A matter of principal: School chief Andrew Buck, who could hardly write a letter, must goEditorials
Saturday, October 23rd 2010, 4:00 AM
The preposterous letter Principal Andrew Buck sent to teachers at Brooklyn's Middle School for Art and Philosophy was so riddled with grammatical errors and inanities, it was impossible not to chuckle.
But Buck's case is no laughing matter.
It is not funny that parents say many kids have no textbooks at a school with dismal reading and math scores.
It is not funny that Buck tried to explain the lack of textbooks with a missive that would suggest, to put it mildly, that its author does not have facility with the English language.
It is not funny that Buck's vastly convoluted argument against using textbooks urges teachers to "Check out Wikipedia."
It is not funny that he pronounced himself anti-textbook because textbooks made his life miserable in high school and college. He wrote:
"In college, if I sat to down to read a text book my mind would wander and at times with more advance classes I literally would open a text book and start to doze off."
Then he elaborated: "I do recall from middle school, eons ago, that the one thing especially I did not like about text books: that was the questions at the end of the chapter which I didn't understand or couldn't quite answer."
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein must account for how an individual unable to construct a coherent paragraph came to be responsible for an entire middle school - this at a time when Klein stresses the need for accountable and competent school leadership.
Stunningly, the Education Department has been unable to say where Buck attained his undergraduate or graduate degrees. Such information should, of course, be at Klein's fingertips. As a matter of fact, parents should be able to find it with the click of a mouse.
Similarly, the department has not been able to explain how Buck, who started his career in New York's schools as a fine arts teacher in Queens, came in 2007 to be the principal of a middle school in East Flatbush.
What's known is sketchy and discouraging: Buck went from an art teacher to art education administrator to interim principal, all through the back channels of school bureaucracy.
In 2008, Buck was branded Brooklyn's least trustworthy principal, according to a department survey in which 100% of responding teachers said they distrusted him, 80% of them strongly.
Based on all of the above, there's little surprise his school fares poorly on math and English tests when compared to both surrounding middle schools and those citywide. More than 80% of its students scored below standards in English, and 77% in math, according to the latest results.
Klein has two choices: Remove Buck or demonstrate that, contrary to the evidence, Buck is the best available principal for 359 students.
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