2011-07-08 / Top Stories

Principal ‘Who Inspires’ Fired By DOE

By Miriam Rosenberg


Superintendent Juan Mendez and PA president Michell Reed during an exchange at the meeting concerning ousted high school president last week. Photo(s) by Miriam Rosneberg Superintendent Juan Mendez and PA president Michell Reed during an exchange at the meeting concerning ousted high school president last week. Photo(s) by Miriam Rosneberg One side came armed with data determined to prove to parents that their principal’s dismissal was all about academics.

The other side was not going to let their beloved principal be pushed out the door without a fight.

That was the tone of a meeting Wednesday night in the Far Rockaway High School Campus auditorium as parents and students confronted the Department of Education supervisor who last week fired the principal of Queens High School for Information, Research and Technology (QIRT).

During the July 6 meeting, Queens High School Superintendent Juan Mendez tried to stay away from talking about his abrupt firing of principal Michele Williams.

Early on, Mendez attempted to steer the conversation away from the dismissal and on to what, he told The Wave, he was there to discuss – academics. Yet, those assembled in the auditorium would not let him forget the reason they invited him.


Parents and students greet Principal Michele Williams, right who sat in the back of the auditorium during the meeting. Parents and students greet Principal Michele Williams, right who sat in the back of the auditorium during the meeting. “We want Miss Williams …they deserve to graduate with their principal [next year],” said one parent adding, “she deserves it” as the room burst into applause.

Said another parent, “[She] brings CCI – commitment, compassion and integrity to this community.”

Another parent said, “We’re seeing the progress and process with our kids. Where they’ve come from and what they accomplished along the way …you’ve got to give our students an opportunity.”

Mendez pointed to some disturbing comparisons between the school and similar city schools.

In the English Language Arts test, compared to all city schools, QIRT is ranked near the bottom.

In the mathematics exam, it fared slightly better, but still in the bottom quartile.

Parents questioned these statistics especially considering the latest regents exams were not yet factored into the data.

When asked, Mendez could not answer how many students attended regularly, were on track or making progress at QIRT.

Before the meeting several students talked about Williams’ possible departure.

“She’s like a mother,” said Tevin Robinson, 16. “She encourages students. You can talk to her about anything.”

Said Jodiann Campbell, “She keeps pushing [us to succeed], including me. She helped me pass my regents.”

Jazmyne Connor couldn’t hide her emotions. “I’m upset,” she said, adding it was Williams who has motivated those who attend the school.

Romario Robinson, 16, said, “If it weren’t for her I wouldn’t have eight regents. I would have stopped at five. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here.”

Students said they would not want to return to the school in September if Williams is not there.

Earlier in the day Williams acknowledged a problem with the school’s data.

“Initially in March when the superintendent came, there were poor pass grades on regents, which was surprising to me,” said Williams. “I needed to look to see what the issue was, and I saw that some classes were coded wrong [which lowered the scores].”

Once the problem was cleared up, Williams explained, “It became more accurate data.”

Williams did tell The Wave, “I [was] waiting for [Mendez] to call and talk about the data,” she said.

According to documents provided by Williams, most students – more than 74 percent or 52 students who just finished 11th grade, 76 percent or 65 students who just finished 10th grade, and 80 percent or 76 students who finished ninth grade – are on track for college readiness.

As for the reason for the firing, Mendez explained that Williams was “up for the completion of her [three year] probationary period …based on an overall composite …it was recommended it not be completed.”

QIRT just completed its third year of operation. The DOE has no official stats until the school’s first graduating class, which is next June.

While Mendez wouldn’t say if the ouster of Williams was final, he was overheard telling Parent’s Association President Michell Reed that it is “ultimately his decision.” He did tell parents and students that “I will take your concerns as a group back as part of the decision making process.”

Following the meeting, India Ford, a parent of two QIRT students said, “They’ve got to keep her. She made a difference.”

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