Teachers fear DOE decision will hurt Science
After the Department of Education rebuffed conclusions made by a fact-finder and sided with Bronx Science administrators over a complaint filed by teachers in the math department, UFT Chapter chair Peter Lamphere bit back.
“The decision by the DOE to ignore the ruling of the independent arbitrator who spent a year looking at the evidence is gonna be a disservice to the learning environment at the school,” he said.
In May 2008, 20 out of 23 teachers in the school’s math department filed a Special Complaint charging that Assistant Principal Rosemary Jahoda attempted to make changes in the math department by focusing on four untenured teachers. They claim she harassed them, treating them like children in an effort to meet the goals set out for her by Principal Valerie Reidy.
After months of hearings, a factfinder substantiated the claims and recommended, among other things, that both Ms. Jahoda and Mr. Lamphere leave the school for the sake of healing. However, the Department of Education rejected the nonbinding findings a short time later.
“I think it makes it difficult to begin that [healing] process when the DOE responds the way it did,” Mr. Lamphere said.
Apart from having a negative impact on the teachers directly involved, Mr. Lamphere said the Department of Education response would dissuade experienced teachers from coming to Science.
“Bronx Science has in the past been able to attract the best and brightest of New York City’s teaching workforce, and recently there’s been difficulty recruiting and retaining experienced teachers partly because of the working environment there,” Mr. Lamphere said.
He pointed to statistics showing there are fewer experienced teachers at the school than in the past, and that teachers rated the school poorly on the latest School Survey on questions related to leadership. The turnover rate for teachers is also high, he said, even when compared to Stuyvesant, a similarly lauded specialized school in Brooklyn.
The Department of Education did not respond by press time.
Mr. Lamphere said the Department of Education’s stance is about blaming teachers for problems in the schools.
“The DOE would like to argue that they need more power to fire teachers to improve education in the city. But even with the power that they do have right now over teachers’ work lives, there are cases like this one where supervisors go too far, and I think that the DOE really doesn’t want that to get out there,” he said