What’s Wrong With Walcott?
by Lynne Winderbaum, retired ESL teacher, JFK HS, and former Bronx High School UFT District Rep
“I’m not going to remove him, but he knows he cannot have any similar type of comments. He is on a very strict line as far as his behavior,” said Walcott, who added that some school staffers want Chase to remain in his post.
Following the deplorable moral standards of his predecessors under Bloomberg, Dennis Walcott staunchly asserts that he will not remove principal John Chase from his leadership position at Bronxdale High School.
I have represented teachers for many years as a UFT chapter leader and district representative. Given the unique position of teachers, the role model status we have, and the damage we can do if we display immoral behavior in front of children, there has been no tolerance for remaining in a classroom under even an allegation of misconduct. Teachers are removed pending adjudication to err on the side of protection. The Department of Education does not see the equivalence in protecting staff and students from misbehaving principals however.
This article in yesterday’s Daily News focuses on his b— j– comment regarding the copy machine but omits his inappropriate comments made to female employees for which he has already been found guilty. Perhaps if his own wife were subjected to comments about her breasts by her boss Walcott might take it more seriously? But this is only a secretary and he doesn’t even know her. It is much more important to stand tough in protecting the job of a principal.
And as far as school staffers wanting him to remain in his post, his entire teaching staff consists of eight untenured teachers (another good argument for tenure). They can be fired for any reason at any time while on probation. So their position must be taken with a grain of salt until they can speak without fear of consequences. Teachers should stand against sexual harassment in the workplace even if the victims are secretaries or paraprofessionals–all union members and all human beings.
And since when do chancellors, including Walcott, care if staffers want accused workers to remain in their jobs? When 400 people marched outside Roosevelt High School in support of teacher Raqnel James, a respected and beloved tenured teacher, the Department of Education stood idly by as she was shipped to the rubber room and arrested. The principal, Iris Blige, created the charges to have her removed from the school after she took the principal’s friend to court for unpaid rent. It cost James three years of salary and legal battles until finally being found “not guilty” last month in a trial. Clearly, hundreds of staffers wanted this innocent teacher to remain in her job but the DOE was unmoved. And this is just an egregious example. There are many schools where good teachers face charges and the staff supports them. Suddenly, in this case of a foul-mouthed sexual harasser, who happens to be the school leader, Dennis Walcott feels that staff “support” should outweigh the finding of guilt and the suffering of his victims?
Easy answer. Excusing principals’ bad behavior is policy. This is the Department of Education that ignored years of allegations of sexual misconduct by Richard Bost, former principal of Fordham Leadership Academy, who was also found guilty of abusing a secretary and guilty of giving $7000 of school money to his AP. Finally, after committing unwanted sexual advances against a parent, Sen. Jeffrey Klein’s office got involved and he was removed.
This is the Department of Education that supports Valerie Reidy after charges of supervisory harassment were upheld by an arbitrator, a well-documented mass-exodus of excellent teachers from Bronx High School of Science, and many demonstrations–the most recent on January 5–asked for her removal. This is the Department of Education that keeps Barbara Kirkweg, of Bronx Aerospace in place after several investigations into grade changing and loss of all Air Force funding due to a finding of misappropriation of their money. This is the Department of Education that failed to conclude investigations into Anthony Rotunno until the state comptroller found him guilty of misusing $90,000 of school money and then he resigned. This is the Department of Education that retains Iris Blige as principal of Fordham High School for the Arts despite the false charges against Raqnel James and the finding of guilt by the Office of Special Investigations into pre-determining the unsatisfactory ratings of teachers she did not like before she observed their teaching. She was fined a mere $7500 for abusing her authority and left in place. The protection of principals is paramount and appears to be the unwavering policy of the Department of Education. It is again time to fight back against this policy and demand the removal of John Chase.