2004-07-09 / Editorial/Opinion

A Bad End To An Even Worse Year

A Bad End To An Even Worse Year

This was not a good year for the new Department of Education or for Region Five, which administers Rockaway’s schools. There were charges during the year of cronyism, of ignoring minority parents, of mishandling standardized tests, of mishandling the "social promotion issue, of giving "U" ratings to teachers, supervisors and even school secretaries based on age and loyalty rather than on competency. Perhaps the ultimate foul-up, however, was the naming of 45 principals who "were removed from their positions" for running failing schools. Many of those who looked at the list and the hoopla surrounding the names thought that the system was finally doing something to address the leadership problem in the public schools. If they read further, however, those who believed the list was a step forward found that it was as bogus as such movies that are purported to be "historically accurate" as "JFK" and Buffalo Soldiers. Look at the facts about the principal’s "removal." One of those who was "removed" was Barbara Pleener, most recently the principal of Beach Channel High School. In actuality, Pleener was removed from the school last October, in response to the proven charges that she had created an untenable sexual environment for one of her gym teachers at Jamaica High School. Pleener has not been in the school for the majority of the year, and The Wave was told this week by a usually reliable source that she has been appointed a Local Instructional Supervisor in another district in Region Five by Kathleen Cashin (The Wave has not yet been able to corroborate that report). Cheryll Jones, the highly-respected principal of Far Rockaway High School was forced to retire at the end of the year, rather than face a U rating. We have heard from both the parents and the teachers (through the UFT representative) that Jones was doing a great job and did not deserve her treatment by Cashin and Chancellor Joel Klein. At least three other principals on the list retired voluntarily during the school year. Of the 45, 29 were not tenured and were not entitled to keep their jobs in any case. Since those untenured principals were at their schools for less than two years, it is an indication that the DOE failed to give them the support they needed to succeed prior to "firing" them or demoting them back to assistant principal status. In fact, only two of the principals who were "fired" by Klein were tenured. They are fighting their removal and will probably win. The foolishness extends to teachers and school secretaries as well. At least five long-time school employees have contacted The Wave to complain that, after 20 or 30 years of satisfactory service, they received U ratings for what they consider to be unfair reasons. They were told to retire of to face disciplinary charges and a year at the hated Regional Operations Center (ROC), the place that many call "the rubber room." The Wave is beginning an investigation into these charges and asks that anybody similarly afflicted by the region of the DOE to contact us immediately. We are in favor of ridding the system of bad teachers and administrators. We believe, however, that this is not what is happening and we will follow the story wherever it takes us.

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