John Comer, new MS 180 (Queens, NY) Principal, is Accused of Manhandling a Teacher; Staff and Union Attempt Coverup
The book on the falsification of records by the NYC DOE adds another page, as staff and union representatives at MS 180 in Queens NY try to cover up teacher abuse to protect new Principal John Comer.
There are two very interesting items in the story below about the alleged manhandling of a teacher by a Principal: first, she was 'advised' not to report the incident by colleagues and union officials. This makes us wonder how many other incidents there may be, left hidden by the staff at the administration's - or union's - request; second, she was asked to sign an observation report without reading it, and when she decided to read it, saw there was a false and misleading statement made. This falsification of records is endemic at the DOE, and leaves both the DOE and the Office of Legal Services open to penalties and damages, if they are sued. We are holding them accountable.
MS 180 Principal Accused Of Manhandling Teacher
By Howard Schwach, The WAVE, November 18, 2004
A female teacher has accused John Comer, the new principal of Middle School 180 in Rockaway Beach, of manhandling her when she failed to stand in the school's hallway during the change of class one day earlier this month.
Melissa Gianninoto says that she was stunned when Comer pulled her from her classroom and flung her into a wall in the hallway.
"I stepped from the hallway for a moment to quiet my class down and get them started on their lesson," she told The Wave this week. "The principal came by and placed his hands on me. He pulled me out of the room and into the hallway."
School rules require that teachers be in the hallway during "passing" to monitor students moving to their next class.
Gianninoto, who is a licensed Social Studies teacher and is assigned to teach Language Arts, said that she was ready to go to the 100 Precinct to file charges against Comer, but was dissuaded by colleagues and union officials who warned her that she would only cause herself more problems with the principal and would then be open to have her job terminated.
New teachers can be fired for small violations of DOE regulations under Department of Education guidelines. In fact, a guidebook on how to fire teachers was recently released secretly to all principals in the public school system.
Gianninoto did file an incident report with the school's union representative, however and spoke to a union representative from another local school as well.
And, while no other adults were present to corroborate her story, a number of students witnessed the incident and told other teachers in the building about what had happened. Those teachers did corroborate the fact that witnesses supported her story.
Union officials also corroborated the fact that the incident report was filed on the day of the alleged incident.
When contacted for comment on the allegation, Region Five officials issued a prepared statement that read, "It is the policy of school that teachers remain in the hallways during passing."
That statement did not address the question of the principal placing his hands on the teacher, something that is not allowed under Department of Education guidelines.
Gianninoto admitted that she had stepped into the classroom against rules to quiet her class.
She also admitted that she has had problems with the administration of the school in the past.
"I was observed a few weeks ago by the principal and we never had a post-observation conference as required by our contract," she said. "Today, a secretary came to my room and asked me to sign the observation without reading it. She was in a hurry and told me not to read it, I did. The bottom of the observation noted that there had been a post-observation conference."
Shortly after the alleged incident with Gianninoto, Comer issued a memo to all teachers and staff.
"Be aware no one is to call 911 without the permission of the principal or the principal's designee," the memo said, although Department of Education rules require teachers to report certain abuse and criminal activities to the police immediately.
Gianninoto told The Wave she believes that the principal is harassing her. She said that the union was working out a deal for her to be transferred to another school, but Department of Education officials deny that such a deal is in the works.
Comer declined to take phone calls for comment and did not return messages left with his secretary.
Previous WAVE articles about Comer:
Comer Appointed MS 180 Principal
By Howard Schwach, The WAVE, June 11, 2004
John Comer, a newcomer to District 27, has been appointed principal of Middle School 180 in Rockaway Beach, effective immediately.
The position became vacant last month when long-time principal George Giberti left to take a middle school principal's position in Nassau County.
Assistant Principal Monica Murphy has been in charge of the building since Giberti left. It was unclear at the Wave's press time as to what her role would be in the building for the remainder of the school year.
The school is in the process of being phased out as a traditional zoned middle school.
Beginning with the 2005 school year, the building will house the "Scholar's Academy," a gifted school for all peninsula students. At that time it will contain only a traditional eighth graded – the terminal grade for the school.
It is widely speculated that PS 114 principal Brian O'Connell would then become the principal of the gifted school and that Comer would perhaps move to PS 114 in his place.
A Region Five source, who asked not to be identified because there had been no permission to talk with The Wave from the Department of Education said however, "This is an indication that, even though the school will change next year, we are not leaving the students suspended this year. We are committed to every school and we expect that the new MS 180 principal will continue to move that school forward."
Cashin: New Principal 'A Take Charge Guy'
The WAVE, Front Page June 18, 2004
Despite the fact that the newly-appointed principal of Middle School 180, John Comer, has only eight years of experience in the school system and only one as an acting assistant principal (at Middle School 226), Regional Superintendent Kathleen Cashin told The Wave recently that she is sure that Comer will be an excellent administrator for the often-troubled building.
"He is a real take-charge guy," Cashin says of Comer. "He demonstrated excellent skills as an assistant principal and took over the Region Five Science Fair his first year as an administrator."
Comer was the administrator for the seventh grade at the much-larger MS 226 in Ozone Park, Cashin pointed out.
"He supervises more children now on the seventh grade than he will next year at MS 180 administrating the entire building."
Cashin says that she is not deterred by the fact that Comer has only one year as an acting assistant principal, pointing out that she went straight from teacher to principal with no intermediate step to assistant principal.
"I promise the MS 180 community that they are getting a good guy with Comer, one who will be dedicated to the school," Cashin said. "It's good to have experience, but many people with more experience do not necessarily do a good job. There are other aspects than experience to look at in any candidate."
A number of parents have contacted The Wave this week to complain that the region was placing an "inexperienced young man" in the principal's position while demoting acting principal Monica Murphy, who has been an assistant principal at the school for many years.
A new assistant principal, chosen by Comer from two candidates, will come to the school with the new principal because, Cashin says, "We want him to come in with an AP of his choice."
Cashin says that Murphy will be given a position at another, undisclosed school in the region.
There has been some conjecture reported in the pages of The Wave that PS 114 principal Brian O'Connell would be transferred from the elementary school to MS 180 as principal once the "Scholar's Academy" is in place.
A supervisor at the regional office, who asked not to be identified, said, however, "We have an entire year to make those kinds of decisions. A lot could happen in a year and we have not yet made any decisions about moving anybody at this time.