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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The lack of imput

Brooklyn Principal’s Leadership Turns Many Teachers and Students Into Critics

This month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg delivered the keynote address to a conference of philanthropists at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark. He took the opportunity to extol his administration’s efforts to reform the New York City school system. And he singled out the Leadership Academy, a $77 million program intended to develop new principals, calling it “a huge success.”

Closer to home, at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, there may be some difference of opinion. There, a graduate of the academy, Jolanta Rohloff, has managed in well under two years as principal to antagonize a large number of students, teachers and alumni. The ill will, she says, is a result of her efforts to improve a troubled school.

Ms. Rohloff has dismantled the school’s program for gifted students and pushed scores of recent immigrants into English-only classes that they say they cannot understand. She has reduced students’ grades in classes based on their marks on Regents tests, provoking several formal grievances by teachers whose original grades were overruled. She has made a series of provocative statements, including one comparing Lafayette to a Nazi death camp.

The list of complaints goes on to include having a student mural painted over and distributing textbooks two months into the term.

A common theme emerges in all, which is the view by Ms. Rohloff’s many critics that she is an abrasive, autocratic leader, bent on imposing her agenda and intolerant of dissent.

“The morale here is well into negative figures,” said Patrick Compton, a social studies teacher at Lafayette for 21 years.

His colleague, Rick Mangone, chapter leader of the teachers’ union at Lafayette, said, “Teachers are worried about how she’ll react, not how to teach.” He added, “She uses fear tactics.”

Kamilah Brathwaite, 16, a junior who represents Lafayette on a citywide council of high schools, offered a strikingly similar observation.

“The majority of the students are not pleased with her,” Kamilah said in an interview. “She brings out policies by just throwing them on students. She doesn’t consult with us. She doesn’t want to hear anybody else’s input. It’s whatever she says, goes.”

Ms. Rohloff does not deny or disavow her actions. In an interview this week, she portrayed herself as an educator who had to act swiftly and decisively to reverse a “culture of failure” at Lafayette before the Department of Education decided to close the school entirely.

What is undeniable is that Lafayette was a mess before Ms. Rohloff took over in September 2005. Under her predecessor, Alan J. Siegel, the school registered a graduation rate of about 45 percent and Regents scores below those even at schools with a similar profile of largely poor, largely nonwhite students.


Adana Austin, 16, a junior, had chosen to attend Lafayette because of its Gateway honors program. When she heard last spring that it would be shut down, she went with other students to plead with the principal to restore it. At that meeting, Adana recalled, she said Ms. Rohloff asked, “What’s wrong with you, coming to public school expecting a private-school education?

In the last few weeks, several dozen recent immigrants from China signed an open letter beseeching Ms. Rohloff to reverse a policy that moves them rapidly into classes like social studies and physics that are taught entirely in English. As a result, the letter stated, they are failing courses and falling behind in graduation credits.

“I paid 200 percent attention to what teacher was lecturing, still could not understand anything,” said a translated version of the letter, which was written by Mei Ling Chen. “When everybody finished their class assignment, I was still looking for the definitions of the new words using my electronic dictionary. With the help of my dictionary, I got all the words that I need to ask a question. Yet it turned out I could not even understand the teacher’s explanation.”

Ms. Rohloff explained her stance on the gifted and immigrant students the same way: Lafayette needs to become one school, not a collection of separate groups. The gifted program, she added, was too expensive to operate because some classes had only a dozen students.

As for the faculty members, the principal faces nearly 10 grievances related to both the grade changes and accusations that she pressured teachers not to seek help from their union on various matters. Ms. Rohloff said, on the latter issue, that she was offering personal assistance and was misunderstood.

Relations probably reached a nadir several weeks ago, when Ms. Rohloff held a meeting to respond to the widespread criticism. During that session, by her account as well as that of several teachers, Ms. Rohloff said that just as her father had survived Auschwitz, she would survive Lafayette.

“The real question,” said Mr. Compton, the social studies teacher, “is can Lafayette survive her?”

Things white people feel free to say to black people

“What’s wrong with you, coming to public school expecting a private-school education?”

The odds of her saying that to a white child are close to zero.

This is an increasing problem with the Bloomberg school system. Too many autocratic prinicipals and no ability to redress grievences. Parents have been shut out of the system under Bloomberg. Principals have decided they can do anything within their schools and there is no parental way to object.

Which is why I'm suprised why people don't get the cellphone ban and it's corosive effects on the way the city schools are run.

The City had to be sued, and they still refuse to actually talk to parents to work out a solutuion. Which is ridiculous., But it's not only cellphones.

Pol slams 'outrageous' school consulting deals

Daily News Exclusive


Consultants are not only getting more than a million dollars apiece from taxpayers to find school cost savings - they're also getting as much as $500 a day for expenses.

And they don't even have to submit receipts.

It's an arrangement City Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) called "outrageous" and vowed to investigate when the Education Committee he chairs convenes a hearing today on the use of no-bid contracts in the city schools.

School officials last year awarded a record-breaking $121million worth of contracts without the public review required of most city agencies, a Daily News analysis found.

One of the largest and most controversial contracts put the city-based Alvarez & Marsal in charge of school finances for 17-1/2 months to find ways to cut bureaucracy.

The contract - which was initially posted publicly for $17 million but later modified to $15.8million - includes 19 consultants billing at rates ranging from $275 to $450 an hour, including seven whose total bills will top $1 million.

It also includes an 11% flat fee totaling $1.6 million for expenses, mostly "costs of living in New York, including hotels and flights," said Education Department spokesman David Cantor.

Some of the consultants, including project leader Sajan George, do commute from other states. George is billing $500 per day for expenses - $190,575 in all - on top of the $1.7 million he's billing for his time.
Bloomberg and Klein are spending money and using public resources without any imput. This is not the kind of money the city should be spending on consultants, period.

They treat the school system as if it is a business and they serve customers, not a public resource which serves the community. Parents have no role and little say in the decisions which
affect their children.

Which is why it is the height of idiocy that parents have to sue the city to let their kids carry cellphones. Because in one of a series of autocratic decisions, Bloomberg says no, and no one is supposed to actually object.

This is going to be a problem for Spitzer. He can't hand over $4b to a city which thinks parents have no say in their kids education.

posted by Steve @ 12:46:00 AM

12:46:00 AM

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