Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Friday, April 30, 2010

Special Complaint Filed Against Bronx Science AP Rosemarie Jahoda

Principal Valerie Reidy and students from the Bronx H.S. of Science, known nationwide for producing Nobel prize-winning scientists and other notable graduates.

Bronx Science is in the news once again. I wrote the following in 2007:

Teachers Flee From Specialized High School Bronx Science in New York City to Escape From Principal Valerie Reidy's Intolerable Rule

My sources have, for years, told me and anyone else who would listen, that Bronx Science is a terror-driven school where teachers are afraid all the time not only of Ms. Reidy, but also of false claims made by Assistant Principal Rosemary Jahoda.

An arbitrator decided a special complaint that Chapter Leader Peter Lamphere and AP Rosemary Jahoda should be transferred, and the NYC BOE answered: "Thanks, but no thanks."

Why am I not surprised?

Betsy Combier

April 28, 2010, 5:54 pm
Report Details Infighting at Bronx Science

There’s been trouble brewing for some time at Bronx High School of Science, one of the crown jewels of the city’s public schools: for more than two years, all but two members of the 22-teacher math department have made complaints centered around Rosemarie Jahoda, the assistant principal who oversees them.

Now, an arbitrator has issued an official “fact-finding” report, and the infighting it describes is not pretty. Ms. Jahoda called one veteran teacher a “disgusting person,” the report found, and that same teacher apparently referred to Ms. Jahoda as a “dictator.” Ms. Jahoda raised her voice several times at teachers in front of their students and called one “irresponsible.”

Ms. Jahoda was accused of harassing and intimidating new math teachers, who did not have tenure and could be removed at any time – none of them are at the school any more. The assistant principal was so harsh that she “reduced 7 teachers to tears on 12 separate occasions,” according to the report (which does note, however, that one of those teachers was inclined to cry rather easily).

Ms. Jahoda said that the problems began after she gave an untenured teacher and Peter Lamphere, who is chapter leader of the teachers’ union, an unsatisfactory rating for their teaching – a relatively rare occurrence in the city schools. But the arbitrator found that both Ms. Jahoda and Valerie Reidy, the school’s principal, “failed to appreciate the seriousness of the complaints.”

The arbitrator concluded that Ms. Jahoda and Mr. Lamphere should be transferred to another school. To that, officials at the education department essentially said: thanks for the suggestion, but no thanks.

In a letter to the arbitrator and the teachers’ union, David Brodsky, who heads labor relations for the city’s Department of Education, said that he did not believe that the fact-finding report “portrays an accurate, fair and complete picture of the relevant events,” and rejected nearly all of the recommendations, including the transfers.

Was Bronx Science HS hostile to its math teachers?
By Kate Pastor, Riverdale Press

The Department of Education has rejected a fact-finder’s report that had substantiated 20 Bronx Science teachers’ complaints of harassment at the hands of an administrator.

In May 2008, almost all of the 22 teachers in the school’s math department filed a Special Complaint charging that Assistant Principal Rosemary Jahoda contributed to a hostile work environment through harassment and intimidation of teachers, particularly untenured ones. They complained that unreasonable demands were made of staff and that insubordination letters and unsatisfactory ratings were given out to those who spoke up.

Ms. Jahoda was hired by Principal Valerie Reidy in August 2007 to improve the math department despite pockets of resistance from teachers, fact-finder Carol Wittenberg and the Department of Education agreed. Ms. Jahoda focused on four untenured teachers, including Tia Smith, Elizabeth Bellantoni, Carolyn Abbott and Nancy Phillip, none of whom are still at the school. All four claimed they were being harassed.

The report, which followed months of arbitration, said teachers found the assistant principal’s behavior so intimidating they refused to meet with Ms. Jahoda alone behind closed doors.

“When I read her [Ms. Wittenberg’s] findings, it was as if we didn’t present any evidence at all,” said Ms. Reidy, adding that the school had presented case law defining harassment and nothing that took place at the school rose to that level.

The report concluded that Ms. Jahoda and UFT Chapter Chair Peter Lamphere should transfer out of the school, that the school principal should use a facilitator to work with the math department, remove all ‘letters to the file’ issued to the complainants during Ms. Jahoda’s tenure and that actions affecting teachers who transferred out of Bronx Science should be rescinded.

But the fact-finders report, signed April 15, is non-binding. And now the Department of Education has slapped it down.

“As to the issues considered by the fact finder, I completely reject her conclusions that the Assistant Principal Rosemarie Jahoda harassed [certain teachers],” Monday’s decision by the chancellor said.

The decision also dismissed findings based on a surreptitious recording, which was “no doubt heavily relied upon by the fact finder” but which did not support the teachers’ case, the report said. Furthermore, withholding of 18 months of recordings tainted the teachers’ case and begged the question as to why they weren’t entered as evidence if they contained any proof of harassment.

Of the four recommendations given in the fact-finding report, the Department of Education supported one: the hiring of a facilitator if funds permit to “begin the healing process.”

Though Ms. Reidy (above) said the hearings were disruptive in terms of scheduling, she said, “The school at this point is very calm.”

“She [the fact-finder] makes it sound like we have the crusades going on in the hallways,” she said.

Apart from her own role, Ms. Reidy said she stands fully behind Ms. Jahoda and believes the assistant principal’s decisions were in students’ best interest.

“I think that when kids come to a school like Bronx Science, both they and their parents come with very high expectations and we have to meet those expectations,” Ms. Reidy said.

Assistant principal harassed math teachers at Bronx Science High School: report
BY Meredith Kolodner, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER, April 29th 2010,

An assistant principal created an atmosphere of "intimidation and harassment" in the math department at the storied Bronx Science High School, a fact-finding ruling has found.

The independent report sided with a complaint signed by 20 of the department's 22 teachers.

Assistant Principal Rosemary Jahoda referred to one teacher as "disgusting," addressed others in a "demeaning" manner like "children" and reduced seven teachers to tears on 12 occasions, the nonbinding decision says.

"The education community at Bronx Science needs to see substantial change," wrote fact-finder Carol Wittenberg.

She recommended the transfer of an assistant principal and the teachers union chapter leader, as well as the retraction of all disciplinary measures taken against math teachers during the last two years.

The Education Department rejected almost all of Wittenberg's findings as "not fairly based upon all the evidence."

Jahoda said she was the one being harassed and that the arbitrator's opinion is "not based in fact."

"There was no harassment, and to some degree the teachers were trying to intimidate and bully me as a new [assistant principal]," said Jahoda, who was hired in the fall of 2007.

Principal Valerie Reidy said she was disappointed by the ruling.

"It's about a supervisor doing her job," said Reidy. "You may not like what I said or the results, but that doesn't mean I'm harassing you."

Teachers at the school, though, disagreed.

"It really exposes the DOE's rhetoric about their supervisory process just being about getting rid of bad teachers," said Peter Lamphere, the union chapter leader. "In this situation, you had good teachers who fell victim to an abusive supervisor."

Fact finder calls on Bronx Science administrator to step down
Updated 5 p.m., 4/22/10
By Kate Pastor, Riverdale Press

An fact finder has substantiated 20 Bronx Science teachers’ complaints that an administrator harassed and intimidated them.

In May 2008, the vast majority of teachers in the school’s math department filed a Special Complaint charging that Assistant Principal Rosemary Jahoda attempted to make changes in the math department by focusing on four untenured teachers. They claim she harassed them, treating them like children in an effort to meet the goals set out for her by Principal Valerie Reidy.

“It would be difficult to have heard the testimony of seven of the complainants, to have read the statements of the 13 others and to have listened to the June 10, 2008 audio recording of the meeting in Jahoda’s office and not conclude that Jahoda has a confrontational style that is intimidating and demeaning,” according to the arbitrator’s report issued on April 15.

The fact finder, Carol Wittenberg, concluded that Ms. Jahoda and UFT Chapter Chair Peter Lamphere should transfer out of the school, that the school remove all ‘letters to the file’ issued to the complainants during Jahoda’s tenure and that actions affecting teachers who transferred out of Bronx Science be rescinded.

"After hearing extensively from all concerned, the Fact Finder is convinced that the education community at the Bronx High School of Science, one of the flagship high schools of the Department of Education, needs to see substantial change to overcome the disruption caused by the events and to begin the healing process," the report said.

The recommendations have been sent to School Chancellor Joel Klein, who will make a final decision in the case.