2008-02-15 / Front Page

PS 106 Parents: UFT Says 'Sabotage Test Scores'

By Miriam Rosenberg

Asmall group of parents at PS 106 in Edgemere withstood the freezing cold early Tuesday morning to protest the way their children are treated by school staff, as well as other "internal problems" in the school.

Parents of PS 106 students protest across the street from the school Tuesday morning. PA president Joy Bunch, right, pointed out the low turnout was due to the short notice given to parents who have to work. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg Parents of PS 106 students protest across the street from the school Tuesday morning. PA president Joy Bunch, right, pointed out the low turnout was due to the short notice given to parents who have to work. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg Parents say that, at a recent meeting at the school, UFT President Randi Weingarten called the principal unflattering names and urged teachers to sabotage the all-important standardized testing program.

"There's a crisis in PS 106," said Joy Bunch, the president of the Parent's Association. "We have safety issues surrounding the school, problems regarding the back gates being left open. There's no safety protocol in the school. There's a lack of communication between teachers and parents."

Sandra Prendergast, another parent at the school, highlighted safety issues as her main complaint.

Even though the protestors were not on school grounds, school safety officers were called and would not leave until the small group of parents did. Even though the protestors were not on school grounds, school safety officers were called and would not leave until the small group of parents did. "You can't have the [back] gate open and anybody can walk in at any time," said Prendergast. "Kids need protection."

India Jackson, who has a child in first grade at the school, elaborated on what she believes is a lack of communication between parents and teachers.

"[Teachers] don't want us to share our views on how they're educating our children," said Jackson.

In a separate issue, parents claim that a handful of teachers are verbally and physically abusing students at the school.

"I walked down the stairs last week and saw a student being dragged by his ankles," said Bunch, who added she is not the only PA member to witness such incidents. "Last year I saw a teacher violently shaking a child. There have been reports that children have been placed under their desks by the same teacher, as a means of discipline."

The PApresident told The Wave that she has in her possession signed statements by parents whose children were abused.

As of press time, The Wave had not received promised copies of those statements.

The PA official further stated that reports of the incidents were given to the principal, who reportedly had investigated the teachers alleged to have committed the abuse, but these teachers remain at the school.

Bunch also said internal problems between Principal Marcella Sills and the teachers are affecting the students.

At the end of the last school year, charges were made that Sills had falsified teacher observations and forged at least one teacher's name to those observations. A Department of Education spokesperson told The Wave at the time that the incident was under investigation, but that it appeared to be a "simple misunderstanding between the teacher and the principal."

Just last week, a group of teachers contacted The Wave, contending that Sills had sent a letter to parents urging that some of the teachers be relieved of their duties, but The Wave has not been able to obtain a copy of the letter to confirm that contention.

According to Michael Catron, a learning leader/certified volunteer, Sills has received a negative reaction from some of the teachers.

Bunch believes the involvement of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is making things worse.

Two weeks ago, the teachers requested a closed-door meeting with Weingarten to take place at the school.

By all reports, the interaction between Weingarten and Sills was contentious.

And, although no parents were present at the meeting, several parents claim to know what went on and that Weingarten was extremely critical of Sills.

Bunch and several others, who were at this week's protest, said the UFT and Weingarten have their own agenda. Parents say they were told that when Weingarten showed up for a union meeting at the school on January 30, she called Sills unflattering names.

"Randy Weingarten called Miss Sills a bitch and said that sometimes the children have to take a back seat to teacher's issues," said Catron. "And that's wrong."

Catron said he got his information from a teacher who "came out and told us what happened [at the union meeting]."

While parents have only hearsay about what went on at the meeting, some say they were told by teachers that the union president told teachers to stop teaching the test prep classes for the state math exam, which would result in lower test scores in an attempt to make PS 106 a UFT targeted school and force Sills out.

"Teachers have come up personally and told me themselves what was said in the meeting," said Bunch.

The test prep rumor is just one of the reasons a pregnant Eva Bennett, whose daughter attends PS 106, came out on one of the coldest days of the year to join in the protest.

"You don't come in calling names and spewing rhetoric and crying that teachers should sabotage test scores," said an angry Bennett. "You sabotage a kid's test scores [and] you're getting our kids left back. Did anybody talk about that? It has not been proven untrue, and in fact every person we've talked to about the test prep rumor would not deny it. I feel that it needs to be on record that there was a rumor to sabotage their tests scores, because if a large enough amount of kids fail this test you need some sort of recourse [to demand a retest]."

Bunch's position is that all the problems at the school can be handled inhouse without the outside interference of the UFT.

"We can work this out on our own," said Bunch, referring to Principal Sills, the UFT chapter representative in the school and herself.

AUFT spokesperson declined to comment on what went on at the closeddoor meeting, stating that the meeting was a clear exchange of ideas between union members and their president.

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