2004-08-27 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

There are six secondary schools in Rockaway – Middle School 53, Middle School 180, Middle School 198, Far Rockaway High School, Beach Channel High School and the new Channel View Academy to be housed at BCHS.

Six schools. Their six principals have exactly two years of combined experience on the job. That comes out to less than a few months per principal. Not exactly heady stuff.

As Warner Wolf would have said if they hadn’t fired him, let’s go to the videotape.

Andrea Logan has been the principal of MS 198, arguably the worst middle school in the city, for a year now. She is one of two senior principals in Rockaway.

It is amazing Logan still has her job. Senior teachers tell horror stories of misspent funds, surly students and an incompetent principal who has no idea how to remediate the problems of the school.

The saving grace for the schools is that the middle school component is being phased out beginning this year in favor of the “Goldie Maple Academy,” which will begin with a pre-k to grade 2 organization and will gradually become pre-k to 8.

David Morris is the other senior principal in Rockaway. He has been at Beach Channel High School less than a year, having taken over from the former principal because she was found to have “created a hostile sexual environment” in her previous school. Boy, Cashin picks winners, doesn’t she?

Morris has been doing a decent job at BCHS despite the fact that the cops from the 100 Precinct are there just about every day and more than a dozen weapons were pulled from the school last year. This year, his school will include the new “Channel View Academy for Research,” a grades 6-12 school and won’t that be a challenge, keeping his 18-year-old criminals away from the 11-year-olds in the building? More on Channel View later.

Claude Monereau, who was the discredited assistant principal at Beach Channel High School and who did more to create racial unrest at that already-troubled school than anybody else, will become the acting principal at MS 53 in Far Rockaway. Why? That is a question that nobody at Region Five seems to want to answer. Earlier in the summer, when he was put into the building “to help with summer school,” I was promised that he was not going to be the principal to replace Ken Graham. Guess What? There he is. Monereau, in my opinion, is a racial arsonist and a man who believes that he is the savior of Rockaway’s schools. At one time he came to me for my support to make him principal of BCHS. When he did not get that job, he undermined a series of principals so that he could get the job, forcing community picketing and racial hostility along the way. Sounds like the perfect pick for principal, right?

So far, three principals, two years of experience among them.

John Comer is the new principal of Middle School 180. He comes to the school with one year’s experience as an assistant principal. The betting is that he will become the new principal of PS 114 at the end of this coming school year when the principal of that school, Brian O’Connell, moves to MS 180 to run the Scholar’s Academy. The Region says no, but you all know what their word is worth. They proved that with Monereau.

Nobody knows anything about Comer, because he showed up for the first time the day after the kids left for the summer. Suffice it to say that there’s lots of nepotism involved in this region, more than the bad old days of the community school boards.

That’s four principals, two years of total experience as a principal.

Denise Hallett is the new acting principal of Far Rockaway High School, replacing Denise Jones, who was forced to retire by the region. She comes from an assistant principal’s job in Brooklyn and from that regional office. We can’t say anything negative about her, because she has yet to surface in the community.

Five principals, two years total experience.

The final new principal in Rockaway is Pat Tubridy, who has moved from the assistant principal or director of The ALPS Program at MS 180 to the principal of the Channel View Academy of Research at Beach Channel High School.

Pat is one of three Pat Tubridy’s in Rockaway schools. The best way to tell who they are without a scorecard is by their relationship to long-time saloonkeeper and Democratic pol Dan Tubridy. The Pat Tubridy at Channel View is Dan’s sister. The Pat Tubridy who is the assistant principal PS 225 is Dan’s wife. The Pat Tubridy who is the principal of PS 47 in Broad Channel is Dan’s sister-in-law. Confused yet?

Although she has been the administrator of her own little program for years, sometimes as director (but not principal), sometimes as AP, she has no experience as a principal. Should one of her young, sixth-grade charges at BCHS be attacked or sexually molested by one of the older students in the building, both her principalship and her program will most likely come to a swift halt.

Make that six principals, two years experience. What a way to run a school district.

While Region Five Supervisor Kathleen Cashin and her minions rave about the new appointees and talk about the fact that experience as an assistant principal or principal is not the key to success in schools, there is little doubt, at least in my mind, that the lack of experience on the part of our school leadership is difficult to understand.

Not only has the region chosen relative neophytes when experienced people are available, but it seems that in a few cases, it has chosen neophytes that have already proven to be bad choices.

What does this lack of leadership experience mean for our schools in a time of change and turmoil? It does not bode well for the coming years.

Like everybody else, however, we’ll just have to wait and see. This is one case where I really would love to be proven wrong, but I’m reasonable certain that we are looking at a troubled year in Rockaway’s schools.

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