2005-03-25 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

In February of last year, I got a disturbing telephone call from two of the people who I had worked with when I was a school-based staff development specialist for District 27, working out of JHS 198 and JHS 226.

Actually I first worked at JHS (now MS) 198 in February of 1965, more than 40 years ago. Can it be that long? What a different world the schools were forty years ago.

In any case, the telephone call last year led me to a meeting with more than a dozen teachers from the school at the Irish Circle after school one day.

There were a few teachers at the meeting who I had known for years, others who were new at the school and came after my time there.

The stories they told about Angela Logan, the newly-appointed principal at the Arverne School did not surprise me, but they did lead me to write a column at the time.

The conversation was about students who came to school with weapons, but were never punished nor suspended. It was about a principal who denied basic school and art supplies to her teachers but spent thousands of dollars on a machine that made plastic nametags. It was about a principal concerned more with bulletin boards in the hallways than with fights in the hallways. It was about a principal who deleted the school program the first day she walked into the building and then took a month to develop another one. It was about a principal who spent thousands on catering, designing and equipping her new office. It was about a principal who hired a parent coordinator from outside the neighborhood who disdained meeting with parents and who spent all of her time locked in the principal’s office.

Logan, sure that the teachers were conspiring against her, closed the school’s highly-respected Teacher’s Center. Pat Ritter, who had helped dozens of new teachers to transition into the difficult school, was removed and the room was physically shuttered so that teachers could not use it.

A new teacher was given an unsatisfactory rating for having the incorrect number of staples holding up a piece of teacher work. Another was given an unsatisfactory rating for taking eleven minutes to do a ten-minute lesson.

The school’s dean was told that she could no longer call parents without the express permission of the principal.

That was last year.

Just this week, I received an email from a teacher in the school.

The teacher, who asked me not to reveal his or her name, said that the staff just voted Logan “The Most Hated Principal In Rockaway.”

I know that you are going to say that a principal who is doing her job is never well-loved by the staff and that comes with the territory, but this goes far beyond that.

“Her criticism of the staff continues to be insulting and degrading,” the email says. “When Logan is questioned about the way she deals with staff, she denies that she ever said it.”

The email charges that Logan still uses school money to throw “culinary spreads” for the school security officers and the office staff.

“We have tried to get somebody to come and see what is going on,” the correspondent says. “Nobody at region seems to care.”

“The school is out of control and nobody respects the principal,” the email adds.

“She spends her entire day either at meetings trying to find something she can hang on the veteran teachers, trying to find a way to give them U [unsatisfactory] ratings. Often, her observation reports are completely fabricated, pure fiction designed to give a teacher who does not deserve it a U rating.”

According to the correspondent, a number of senior teachers have gone to her, asking for transfers to other schools.

“You are lucky to have a job and by the time I’m done with you, you’ll be fired and without a job,” Logan has reportedly told a number of teachers who have requested such transfers.

Last week, a number of officials from the United Federation of Teachers, responding to teacher complaints, visited the school and started an investigation into the teacher’s charges.

Union officials declined to comment on what they found at the school until their investigation is completed.

On Monday, March 14, Dr. Kathleen Cashin, the Region Five Superintendent, reportedly visited the school.

According to the email, Cashin ordered Logan to open an office on the fourth floor of the building.

“Hopefully, that will restore some order to the building,” the email said. “At least the people on the first floor will get a little rest from her screaming.”

The Department of Education will not comment on issues such as those raised in the email because they are a “personnel matter,” and it is illegal for them to make a comment on teacher or administrator behavior – unless it is somebody who is arrested.

And, while many teachers believe that Logan should be led away in handcuffs for her incompetence and her ruthless behavior towards teachers, it is up to Region Five Superintendent Cashin to move the principal aside.

When Logan was first appointed to take the place of former principal Beth Longo, she said that Longo had been removed for “persistent educational failure at the school.”

In the latest standardized tests, the school’s students scored lower than ever before. Only nine percent of the students passed the eighth grade English Language Arts test. Only twelve percent passed the Mathematics test. Talk about “persistent educational failure.”

In fact, District 27 is on the “Failing District” list for the second year in a row. According to the DOE, this district is “in need of improvement.” Perhaps the superintendent should be held as accountable for that as her principals are held accountable for their schools.

I first worked in District 27 schools in 1965, before moving on the Brooklyn. I was involved with the long 1968 strike against the community control that forced all union reps (most of whom were Jewish) out of Ocean-Hill, Brownsville, the first experiment in community control.

I came back to this district in 1982 and remained here in various roles until my retirement in 2001. I have never seen the cronyism that we find today, even in the bad old day of the suspended school board.

Perhaps it is time for a new superintendent who can move the district ahead, rather than back to the good old days of cronyism and failure.

Why then is Logan still at the helm of the MS 198? Only Cashin can answer that question. Perhaps Logan has the same Brooklyn connection as the last principal of MS 180, who is now long gone and others who seem to have no qualifications save for being friends or colleagues (or relatives of colleagues) from Brooklyn.

That is what our schools have come to. Bulletin boards, test-taking skills and cover you’re a__.

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