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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

MS 344, the Academy of Collaborative Education in Harlem, is a hellhole

The school from hell


Last Updated: 2:31 PM, June 26, 2011
Kids hoot and yammer so loudly that their ruckus drowns out the teacher. A trash can is overturned in class and dumped. Grimy floors are littered with sunflower-seed shells, spit out by the hundreds.
Books and supplies fly out the windows. Mouse droppings are everywhere, even on the computers.
MS 344, the Academy of Collaborative Education in Harlem, is a hellhole where teachers should get combat pay -- they are cursed, assaulted and sometimes groped.

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"It was literally war," said a teacher who once found a sticky used condom in her purse. "I was pushed, shoved, scratched, thrown against the wall, spit on and pickpocketed. I just wanted peace."
The Department of Education has tried twice since last year to shut MS 344, the city's worst-performing middle school. MS 344 has made the state's list of "persistently dangerous" schools, and just two of 88 eighth-graders last year passed the state math or reading exams.

But the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP went to court to block the closure and 21 others, arguing the DOE did nothing to fix the ailing schools. A Manhattan judge heard arguments last week and is expected to rule soon.

Meanwhile, MS 344 has festered.

Letters from its staff to ex-Chancellor Joel Klein begged for Principal Rashaunda Shaw's removal. They complain she's a tyrant who does nothing to impose discipline and respect. They charge she's always late, barely leaves her office "except for the bathroom," and hired a sister-in-law and her boyfriend's ex-wife, among other cronies.

Shaw, 35, also hired former Staten Island Assistant Principal Odufuyi Jackson, a friend who was busted in 2009 on felony charges that he conspired to steal more than $100,000 in Social Security benefits.

He pleaded guilty last year to attempted fabrication of business records. The DOE demoted Jackson to teacher, but Shaw has him doubling as a dean.

Shaw referred questions to the DOE press office. A spokeswoman said only, "A number of allegations are being investigated."

"It needs to be closed, closed, closed, because it's an unsafe place for children," a teacher said of the school. "It's heartbreaking that the small percentage who want to learn don't get the education they deserve."

Insiders gave The Post a sampling of the crime and lack of punishment.

* A teacher was transferred after a student threatened to rape his wife.
* A math teacher who tried to stop a student from hitting him was accused by Shaw of using "corporal punishment."
* A scrawny boy pulled out his wallet while surrounded by tough kids in the hall. A teacher learned the kid was robbed by the same gang every day for a month. Shaw reprimanded the teacher for phoning the victim's mom.

A UFT spokesman said the union has met with MS 344 staff in the past year on their safety, health
and classroom woes, including "the lack of administrative support" and alleged harassment by Shaw. But the union could cite no results from its effort.