2014-01-17 / Front Page

PS 106 In Harsh Spotlight

By Miriam Rosenberg

Not enough books; students watch movies instead of learning; no physical education, music or art; and a principal who goes missing. Those are some of the allegations reported in a New York Post article last Sunday.

The charges leveled against PS 106 and its principal Marcella Sills in the January 12th article was enough to get Chancellor Carmen Fariña to send a deputy chancellor to the school on Monday morning.

“When I read the report of the conditions at PS 106 in Queens, I immediately deployed Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson to get the facts on what is going right and wrong at this school,” Fariña said , in a statement on Monday following Gibson’s visit. She added, “There is significant room for organizational improvement but that classrooms are orderly, teachers are dedicated, and students are learning.”

Michael Duvalle, a member of the District 27 Community Education Council (CEC) was in on a meeting with Gibson after she made her tour of the school. “The main building [according to Sills] had common core books,” said Duvalle. It is the almost 200 students who attended school in the annex next to the school prior to Sandy that are affected.

“There are no books. Nothing. It was all destroyed by Sandy. Including the tech lab,” said Duvalle.

As for the allegation that Principal Sills is at the school infrequently, Gibson said there would be an internal investigation.

A PTA meeting was held Wednesday night with Superintendent Michelle Lloyd-Bey, PTA president Wendy Pratt, Councilman Donovan Richards and Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder in attendance. Sills left the school before the meeting started. Although the press was kept out, The Wave got mixed reaction from parents as they left.

“My kids have been here the whole year,” said Jaron Spencer, who has two children at PS 106. He said they do not have books. “This is the first time they have had gym and art the whole year.” He added, “What they don’t learn, what they are supposed to learn we teach them at home. It’s like, since the news media got involved now all of a sudden it’s a big show.”

Another parent wished to remain anonymous because she says she has gotten threats because, she said “not all parents agree on what is going on at the school.”

There is science at the school, just no lab she said. She added, “The books are there. They’ve always been there.”

When The Wave pointed out that another parent said there is a book problem she said, “But it is still an A school. They are passing those statewide tests.”

A language barrier may have contributed to Latino parents leaving the meeting early. One such parent, who also wished to remain anonymous for fear her children might face retribution, said those speaking at the meeting seemed to be supporting Sills.

“I’m not going to support someone who is not helping the kids,” she said of the principal. “It don’t make no sense.”

An emergency meeting arranged by the Rockaway Youth Task Force was held on Monday and parents there were not surprised by the article’s allegations.

John Reyes said that when he asked his son and a stepson how school was “they would tell me about the movies they have watched.”

Reyes also said that when his second grade son’s teacher was absent the boy would be sent to a class two grades above his level. “When his teacher wasn’t in class he would be in a fourth grade class pretty much not doing anything,” said Reyes.

About Sills, Reyes said, “You’d see her the first day of school…. You’d be lucky if you see her two, three times the rest of the year.”

Tara Alameda’s problems with the school and Sills, have been documented by The Wave and the Daily News. Alameda filed a complaint against a teacher is who apparently is a friend of Sills. The principal retaliated by trying to keep her son, who had an Individualized Education Program, from graduating.

“If it wasn’t for me emailing Joel Klein at the last minute, because Lloyd-Bey was ignoring me as well, my son wouldn’t have graduated,” said Alameda.

Some of the young alumni at the meeting talked about the school before Sills came.

“Before Miss Sills we had the music program, the anti-violence thing…. The music program actually taught me more than my high school taught me,” said one girl.

One explanation of why post-Sandy reconstruction is slow at PS 106 may have to do with what the CECs Duvalle was told by School Construction Authority representative Monica Gutierrez and her colleague at a CEC meeting in December. He was told, as an option to repairing PS 106, they are looking to tear it down. Duvalle said they are hoping to get money from FEMA.

According to Alameda, who attended the PTA meeting, officials did speak about the need for a new building. “They said they always needed space,” said Alameda. “They are fighting for government funding.”

Councilman Donovan Richards, who called the school one of the better schools in his district with A’s and B’s, toured the school with Gibson. On Monday he also got mixed results when he talked with parents.

“Some parents were happy with how the school is run, some believe there is room for improvement and some felt the principal treated them in a dismissive sort of way,” said Richards.

Sills did not return requests for comment. Superintendent of District 27 Michelle Lloyd-Bey referred the paper to the DOE press office who would not comment any further than Monday’s statement by the Chancellor. The Wave also did not hear back from the School Construction Authority.

PS 106 and its principal have been featured in both The Wave and Daily News articles in the last few years, including in 2008 when parents protested the way staff treated their children and other “internal problems” at the school.

Chancellor Fariña’s statement on Monday promised that, “Going forward I will have a field staff at the school weekly to make sure those organizational changes occur. We are going to relentlessly support this school and marshal our resources until we see the results we expect for our children.”

On Thursday, The New York Post took credit for new books arriving at the school on Wednesday.

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