Bad-apple principal plea deals
|SLAP ON THE WRIST: Manhattan Village Academy Principal Hector Geager |
was fined for illegally expelling a student.
The city cut backdoor deals with a handful of misbehaving principals last year rather than seek stiffer penalties through disciplinary hearings, records obtained by The Post show.
Among those who signed hush-hush agreements with the Department of Education was Manhattan Village Academy Principal Hector Geager -- who dealt with a troublesome student by altering her transcript, handing her a diploma and illegally expelling her three months shy of graduation.
The student, whom Geager also barred from prom and graduation, told officials that the popular principal had "simply given her the passing grades to get her out," according to an internal DOE probe.
Before even filing charges last year, however, DOE officials reached an agreement not to pursue further discipline against Geager if he simply paid a $10,000 fine.
Geager, who remains principal of a school that boasted a 98 percent graduation rate last year, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
But critics say these types of plea bargains highlight an increased hesitancy by the DOE to forcefully discipline wayward principals ever since it granted them more authority -- and took on a greater role in selecting them -- several years back.
"The Bloomberg Department of Ed can't define 'accountability' to simply be rating students and teachers with standardized tests," said Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy. "Transgressions of administrators need to be addressed in a fair and transparent fashion rather than hidden to avoid embarrassment to the adults in the administration."
Other deals reached last year include one for former HS for International Business and Finance Principal Juan Alvarez, who tackled a student in The Bronx school and e-mailed an anti-Semitic rant to a fellow principal. Alvarez was demoted but allowed to stay around students as a teacher.
DOE spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said the agency takes principals' work histories and the facts of each case into account, and added that officials felt the school leaders had been properly held accountable.
“These settlements allowed us to move forward quickly, so that the schools could focus on teaching and learning, without these matters serving as a distraction,” she said.
Additional reporting by Amber Sutherland and Lachlan Cartwright
Case Study # 1
A Department of Education probe confirmed that Iris Blige, principal of the Fordham HS for the Arts, instructed assistant principals to give poor ratings to teachers without actually observing them. Blige signed a deal agreeing to pay a $7,500 fine.
Case Study # 2
Investigators found Maria Penaherrera of PS 114 had rigged bids and mismanaged the school onto the city's closure list. But she's off the hook because she agreed to be demoted to assistant principal -- with the opportunity to earn tenure next year.