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More Bronx Science

March 29, 2009 pm31 11:18 pm

This is not an update – but rather a filling-in. I posted the Special Complaint from last May. At the bottom of this post is the Retaliation Grievance from last June.

BxHSoS’ perenniel duel with Stuyvesant for academically strongest high school in NYC (Board of Ed only) had been lost well before Valerie Reidy took over as principal. She did not initiate the downward spiral. But the steady destruction of the faculty, for that she holds full responsibility. Department after department has been disrupted, senior teachers pushed to retire, younger teachers to transfer.

This story is about the mathematics department. Two years ago Reidy brought in a fairly inexperienced teacher to run this senior department. Rosemary Jahoda turned out to be arbitrary, capricious, nasty… She made up rules, and accused teachers of violating them. She yelled, belittled, intimidated. She insulted teachers far more capable than she. She put in place ridiculous procedures, laughable mistakes (except you can’t laugh when the kids and teachers are victimized). And she wrote up teachers, U-rated them. After a few months in power (and this does seem like a power-trip), the teachers revolted. This is Bronx Science, “keep your head down, teach your classes” rules the day. But Jahoda was too much. Teachers with decades of service initiated the first union activity: they signed a special complaint.

A special complaint is a big deal. Article 23 of our contract creates a special, expedited path to follow when faced with unending harassment. Now, something is horribly wrong here: the DoE seriously and intentionally violated the Article, delaying the complaint over a year. That will be the subject of another post. But rewind to May of ’08, and look at those 21 out of 23 teachers in the Department who bravely stood together. And by June they were being harassed.

What follows is a second complaint, a letter of particulars about retaliation the Principal and Assistant Principal of Mathematics perpetrated against their employees.

June 26, 2008

Dear Ms. Reidy

Re: Retaliation Grievance

We, the undersigned members of the math department, each of whom signed the May 14, 2008 letter to Lynne Winderbaum, requesting the filing of a special complaint against the assistant principal for Mathematics, Rosemarie Jahoda (the “Complaint Letter”), are collectively filing an Article Two grievance for the actions taken by you and Ms. Jahoda, against us since the date of the Complaint Letter. These actions, described below, are perceived by us to be retaliatory for our collective action.

Specifically:

  1. the two teachers who we felt were being targeted by Ms. Jahoda (as noted in the Complaint Letter) received end-of-year “U” ratings;
  2. 15 of the 19 teachers of the math department have received an excessive number of preparations (3), while only 6 had three preparations in the prior year;
  3. course requests of some teachers were not honored to the extent possible, with some teachers assigned to teach classes they did not request, have not ever taught and/or have not taught in recent years; careful examination of the math program would have shown much of this could have been avoided;
  4. grievances filed by the majority of the 15 teachers with respect to (2) and (3) have been denied (and step 2 grievances are being filed);
  5. the math department has taken the brunt of the forthcoming budget cuts, losing three positions (while only one teacher in the remainder of the school was “excessed”), resulting in a reduction of class offerings to the students;
  6. preferential treatment has been given to a teacher who did not sign the Complaint Letter; we understand that he was given notice of pending cuts and was able to inform students to change their program requests for a class he teaches, thus ensuring his class was not cut; this was not done for any other teacher;
  7. a letter from the UFT chapter leader placed in faculty mailboxes, which was meant to inform Bronx Science faculty of the issues involving the math department and the special complaint, was ordered removed from faculty mailboxes by Ms. Reidy (this is the subject of a separate grievance) and replaced with a letter from Ms. Reidy supporting Ms. Jahoda and denigrating, generally, the math faculty;
  8. letters of insubordination were given to members of the staff who did not feel comfortable meeting alone with Ms. Jahoda and who attempted to exercise their legal right to the presence of a colleague during a meeting in a hostile work environment; and
  9. attempts have been made to misrepresent communication between Ms. Reidy and Lynne Winderbaum, our union representative, in order to make us feel that we do not have the support of our union.

We do not believe that any of the above actions are in the best interests of the students. We also believe that these actions serve to further the growing rift between the signatories to the Complaint Letter and the administration. The justifications for such actions have been inconsistent and contradictory and appear to be in retaliation for the writing of the Complaint Letter and the subsequent filing of the special complaint.

We hereby request the following remedies to reverse the effects of the discrimination we have experienced:

  • restoration of cuts to the mathematics program, in particular, restoration of (i) AB Calculus classes and the combined Precalculus/Calculus class to 7 periods per week, (ii) math team classes, and (iii) the Investigations in College Math class;
  • reversal of “Unsatisfactory” year-end ratings given to Mr. A and Ms. B;
  • removal of letters of insubordination placed in the files of Mr. A and Mr. C; in addition, the removal of other disciplinary letters placed in teachers’ files by Ms. Jahoda;
  • homoring of course requests; and
  • reduction of the number of preps where feasible and logical.

We remain committed to resolving the many issues concerning our department and ensuring that all students attending The Bronx High School of Science are provided with a comprehensive set of math course offerings that will challenge and develop them to their fullest potential and afford each of them the opportunity to develop the skills that will aid them in applying to colleges and in entering careers in math, science and engineering.

[original signed by 19 of 21 teachers who were at that time in the department. One of the others attached a letter – presumably offering qualified support]

[n.b. I have retyped this complaint, with some minor changes in formatting, but no changes in text (save any typos) — jd]

[also note, of the 19 signatories, 5 6 are no longer at Bronx Science – this is just 9 months later. Four new teachers were forced out, and a senior teacher retired to begin teaching in another district]

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. anonymous permalink
    March 30, 2009 am31 1:44 am 1:44 am

    Why has nothing been done? It is obvious that Ms. Jahoda should not be AP for math and that Reidy should not be principal. How many have to leave and how many have to be hurt before something is done? Why have Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein not taken action? Has anyone asked them about this? Do they even care? Can some reporter approach them about this? I would love to hear their responses!

  2. T36chBx permalink
    March 30, 2009 am31 1:58 am 1:58 am

    The reason is simple… At all these schools, especially those on the Do Not Apply List, the administrators have the backing of the Chancellor and by proxy the Mayor. Therefore, complaints disappear, teachers get fired and students lose the continuity in their classrooms that can make them really successful. You rise to the level of your incompetence, and we can see this again and again and again from the DOE. The Chancellor and Mayor like what makes them look good, and by keeping these types of people in power of our children’s future we will only suffer in the long run.

  3. anonatbs permalink
    March 30, 2009 am31 7:43 am 7:43 am

    Those who know Reidy have heard her boast about how no one can get rid of her and how the NY Times will never publish an article against her because of the Bronx Science grads working at the paper; she thinks she has connections and perhaps she is right; why the demise of one of the best high schools under her leadership is not a story is befuddling.

  4. March 31, 2009 pm31 9:12 pm 9:12 pm

    While it is clear to me that Reidy and Jahoda have the full support of Chancellor Klein, I cannot understand their motives. I agree with jd2718, that Reidy is responsible for the steady destruction of the faculty, for forcing out both senior and junior teachers, and that Jahoda is on a power trip, but to what end? What are they trying to accomplish?

    I could understand their actions if the various departments were staffed by incompetents who haven’t really had to teach for 30 years, and if they were trying to force these senior teachers out to bring in younger, more dedicated and dynamic teachers. But that is not the case, at least in the Math department, where they are primarily harassing the younger, more dynamic teachers (remember, the more senior teachers took action in defense of their younger colleagues). After forcing out these younger teachers, and making the older teachers so demoralized that they want to leave, Reidy and Jahoda are bringing in young people with no teaching experience, who are far inferior to those they are replacing.

    I also understand that, by doing this, Reidy and Jahoda gain a pliable faculty, teachers so beholden to them that their power is unchecked. But what have they gained by this? Yes, the faculty is subservient, but it is also inferior. They gain power over the wreckage of a once fine school. Their power then becomes essentially meaningless.

    Do they have a goal other than self-aggrandizement?

Trackbacks

  1. Bronx Science math teachers finally get their day « JD2718
  2. Bronx Science Arbitration – DoE Rejects Findings « JD2718

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