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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same: Welton L. "Tony" Sawyer is In Trouble Again

Oh my goodness. I am so totally shocked over the ouster of Welton L "Tony" Sawyer from the position of Superintendent in Mount Vernon over a sexual relationship with a teacher and then giving her a position she was not qualified to have....


When Welton "Tony" L. Sawyer was Superintendent of District 3 in Manhattan, a group of parents - including me - went to him in protest of the removal of one of the most popular teachers ever at La Guardia HS For The Performing Arts (one of my daughters was there, graduated in 2005). His name is "John Doe", brother of Dan, the principal of PS 6 who was appointed after Carmen Farina was removed and upgraded to Superintendent of District 15 in Brooklyn (where she covered up her placement of Brooklyn Tech's Principal Lee MacCaskill's daughter in an elementary school although both Lee and his wife lived in New Jersey - see the story of Steve Ostrin) . Bad administrators simply are transferred, continuously, until they retire. To what do we owe this disdain for law and rules, as well as for public money misspent? I think it is the arrogance of immunity, the "you cant do anything to me so I dont care what you think" attitude that in New York City public schools is the way things are run.

Gotta change this.


Betsy Combier

Mount Vernon schools chief apparently out; board starts search for replacement

12:05 AM, Jan. 6, 2012 

MOUNT VERNON — It appears suspended schools Superintendent Welton Sawyer is gone for good.
A Board of Education resolution, to be released publicly today, extends Acting Superintendent Waveline Bennett-Conroy’s term through July 31 — a month after Sawyer’s five-year contract is set to expire.
Bennett-Conroy was originally asked to serve in the temporary role through Dec. 31, after the board suspended Sawyer on undisclosed personnel charges during in early November.
In another closed-door meeting Dec. 21, the board adopted the resolution to keep Bennett-Conroy in her acting leadership role for the first seven months of 2012. She was previously district pupil personnel director.
The district, meanwhile, is beginning its search for a permanent replacement.
Board member Elias Gootzeit, who opposed Sawyer’s ouster, said Thursday he is inviting parents, educators, elected officials and other community leader to join a new search committee, which he will chair.
“Once the decision with the prior superintendent was made, I got involved in choosing the next one,” Gootzeit said. “My feeling is the community has to go on.”
Gootzeit said the committee will hold its first meeting Jan. 24 to discuss desired qualities in a new schools chief and whether the search should be national or internal.
Board member Lynn McBride said Thursday that Sawyer is still on paid leave.
However, several other board members reached by phone remained tight-lipped on the matter, saying they could be sued for disclosing any information — including the charges against Sawyer, the dates of a hearing, and even basic details of his employment status.
The board’s attorney, Gus Mountanos of Ingerman Smith, declined to comment — “at least at this time” — on Thursday.
Sawyer’s contract says if the board files personnel charges against him, he is entitled to a fair hearing before an independent officer upon at least 30 days notice. The hearing can be in public or private, and if the sides cannot agree on the choice of a hearing officer within 15 days, the case can go into arbitration. It also requires that he continue to receive full pay and benefits during his suspension.
Sawyer is due to be paid a salary of $269,000 this school year, the fifth and final year of his contract.
The former superintendent could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
See Richard Cox's articles:

SEX SCANDAL IN MOUNT VERNON: Former Superintendent Terminated over Circumventing School Board to Improperly Promote Unqualified Teacher, His Paramour, to Six-Figure Administrative Position

.Cox highlights the following: ". “Tony” Sawyer lost his job this week and was formerly separated from the district after school board trustees learned that he was involved in a sexual relationship with a teacher who he had promoted to an administrative position without informing the school board and for which the teacher was not qualified, sources tell Talk of the Sound.....
The law in question is Education Law §3009 which makes it illegal to hire individuals not appropriately certified or licensed. The law states "No part of the school moneys apportioned to a district shall be applied to the payment of the salary of an unqualified teacher". A teacher or administrator is considered qualified if they are appropriately certified in accordance with Part 80 of the Commissioner’s regulations.
New York Education Article 61 § 3009 (1): Unqualified Teachers Shall Not Be Paid From School Moneys
No part of the school moneys apportioned to a district shall be applied to the payment of the salary of an unqualified teacher, nor shall his salary, or any part thereof, be collected by a district tax except as provided in this chapter.
N.Y. EDN. LAW § 3010 NY Code Section 3010: Penalty for payment of unqualified teacher.
Any trustee or member of a board of education who applies, or directs, or consents to the application of, any district money to the payment of an unqualified teacher's salary, thereby commits a misdemeanor; and any fine imposed upon him therefor shall be for the benefit of the common schools of the district.

Tony Sawyer
A former Topeka Unified School District 501 superintendent has been suspended with pay from his job by a New York school board for the past four months.
Welton L. “Tony” Sawyer served as USD 501’s superintendent from July 2003 to July 2007. He was recruited after having served as superintendent of Manhattan High Schools in New York City, where he oversaw 41 schools with about 46,000 students and a $312 million budget. He had served in that position for four years before being hired in Topeka, where he was vetted as a top-notch candidate among 40 applicants.
After completing his five-year contract in Topeka, Sawyer returned to New York with a five-year contract to serve as superintendent of Mount Vernon schools.
Sawyer was suspended by Mount Vernon’s school board in early November in the midst of a controversy involving charter school funding that reached the pages of The New York Times. The Times reported that the Mount Vernon school district was refusing to pay Amani Public Charter School funding required by state law.
Sawyer told The Times that the district’s attorneys had advised him to withhold money from the charter school.
Within a week of the article being printed, school board members had suspended Sawyer with pay on as yet undisclosed personnel matters. He was replaced by former district pupil personnel director Waveline Bennett-Conroy. Sawyer’s contract is set to expire this July.
A message left at school district attorney Gus Mountanos’ law office in Hauppauge, N.Y., on Tuesday morning wasn’t returned. No phone number was available for Sawyer.
While working in Topeka, Sawyer completed doctoral work at Kansas State University, earning his doctorate in 2006. The completion of doctoral work was stipulated in his contract by the school board. Sawyer’s compensation package in 2006, including a car allowance, health insurance and life insurance, was $180,614.
The Lower Hudson Valley News reported in January that Sawyer’s salary for the fifth year of his Mount Vernon contract was $269,000.
When Sawyer’s five years as USD 501 superintendent were up, he indicated he wanted to return to an urban setting in order to help more children.
Samantha Foster can be reached at (785) 295-1186 or Samantha on Twitter @samfoster_ks .

USD 501 names New Yorker as superintendent


Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2003
The superintendent of high schools in Manhattan, N.Y., soon will take the reigns of Topeka Unified School District 501's top position.
W.L. "Tony" Sawyer has accepted the superintendent position at Topeka Public Schools. Current Superintendent Dr. Robert McFrazier announced last year that he will retire at the end of June.
Board of education members approved Sawyer as McFrazier's replacement this morning at a special board meeting. The decision follows a national search conducted over several months. Sawyer was one of about 40 who applied for the job and one of five interviewed by the board.
Sawyer said during an interview this morning that he decided to take the job, in part, because of its historical significance, referring to the Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education ruling. He also said he was impressed with current board members.
W.L. "Tony" Sawyer, who will become superintendent of USD 501 this summer
:: A board committed to progress
:: I can do more in Topeka
:: Opportunities under Mayor Bloomberg
:: Completing a doctorate degree
:: Accomplishments on the job
:: Budget shortfall is a big problem
:: A vision for the district
Related stories
:: April 24, 2003 -- USD 501 mum on search
:: April 10, 2003 -- USD 501 interviews superintendent candidates
:: March 26, 2003 -- Forty people seeking superintendent position
:: Dec. 16, 2002 -- Editorial: Robert McFrazier -- On a mission
:: Dec. 11, 2002 -- Achievement gap will be his next mission
:: Nov. 17, 2002 -- USD 501 launches search
:: Oct. 22, 2002 -- Superintendent announces retirement
Related link
:: Topeka Public Schools
"I felt that you have a board here that really is committed to progress, to building on that which already exists and making it better and stronger," Sawyer said.
Sawyer will be the 24th superintendent of Topeka Public Schools. His three-year contract will include an annual salary of $155,000. That amount is about $20,000 more than McFrazier's current salary of $135,760.
Sawyer also will see an increase in pay from his current $152,500 annual salary.
USD 501 board president Tim Clothier said the board believed the salary was acceptable given Sawyer's history and background.
"I believe the investment we have made in this individual warrants the salary," he said. "And to be honest, to find top-notch candidates in today's market place, we felt this was appropriate."
Clothier said the search has been a long process, but he and other board members are happy with the results. He said Sawyer was the board's first choice.
"You can hear the passion in his voice and that passion spills over into what he does," he said. Sawyer's ability to work with a diverse population and make progress in a time of budget constraints made him a prime candidate, Clothier said.
Sawyer has served as superintendent for the past four years in the New York district, where he oversaw a $312 million budget. He is a former teacher, assistant principal and deputy superintendent -- all within the New York City Department of Education system.
A native of New York, Sawyer is a 1974 graduate of Queens College. He also received his master's degree in education administration at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., in 1983.
Sawyer's Manhattan office is responsible for 41 high schools serving about 46,000 students. Schools under Sawyer's jurisdiction include the nationally recognized Stuyvesant High School, which works to prepare students for college math and science programs.
In 2002, Sawyer received a Tech-Savvy Superintendent award from eSchool News.
According to, Sawyer helped put together an in-house system to make student progress data more accessible. He also improved professional development for teachers and administrators through the use of IBM Learning Village.
Alicia Henrikson can be reached at (785) 295-1192 or

New superintendent -- Welcome to Topeka

Posted: Sunday, May 04, 2003

And people say Kansas doesn't have anything to attract outsiders.
Kansas -- and Topeka in particular -- certainly grabbed the attention and interest of lifelong New Yorker W. L. "Tony" Sawyer. The superintendent of New York City's Manhattan High School District last week accepted the job as superintendent of Topeka Unified School District 501.
He will start his new job on July 1, when Dr. Robert McFrazier retires.
Sawyer made a good first impression when he was introduced on Tuesday. He expressed both a very positive attitude and a good sense of humor.
"You can hear the passion in his voice, and that passion spills over into what he does," board president Tim Clothier said.
Although Sawyer will be working with smaller numbers, certainly his experience fits well with the Topeka district.
For one thing, the Manhattan district he comes from has a large Hispanic population, and that is a population that is growing in Topeka Public Schools. For another, he received one of 12 Tech-Savvy Superintendent awards from eSchool News last year, and technology is a growing tool both inside and outside the classroom.
For Sawyer, the move from New York to Topeka will require some adjustment. Beyond the cultural differences, which don't seem to concern him, he will go from working with 41 schools and 46,000 students to 32 schools and 14,000 students.
In New York, he oversaw a budget of $312 million. USD 501's budget this year is $167 million.
However, Clothier noted that Sawyer's ability to make progress in a time of budget constraints was one of the things that made him a prime candidate. And, given the state's fiscal condition, that will be one of the first challenges he will face in Topeka.
Although he has been involved with high schools over the last four years, Sawyer also has experience with early, elementary and middle school education and alternative schools.
So welcome to Topeka, Mr. Sawyer. We look forward to getting to know you.

Name: Welton L. "Tony" Sawyer
Age: 50
Home: Bayswater, New York
Current job: Superintendent of New York City's Manhattan High School District
Years in education: 27
Education: 1974 graduate of Queens College in New York; master's degree in education administration from Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y., in 1983.
Last book read: Understanding by Design by Jay McTighe, Grant P. Wiggins. "It's about classroom instruction. I mainly read books on education."
Last movie watched: "Bringing Down the House."

The Public School System In NY Never Gets Rid Of "Bad" School Administrators

Jolanta Rohloff
It seems that "bad" administrators are not bad enough for the NYC DOE to get rid of, so they are just moved. "Bad" teachers, however, are attacked until they retire or resign or are fired, even if there is no investigation or nothing proven that they did to incur punishment in the first place. (See the story of Steve Ostrin).
We all might remember Jolanda Rohloff, right? She made a mess of things at Lafayette High School, and was finally removed and made "Principal" of the Staten Island Rubber Room. While at Lafayette she dismantled the Gifted and Talented Program, just like Carmen Farina did when she was Principal at PS 6. No one went after Mrs. Farina, as she not only removed the G&T curricula, but was one of the first to implement "fuzzy math" school-wide in order to dumb-down the students in her school and then District 2. My daughter wrote an article when she was nine that not only infuriated Carmen and resulted in my daughter's removal from the 4th grade Math Team, but was published in the Riverdale Review and I posted it on my website. She never fully recovered her self esteem, but she did succeed in entering the Center For Talented Youth (CTY) program in Math and English in 5th grade, despite the attacks she received at PS 6 for wanting traditional math like her sisters (my other daughters went to private school for grades k-6).

Curious about the "bad administrators are re-used" policy, I followed Bruce Irushalmi as he was moved from position to position until he retired.: 

 The way the NYC BOE works is to re-hire personnel who were "caught in the act" so that, we believe, these people already indicted for crimes and/or corruption will maintain the code of silence for the on-going illegal activity in the District offices:

For example, Bruce Irushalmi worked for the Region 1 office during the 2004-2005 school year, despite a Stancik investigation and indictment in 1992. Region 1 superintendent Irma Zardoya's office told on August 1, 2005, that Mr. Irashalmi "retired" at the end of June, 2005, and the website does not reflect this, yet.
We previously wrote:
Mr. Bruce Irushalmi is working in the Bronx, in the Region 1 Office (which oversees Bronx Science), and was found to be engaging in possibly criminal conduct when he was Executive Director of the NYCBOE Division of School Safety, as a report by Ed Stancik shows (Private Interest Over Public Trust: An Investigation Into Certain Improprieties By the Leadership At The Division of School Safety)!!!

Bruce Irushalmi is baaaack...
Learning Support Centers
Region 1
Districts: 9, 10*
Irma Zardoya, Superintendent

1 Fordham Plaza
Bronx, NY 10458

Bruce Irushalmi, Director of Student Placement, Youth and Family Support (we do not know if he assists in the getting rid of teachers in Region 1 Schools).

November 22, 2006

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.
Lafayette also became notorious for bias attacks by African-American students against Asian-American classmates.
In November 2002, assailants beat unconscious Siukwo Cheng, 18, a top-ranked student and valedictorian candidate.
The United States Department of Justice alleged that education officials “deliberately ignored” such episodes. Under a consent decree in June 2004 between the Justice Department and the city’s Department of Education, Lafayette was required to enforce a strict policy against harassment.
SO, Ms. Rohloff, who had been a teacher and administrator for more than 15 years before entering the academy, took over a school needing and presumably wanting improvement.
She does get widespread credit in the school and the surrounding Bath Beach neighborhood for restoring safety. Under her watch, Lafayette was taken off the list of “impact schools,” those with chronic violence.
Her main mission, she said, has been to raise academic standards, by such means as ending the tracking of students by ability and harshly evaluating teachers she considers inadequate. Until her arrival, she said, Lafayette’s poor reputation had “been like a magnet,” attracting substandard teachers from other schools.
Last June, at the end of her first year at Lafayette, she gave unsatisfactory ratings to 9 of about 120 teachers. Under previous principals, about two a year would get the “U” mark, which can lead to dismissal.
In the process, Ms. Rohloff, 54, acknowledged, she has created enmity and enemies. “They aren’t sure of themselves,” she said, referring to her opposition among faculty members. “They’re afraid they’ll fail. So they feel threatened.”
Whether any of the principal’s measures have worked remains uncertain. The state will not release statistics on the school’s graduation rate and standardized test scores for the 2005-6 academic year until early next year.
Ms. Rohloff said she has increased the number of students passing enough Regents exams to earn a Regents-endorsed diploma.
“This is a school that has been troubled for a very long time, as evidenced by declining enrollment, poor graduation rates and the issues addressed in the consent decree,” Andres Alonso, the deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, wrote in an e-mail message.
“Jolanta has begun to improve results for students, which is what matters most,” he wrote. “It’s not easy to change the culture of a school without courting criticism and opposition. Hopefully, the school community can come together and focus on the kids.”
In many ways, Ms. Rohloff’s tenure has been divisive from the outset. After she offered teachers overtime pay to decorate hallways and uniformly reduced the semester grades of students who failed the Regents exams in the same subject, the Department of Education said Ms. Rohloff was not following its policies.
While Ms. Rohloff viewed herself as an advocate for students, the students themselves objected to her decisions and her way of expressing them.
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?”
Samuel G. Freedman is a professor of journalism at Columbia. E-mail:

 The curse of Lafayette High School? A brief history of scandal

Add Michael Soet, the high school principal who paid teachers to attend holiday parties and recently allowed booze at prom, to the long list of principals who’ve had problems at Lafayette High School.
The large Brooklyn high school closed in June and it currently houses five new small schools, most of which have had their staff and students in the headlines. So far, only two schools — Expeditionary Learning School for Community Leaders and Kingsborough Early College Secondary School (which was not happy about moving into the building) — have managed to avoid public controversy.

  • International High School: In July of this year, a report by the Special Commissioner of Investigations found that principal Michael Soet allowed adults to drink alcohol at the school’s prom. He also paid teachers about $5,000 in overtime to attend the prom and, in previous years, had paid them overtime to attend holiday parties. Commissioner Richard Condon did not recommend that Soet be disciplined and Soet remains the school’s principal.

  • High School of Sports Management: In 2009, a student sued the Department of Education and principal Robin Pitts, claiming that the school had failed to protect him from severe racial harassment. Michael, the student, alleged that teachers looked the other way while his classmates taunted him for being white and that when he reported the bullying, administrators informed his attackers, which led to more bullying. The student’s mother claimed that school administrators denied her son a safety transfer, so she pulled him out of the school. Pitt is still the school’s principal.

  • Life Academy High School for Film and Music: In June of 2009, principal Kaia Mashariki was spotted vacationing at a Florida resort when, officially, she was supposed to be chaperoning students on a field trip. At the time, Mashariki was already under investigation for claiming unearned overtime and taking long, unauthorized absences. She is still the school’s principal.

  • Lafayette High School: Before the school closed in June, the Post revealed that Lafayette High School principal Jacqueline Boswell had pressured teachers into giving a half-dozen students passing grades they hadn’t earned. These students then graduated as part of Lafayette’s last senior class before the school was phased out entirely. One of the students Boswell graduated had hardly shown up to the high school for classes, much less passed them.

  • Five years before Boswell appeared in the news, there was Alan Siegel, a Lafayette High School principal who was found to have spent about $1,800 in Title I money on a social event for school staff at the Staten Island Hilton Garden Inn. Advertised to staff as a Title I Administrative Planning Conference, the event was mainly a social dinner and school staff were encouraged to bring their spouses. During Siegel’s tenure, Lafayette HS also drew lawsuits over bullying of Asian American students.

  • When Siegel retired — staff say he was forced out — his replacement, Jolanta Rohloff, soon became unpopular with students in staff. In the two years she was at the school, students staged a walkout and Rohloff was accused of inappropriately paying teachers overtime to clean their classrooms (though the DOE reversed its position on this). Recently, she was assigned to oversee a Staten Island rubber room, but was removed after getting into a physical fight with a teacher over a time card.
  • Searching for reasons why one school building could house so many problems, a source said, “It must be the water!”