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Bronx Science Special Complaint Nears Conclusion

October 7, 2009 pm31 9:59 pm

Article from the 10/7/2009  Riverdale Press:

Math teachers’ complaint adds up to arbitration

By Kate Pastor

When kids fight, they’re sent to the principal’s office. When teachers fight with principals, they’re off to arbitration.

The next meeting set up to resolve a special complaint filed with the Department of Education by the United Federation of Teachers in May 2008, and signed by 20 out of the 22 teachers in the math department, is set for Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Special complaints are made by the UFT when members are “intimidated” or “harassed” at work and the principal or other supervisor has failed to adequately address the situation, according to article 23 of the teacher’s contract posted on the UFT Web site.

A letter that was the basis of the complaint accuses Rosemarie Jahoda, the assistant principal overseeing the Mathematics Department, of intimidating, yelling at and verbally abusing teachers, while discouraging union activity. The letter was posted online by a former student.

According to the UFT, special complaints go through fact-finding, nonbinding arbitration. Arbitrators then hear both sides and recommend a settlement, which can be accepted or rejected by the city’s school chancellor once it is sent to his office.

Ms. Jahoda unfairly requires untenured teachers to supply lesson plans in advance, insists upon unusual grading systems and clamps down on new teachers, according to the contents of the letter.

More than a year has passed since that complaint was filed, and in the time it has taken the Department of Education to make a decision on it, some teachers say administrators are further harassing the letter’s signers, who are then leaving in droves.

Over the past two academic years, about half the teachers who left the school were from the math department, according to numbers provided by Principal Valerie Reidy. However, she said, while 20 teachers left the school last spring and 14 left the year before, those numbers do not differ much from years past. Additionally, she said, teachers in the math department tend to be older than in other departments. Several of them retired, she said.

“The mobility of the workforce has increased. Certainly that is what’s happening at Bronx Science,” she said.

Joan Alexander is one of those retirees. Though she says her decision to leave had nothing to do with Ms. Jahoda, the math teacher was a 32-year veteran at the school and says it is on a downward plunge.

“ … The last two years were so horrendous and so heart-wrenching to the senior staff that it was just a nightmare to be there,” Ms. Alexander said.

She said she and other senior teachers were concerned for younger teachers who, Ms. Alexander says, the new leadership tends push around in particular.


She herself got her first “U,” or unsatisfactory rating for attendance, as she prepared to leave the school after more than three decades. Ms. Alexander said she felt it was in retaliation against her for signing the complaint.

“I never thought I would get a U,” she said, admitting that she had taken more than 10 sick days, which is enough to lead to such a rating, but that she had legitimate medical reasons for doing so and the unfavorable rating is given at the principal’s discretion.

She is fighting the blemish on her record and said the “polarized” environment she left was starkly different from the one she had come to love over the decades. She remembers teachers vying to stay at the school, not scrambling to leave.

“I had 30 out of 32 wonderful years,” she said.

They’re unhappy

Whether teachers leaving is part of the normal ebb and flow of modern workplaces or a sign of something troubling is open to interpretation. Whether a number of teachers are unhappy there, is not.

Seventy-five percent of Bronx Science teachers responded to the latest NYC School Survey, and 55 percent said school leaders let staff know what is expected of them, down from 71 percent the previous year. Twenty- five percent said school leaders invite teachers to play a meaningful role in setting goals and making decisions, down from 41 percent.

The grievances raised by the math department are easy to find in the blogosphere.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. canwetalk permalink
    October 8, 2009 pm31 9:49 pm 9:49 pm

    I hope that there is justice and redemption for those teachers who were shamefully abused by Jahoda. If administrators side with the teachers, then it is kudos to those courageous and brave teachers who stood up to Jahoda. I am hoping to hear a decision that will impact all future union members in a favorable way.

    • CATO permalink
      October 9, 2009 pm31 1:06 pm 1:06 pm

      I love how you blindly support the union position and inherently righteous and correct. Isn’t there this skill called “critical thinking” that we’re supposed to be using…and teaching…

      • October 9, 2009 pm31 2:57 pm 2:57 pm

        I love how the only “critical thinking” Anonymous engages in is to be critical of teachers. He seems never to engage in any “critical thinking” when it comes to Reidy and Jahoda. The only skill he engages in is “mindless toadying”.

        • Anonymous permalink
          October 13, 2009 pm31 6:03 pm 6:03 pm

          If I’m a toady, I’d rather by a toady of someone who can actually do something positive for me as a professional. The UFToadies who fought Jahoda are all gone (Abbott, Smith, Bellantoni, Alexander, etc.). Of course, the person for whom they were toadying–the fearless UFT chapter chair(emphasis on the U–as in rating) is still here, albiet toady-less, as he threw his people to the wolves.

          Not to worry, in spite of the “protections” of my union, Bronx Science is still a great place to teach.

      • Anonymous permalink
        October 13, 2009 pm31 6:07 pm 6:07 pm

        Wrong…I’m not CATO…or Vertias…Or anyone else!

        • October 13, 2009 pm31 6:23 pm 6:23 pm

          No, you’re your own worm.

        • another Bx Sci teacher permalink
          October 17, 2009 am31 10:13 am 10:13 am

          To Anonymous: Great place to teach? Depends on the department in which you teach. How about that technology department? Keep up those cuts Reidy!!

      • another Bx Sci teacher permalink
        October 14, 2009 pm31 5:16 pm 5:16 pm

        Cato: Under Reidy we all have to have the same aims/objectives and lesson content. How does that encourage critical thinking?

  2. canwetalk permalink
    October 9, 2009 pm31 8:12 pm 8:12 pm

    Anon: I am supporting those teachers who decided to brave the constant indignation of an administrator towards them. There’s no need for me to go into “critical thinking” because I’ve read about the situation that occured at Bronx Science and how the union went to the school to reason with administration regarding the behavior of the AP of the Math Dept. I don’t need to do an item analysis of the who, what, where, when, and how of all the particulars in this case. If you want, since you brought it up, please provide your perceptive, evidence, rationale, and analysis of this case. I assume you **don’t** belong to any union and feel comfortable with that statement.

  3. bxsciteacher permalink
    October 13, 2009 pm31 7:55 pm 7:55 pm

    I find it highly amusing that the pro-admin posters here continue in the belief that the almighty chapter leader is behind the math department insurgency and that 20 highly educated people cannot think for themselves. I know the truth – the current chapter leader was not involved in the drafting of the letter nor did he spearhead the effort to get the 20 to sign the special complaint. You must feel comfortable believing that one person is responsible for the complaint – nothing can be further from the truth. May justice prevail and may Jahoda finally tell the truth tomorrow and admit to all the conduct that caused this complaint to go forward!

    • another Bx Sci teacher permalink
      October 14, 2009 pm31 5:14 pm 5:14 pm

      Bx Sci teacher is correct. The current chapter leader did not lead the insurgency. The veteran teachers were upset by the treatment of the new teachers. Can you blame them for leaving? They had to stay late, submit aims/objectives, lessons, and tests in advance and were given little or no feedback. Jahoda missed meetings she scheduled with them. Now there are so many new teachers in the Math Dept. What help are they getting? Do they have to stay late for meetings with her? Does she look over their tests?
      And as for the retirees of the Math Dept. I don’t think those 4 teachers would have retired in June or Greg Green leave in the middle of summer if not for Reidy and Jahoda.
      The Math Dept used to be one of the best at Bx Science. Now its been decimated and many classes cut.
      Anonymous..Bronx Science is still a great place to teach? How long have you been here? Under Reidy its becoming a great place to tutor. There are students in AP and other advanced courses who don’t belong in those classes. She cut back on classroom time so we can tutor. Its like teaching 6 classes a day.

  4. Jipped Senior permalink
    October 15, 2009 pm31 5:27 pm 5:27 pm

    What someone told me the other day:

    “Haven’t you heard? It’s not the Bronx High School of Science anymore, it’s the Bronx High School of REMEDIAL science.”


  1. Bronx Science Arbitration – DoE Rejects Findings « JD2718

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