|Greta Hawkins, at left|
|Greta Hawkins and Mike Bloomberg|
Greta Hawkins caused a furor when she barred her PS 90 kindergartners from singing “God Bless the USA” at their graduation ceremony in 2012.
Now she has stopped pre-K kids from singing “Stand Up for the Red, White and Blue” at their June 19 moving-up ceremony.
A class of 4-year-olds was rehearsing the song — which they would belt out while marching into the auditorium waving mini-American flags — when Hawkins halted the patriotic parade.
“You didn’t ask permission to do it,” Hawkins scolded the teachers.
Stunned and disappointed, teachers said the simple, rhyming processional was sung to cheers at a pre-K ceremony several years ago.
“It’s a nice, rousing song,” one said. “The parents got up and clapped and yahooed. The kids waved their flags, and it just got everything going.”
With a bouncy beat, the song begins:
Stand up, stand up, for the red, white and blue.
Stand up, stand up, our flag is passing through.
Our country is our land of free, our home of law and liberty.
Stand up, stand up, for the red, white and blue.
Hawkins insisted her refusal to allow the song has nothing to do with patriotism.
In an email to The Post, Hawkins said the song was not on a list the teachers had submitted.
The kids will perform several other tunes during the ceremony, including “You Are My Sunshine” and “What a Miracle Am I.”
“Teachers were reminded in meetings and in communiques not to add or remove from what was already approved weeks ago,” Hawkins wrote.
Hawkins also nixed the little flags, referring to them as unapproved “materials.”
Kids stand for the Pledge of Allegiance each morning at PS 90. But in September, Hawkins eliminated the daily singing of “America the Beautiful.”
In 2012, when Hawkins silenced “God Bless the USA,” the Lee Greenwood ballad also known as “Proud to Be an American,” she reportedly told teachers it might “offend other cultures.” PS 90 is full of immigrants from Mexico, Pakistan, India, Russia and elsewhere.
She later told Department of Education higher-ups that the lyrics were “too grown up” for 5-year-olds, though she left Justin Bieber’s flirty “Baby” on the program. The DOE had her yank that one, too.
Last week, a pre-K mom who learned about the slashed song was upset.
“I’m angry about it,” she said. “It’s the American flag. What’s wrong with that? So many soldiers died for it. Why is she against the red, white and blue?”
Her child sings the lyrics at home, the mom said. She called the waving of flags “wonderful.”
Teachers suggested kids could wave flags from other countries as well, but Hawkins dismissed that idea, they said.
Instead, Hawkins and an assistant principal asked the teachers, “Why can’t you do something more modern?”
As of Friday, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, no new song was approved. The assistant principal said the children would enter the auditorium without singing anything.
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| District 21 Representative Judy Gerowitz (left) and Chapter Leader Vicky Giasemis outside PS 90, |
where Principal Greta Hawkins has drawn the ire of parents and teachers.
Walcott dodged the question, insisting he couldn’t deal with “personnel specifics publicly.”
Rotondo was one of more than two dozen parents from Coney Island’s PS 90 who turned out at the town hall meeting to complain about Greta Hawkins, the principal since September 2009 and a Leadership Academy grad.
Parents and teachers want her gone.
Organized as the Action Committee to Save PS 90, the parents produced a two-sided flier for the meeting that contained a long list of accusations against Hawkins, including:
- threatening to report the parents of misbehaving students to the Administration for Children’s Services;
- chronically underreporting safety incidents; and
- refusing to account for $3,600 of Title I parent involvement funds from the previous school year.
Hawkins also has been criticized by staff and parents for closing the school’s library and selling off its books (at 25 cents per book); shutting the school’s state-of the art computer lab, which was funded by local Councilman ; and ending instrumental music instruction at a school ironically named the .
The Department of Education reprimanded Hawkins and sent her to sensitivity training after investgators from the DOE’s found that Hawkins made offensive racial remarks at a June 2010 faculty meeting.
Nine UFT members who attended the mandatory meeting filed a complaint.
Principal Greta Hawkins (above, left) has drawn the ire of parents and teachers.In their Sept. 8, 2010, findings, the investigators concluded: “By deliberately differentiating herself, a black Jehovah’s Witness, and the previous principal, white and Jewish, in the context of a mandatory staff meeting addressing rumors and discussing hiring and upcoming changes in the school, Principal Hawkins offended multiple staff members.”
Chapter Leader Vicky Giasemis said that many of the teachers who filed the complaint — even though they were not identified by the Office of Equal Opportunity — were removed from their positions.
Hawkins’ critics say she took a healthy school culture and made it toxic.
“She’s not a boss who pushes the staff to work better. She’s a boss who lies to end your career,” said one longtime school veteran, who asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Hawkins has since singled out the chapter leader for abuse. Giasemis had what she described as a “spotless record” for her first 12 years of teaching. That ended in 2010, when she became the school’s union representative, she said.
“Immediately the retaliation started,” Giasemis said. “All of a sudden I became incompetent and abusive.” Hawkins wrote her up multiple times and gave her a U-rating.
Among the formal grievances pending against Hawkins, District 21 Representative Judy Gerowitz said, was one brought by 13 members accusing Hawkins of micromanaging the format of the lesson plans.
In a case in point, Hawkins’ Jan. 30 school newsletter The Monday Message contained “a fourth reminder” in which she spelled out in minute detail what lesson plans must include. Gerowitz noted that the UFT contract stipulates that supervisors cannot require a particular lesson plan format unless a teacher received a U-rating, or has been given a formal warning of a possible U-rating.
The chapter leader herself has filed grievances charging Hawkins with disciplining her for carrying out union duties.
Still, Giasemis doesn’t heap all the blame on Hawkins.
“It’s the DOE’s doing,” said Giasemis. “They want to break the schools one school at a time.”