than that at Far Rockaway High School.

Former Beach Channel High School principal Barbara Pleener, who was removed from the school shortly after the school year began last September under charges of "sexual harassment" and reassigned to the Region Five office was forced to retire as well. Pleener’s appointment to the school spurred a series of demonstrations after she removed Claude Monreau, a Black assistant principal from the school under charges that he was undermining her administration.

Monreau was recently assigned to Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway to assist Euliah Thompson, an assistant principal, in running the school in the wake of the retirement of its long-time principal, Ken Graham. He will remain in that position until a permanent principal is appointed, a source at Region Five told The Wave recently.

The present Beach Channel High School principal, Dr. David Morris, was not affected by the wave of removals.

In addition, Robert Haberski, one-time assistant principal at Far Rockaway High School and more recently the principal at Sheepshead Bay High School, was demoted to assistant principal.

"Empowering our principals and then holding them accountable for their performance is one of the key components of our Children First agenda," Klein said in making the announcement. "Without question, we are looking to our principals to step up and promote student achievement, raise the bar on professional development for teachers and fill the leadership role in our communities."

Council of Supervisors and Administrators President Jill Levy, however, reacted angrily to the chancellor’s announcement.

"It’s unfortunate that the Mayor and the Chancellor find it necessary to go public with personnel matters," Levy said in a prepared statement. "It is also disappointing that the Department of Education was not able to provide the support and skill development these principals needed in order to succeed.

"The Mayor and the Chancellor are quick to point out in this year of school change, it is too early to judge their [own] performance," Levy added. "Sadly, today’s announcement demonstrates that they are not always willing to give principals the same opportunity." At Press time, a Region Five Spokesperson said that the new FRHS principal would be Denise Hallett, formerly an AP, Security at Robeson High School, who also worked at the Brooklyn region..

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