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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

NEWS ALERT: Principal of PS 154X is Removed

Principal Linda Amill Irizzary of PS X154 was removed from her position on May 4, 2009, only weeks after the Assistant Principal Derrick Townsend was sent to the Bronx "rubber room" for allegedly harming the children in the school. Parents and teachers were angry and upset at the duo.

New York Board of Education Administrator Marsha Elliott assumed the position formerly held by Irizzary on May 5, 2009.

Betsy Combier

The article posted on this blog in February:

What is going on at PS 154X in the South Bronx? And what is Joel Klein doing about it?

Teachers are in an uproar at PS 154X in District 7 in the South Bronx. A source there has told us that one of the Assistant Principals, Derrick Townsend, is harming the children with rough and abusive actions that are excessive. They say that what is happening at PS 154 does not serve the best interests of the children.

The school has 500 students, yet there are three assistant principals. The school has an "administrative teacher" and basically no one knows what her duties entail. There is no SAVE room because as the principal has said, according to teachers, "I don't believe in the SAVE room", and "I do not wish to discipline students".

Students are moved out of a CTT class into a mainstream class without parental notice or consent. The 12:1:1 kindergarden class is currently being taught by the third teacher in the classroom for this year, and there are many questions as to whether or not any of the children in this class are appropriately placed. When a student from this class was asked to leave with AP Townsend, and this student decided that he did not want to walk any more, Mr. Townsend dragged him 40 feet down the hall (September 29, 2008).

Also from a source at the school:

On February 13, 2009 a young third grade girl told her teacher that a boy had touched her. Mr. Townsend went to the classroom and humiliated the girl. A struggle ensued, leaving the girl's arm buised. She was taken to the nurse, who said the bruises were "old".

On or about November 7th 2008 AP Derrick Townsend grabbed a 3rd grader by the shirt, dragged him and tore the boy's shirt. The mother, who is in the school everyday, was never initially informed.

On October 14 student A in the 5th grade said he wanted to blow up the school. His punishment - he can't go outside for lunch and that he has to do "community service" for two weeks with a first grade class at that time - was never carried out. Nor was it ever reported.

A student has made several threats to a teacher. The principal's reaction has been to give more counseling to the student and it has never been reported. There is no SAVE room, so students that act up are simply placed in another classroom, disrupting instruction at the new location. Similarly, students are brought into the school after being suspended from other schools and placed in PS 154X classrooms at random. Almost always this starts trouble. Sometimes these displaced students are supposed to receive special education related services and/or staffing, which, as the teacher at PS 154 does not have the IEPs, cannot be provided. Often, a student who gets disruptive, spends the rest of the day in the office with Mr. Townsend, without any instruction.

Gotham Schools also has the 'resignation' of Irizzary:

At a South Bronx school, a teacher blogs and a principal resigns
Posted By Philissa Cramer On May 5, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

Nine months after an anonymous teacher-blogger began waging an online campaign against the leadership at his school, PS 154 in the Bronx, the principal that he skewered has decided to resign.

As of today, Linda Amill-Irizarry is no longer the principal at PS 154, DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte confirmed for me. Amill-Irizarry, who before becoming PS 154’s principal was briefly the superintendent of District 8 in the Bronx, is taking a position in the Leadership Learning Support Organization, one of the outside support networks that schools can partner with. PS 154 has been part of a different network, the Empowerment Schools Organization.

Marsha Elliott has been appointed as interim acting principal, Forte told me. Elliott was formerly an assistant principal at PS 50 in the Bronx, and she also led PS 158 while it was being phased out due to poor performance. According to The Chief-Leader [1], a newspaper produced by the city’s labor organizations, Elliott was fined last year by the city’s Conflict of Interests Board for encouraging staff members at PS 158 to visit the church in Queens where she and her husband were co-pastors.

Forte said there is an open investigation of Amill-Irizarry in the Office of Special Investigations, the DOE’s in-house unit that examines allegations of wrongdoing in the city schools. Forte she said she could not characterize the allegations against the former principal but said the investigation would continue.

For the last nine months, the teacher-blogger has documented what he says is illicit behavior at PS 154, charging that Amill-Irizarry and an assistant principal, whom he nicknamed “Numb Nuts,” failed to report incidents according to required procedures. The teacher reported yesterday on his site, [2], that it appeared that his principal, whom he briefly named [3] back in January, would be leaving the school. He wrote that he would be removing old content from the site and changing the focus of his postings. The blog “has served its purpose in its current incarnation,” the teacher wrote. “It’s a time for healing.”

Amill-Irizarry’s resignation marks the second time in recent weeks that a principal under siege has chosen to leave his or her school. At MS 8 in Queens, teachers and parents protested [4] outside the school every day for weeks against their principal, John Murphy, whom they called “disrespectful” and abusive. The DOE stood behind Murphy, but Schools Chancellor Joel Klein accepted Murphy’s resignation [5] last week, saying that Murphy had decided he would rather step aside than continue to be a distraction at the school. Murphy had been previously resigned from the principalship of a school in Connecticut after parents and teachers there campaigned against him.

Here is an article published by the TimesLedger Newspapers in Queens on Murphy's 'resignation':

April 30, 2009 --

Principal John Murphy resigned from his position at Middle School 8 in Jamaica Tuesday, after more than a month of protests from the Jamaica school's teachers who claimed they had been on the receiving end of his tyrannical behavior.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said the controversial administrator stepped down as the principal of the school, located at 108-35 167th St., because he did not want to create a bad learning environment.

"Principal Murphy has come to believe that his continued presence at MS 8 is distracting from the school's learning environment and focus on student academic performance," Klein said in a statement released Tuesday, hours after Murphy submitted his resignation papers.

Murphy, who came to the school in the fall of 2005, has been accused by past and present school staff of harassment. Assistant Principal Cheryl Spencer will act as the intermediate principal until the Department of Education finds a permanent replacement, according to the chancellor.

The news of Murphy's resignation pleased Christina Rozeas, a former MS 8 guidance counselor who was fired by Murphy last year.

"I think it's a good thing for the school. The assistant principal is awesome. She has a better relationship with the children," she said.

Last month Murphy allegedly scolded teaching aide Nyasia Johnson, causing her to have a panic attack and to be sent to the hospital in an ambulance, according to the police. The incident prompted the school's staff to hold daily protests at the school, demanding that the DOE remove Murphy as principal.

The agency and the principal's union backed Murphy despite the outcry and cited his 3-1/2-year record at the school. The school went from a D rating in the 2007 report card to a B rating in its 2008 report card.

Klein continued to praise Murphy for his work at the school.

"I thank him for his service and congratulate him and the entire school community, including teachers, students, and parents for the accomplishments of recent years," he said in the memo about the resignation.

Teachers claim the report card grade was inflated because Murphy threatened to fire teachers who did not promote failing students. In a 2008 e-mail memo obtained by the TimesLedger, Murphy ordered teachers to promote 20 students who failed.

"Remember how we did it last year... We moved them up, and then gave them MEGA EXTRA help," he wrote in the e-mail.

This is not the first time Murphy was forced to step down as a school head. Before coming to Queens, Murphy was principal of Danbury High School in Connecticut for less than six months before being compelled to resign, according to Leroy Gadsen, the head of the Jamaica NAACP, which investigated the principal for suspected civil rights violations.

Murphy allegedly harassed staff members in the Connecticut school, leading to numerous complaints against him, according to the NAACP head.

"We hopefully now can return to a place of normalcy where these kids can get a good education," Gadsen said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

and the Daily News:

Teachers call for ouster of principal John Murphy, accused of outburst that sent aide to hospital

BY Clare Trapasso

Friday, March 27th 2009, 4:00 AM
Related News

* Principal of Queens' Junior High School 8 John Murphy's outburst sends teacher's aide to hospital
* Middle School 8 principal gets backing from Education Department

It can't be easy being John Murphy.

Last week, the Middle School 8 principal was accused of a verbal outburst that upset a teacher's aide so badly that she went to the hospital.

This week, teachers protested outside the Jamaica, Queens, school every day calling for his removal.

They accuse Murphy - who many say is abusive to teachers and staff - of intimidating them into inflating grades to boost the school's ratings.

"We were told last year that we could not fail a child under any circumstances," said Melissa Weber, an eighth-grade social studies teacher.

"Failures, suspensions and school incidents all play into your school's grade."

Weber said she found out the hard way how important that was to Murphy after she failed five of her 120 students last year.

"I was called into his office and asked how dare I not follow a directive," Weber recounted. "He explained to me that I had to change them. ... I was afraid that I was going be fired if I didn't."

Weber is one of several teachers who say they were told not to fail students.

Murphy could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Pressuring educators to change grades is a serious offense, said Jay Worona, general counsel for the New York State School Boards Association.

A principal who alters grades to make a school look good can lose his or her administrator's certification and job, he said.

Following the incident with the teacher's aide, city Education Department officials said there were no plans to fire Murphy.

"Under Principal Murphy, [MS] 8 has improved from a D to a B, and the school just came off the state's list of failing schools," said agency spokesman David Cantor.

But the agency is investigating Murphy for the teacher's aide incident and another case - not necessarily for grade inflation - an official said.

Inflating grades isn't the only thing Murphy's been accused of since he came to MS 8 in 2005.

"He's had consistent complaints of harassment, intimidation and demonization of the teachers, parents, students, volunteers," said City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). He has urged Murphy be removed.

That doesn't surprise William Murray, president of a Connecticut teachers union.

Trouble has followed Murphy since he was principal of Danbury High School - from the summer of 2003 until he resigned in March 2004, said Murray.

"Some people felt that he was intimidating," Murray said. "The whole climate was not pleasant."

Teachers such as Deborah James, an MS 8 special-education instructor, are hoping Murphy resigns again.

"We plan to demonstrate until his removal," James said.

Principal of Queens' Junior High School 8 John Murphy's outburst sends teacher's aide to hospital
BY Henrick Karoliszyn And Wil Cruz
DAILY NEWS WRITERS, Thursday, March 19th 2009, 12:12 AM

A Queens principal with a reputation for blowing his top snapped at a teacher's aide Wednesday, an outburst that sent the nerve-racked assistant to the hospital, sources and officials said.

Nyasia Johnson was so rattled after a verbal tongue-lashing from Junior High School 8 Principal John Murphy that she called paramedics, officials said. Cops responded to the Jamaica school, too, but no charges were filed.

Johnson was taken to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where last night she was being evaluated for headaches, shock symptoms and elevated blood pressure.

"She's hanging in there," said a friend from the hospital's emergency room.

Teachers at JHS 8 described the incident as the latest eruption from a principal who runs the school with an iron fist. They said Murphy confronted Johnson after a student became disruptive.

Don Kaplan, a 61-year-old school psychologist, said Murphy treats teachers with disdain.

"He's very disrespectful to teachers," he said.

Other teachers agreed, claiming Murphy yells, is oppressive and is a "snake in the grass."

"Dr. Murphy has acted like 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,'" music teacher David Butler wrote in a list of complaints he is keeping. "[Murphy's] efforts at intimidation and harassment [have] caused a number of teachers to cry, bang on walls and even want to quit."

Murphy could not be reached for comment. School officials would not take a message for him and deferred questions to the Department of Education.

An education spokeswoman said Murphy confronted Johnson after she was sitting at a desk while the teacher was working with a student. That's when Johnson became distraught.

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the principals union, said the incident was under investigation.

Still, the council defended Murphy's track record at the school.

"Junior High School 8 has improved since John Murphy took over as principal in 2005," said a spokeswoman.

The school's rating has improved to a B grade from a D last year. Murphy has tried to oust 15 teachers after the grade improved, angering the union, sources said.

Before coming to JHS 8, Murphy worked at a Danbury, Conn., school. Officials there could not be reached for comment.

With Meredith Kolodner