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Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Lynda" Posts on NYCTeacher: Administrators Gone Wild

From "Lynda" (who left the NYC school system as there is no accountability for Principals, and the DOE and UFT do nothing to help):
"After began to apply for leaving South Shore High School, I thought I would never teach again.  I even began to apply for non teaching jobs.
Then Middle School 180, formerly of the Rockaways, came calling.  I started there just after New year's in 2002.
The principal who hired me was warm and very supportive.  He wopuldn't even let the district move to fire me when I got sick and had to be hospitalized for eighteen days in December 2002.  He also saw to it that I could borrow sick days and encouraged colleagues to donate days to my sick bank.  He really bent over backwards for me and for that I will be forever grateful.
The district used political games to force him out in May 2004, when he left to take a positioin in Amityville.  Then they brought in John Comer, Jr., a recent graduate of the mayor's vaunted Leadership Academy.  He was also the Regional Superintendent's nephew-in-law (he married her niece).  Can we say nepotism?
Anyway, he called me down for my first preobservation conference on October 14 and the first words out of his mouth were "I know all about you."
I inquired as to what he meant by that.  He explained briefly that he thought my being supported by the former principal was a lucky break, but he really mneant something else entirely.
He was going to use my Chron's desease against me in more ways than one.  He knew exactly when I had been diagnosed- all of those details.  How could he possibly know that?  I didn't tell anyone.
John Comer Jr. is the son of John Comer, Sr., former superintendent of District 22 in Brooklyn.  My father, who had been a teacher for the DOE for thirty one years, had a rather nasty run-in with him when I was sixteen.  My dad refused to be returned to District 13, where he wanted to transfer from.  He was charged with insubordination and could have lost his job.  John Comer, Sr. was leading the charge. 
My father simply wanted to be closer to home to care for my mother, who was getting sicker at the time.  Unknown to us, she had a virulent form of Parkinson's disease that was diagnosed a few years later that robbed her of her life on March 28, 1995, only six weeks before my graudation from college.
Anyway, because of the defense of a good union rep and my father's seniority, he ultimagtely won his battle against John Comer, Sr. and returned to his former school in District 13 until the 1991 buyout, when he retired.  When I became a full-time employee of the DOE in 2000, it was the day before my wedding in 2000, so I was hired under my maiden name.  I couldn't switch to my married name until I had the marriage license.
Therefore, it would not have taken much work to find out what my maiden name was and that the man his father tried to fire and me were father and daughter.  This wasn't about his feeling that I was an idiot.  This was pure and simple payback.
This payback got even stronger at the end of October in 2004.  Two of my studentds came in the room and said there was a ruckus in the hallway.  I gave my lesson plan to one of them,. who had excellent handwriting, and instructed her to finish writing the do now on the board.  I asked the other student to go around and make sure the attendance form was filled out and I would check her work.  Then I peeked my head outside of the room to see what was going on.
John Comer Jr. was physically pulling the teacher in room 306 out of her room and throwing her into the wall.  Some of my students were behind me and witnessed the assault.  When one student said that we should go back into the room before he did that to me, I thanked him and instructed them to follow me back in.  Rather than complete the lesson, we ended up having what I would call a "teachable moment" and discussed what we had just witnessed: why it is wrong to assault someone, why people do that, and our feelings about the concept of personal space.  That was a lesson where they all paid attention and participated, like the ones every new teacher dreams of.
Three weeks later, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, a classmate of theirs, Emani, was killed by a speeding van on Rockaway Beach Boulevard.  Everyone in my classes either knew her or was related to her in some way- Emani came from a big family.  Thge whole school was shaken by her death- so shaken that the former principal, the man who had been so good to me, came back for her funeral.
What happened next sealed my fate.  Normally, the principal would be the school liason to the grieving family.  Emani's mother made it clear that she did not want to deal with Mr. Comer.  Emani already had several run-ins with Mr.Comer and didn't like him.  She asked Mr. Comer that I be appointed liason between the school and the family since Emani and I had established a relationship through her being in my class the previous school year.  Emani came around to visit every so often during lunch time and I enjoyed hearing about what she wanted to do with her life.  She wanted to try out for the Olympic track team and be a teacher.  She had often said that I inspired her.  I agreed because Emani was a genuinely good kid that I knew.  I almost fell apart when her mother asked me to give a eulogy at Emani's funeral. 
Six weeks later, I decided I had enough if the abuse and left.  I studied and got my certificate to teach in New Jersey, where I still teach. 
I could see that the mayor was sticking with his BS Leadership Academy to produce new principals.  If any of them were like Mr. Comer, I wanted no part of it."

The book on the falsification of records by the NYC DOE adds another page, as staff and union representatives at MS 180 in Queens NY try to cover up teacher abuse to protect new Principal John Comer.

E-Accountability OPINION:

There are two very interesting items in the story below about the alleged manhandling of a teacher by a Principal: first, she was 'advised' not to report the incident by colleagues and union officials. This makes us wonder how many other incidents there may be, left hidden by the staff at the administration's - or union's - request; second, she was asked to sign an observation report without reading it, and when she decided to read it, saw there was a false and misleading statement made. This falsification of records is endemic at the DOE, and leaves both the DOE and the Office of Legal Services open to penalties and damages, if they are sued. We are holding them accountable.
Betsy Combier
MS 180 Principal Accused Of Manhandling Teacher 
By Howard Schwach, The WAVE, November 18, 2004
A female teacher has accused John Comer, the new principal of Middle School 180 in Rockaway Beach, of manhandling her when she failed to stand in the school's hallway during the change of class one day earlier this month. 
Melissa Gianninoto says that she was stunned when Comer pulled her from her classroom and flung her into a wall in the hallway. 
"I stepped from the hallway for a moment to quiet my class down and get them started on their lesson," she told The Wave this week. "The principal came by and placed his hands on me. He pulled me out of the room and into the hallway." 
School rules require that teachers be in the hallway during "passing" to monitor students moving to their next class. 
Gianninoto, who is a licensed Social Studies teacher and is assigned to teach Language Arts, said that she was ready to go to the 100 Precinct to file charges against Comer, but was dissuaded by colleagues and union officials who warned her that she would only cause herself more problems with the principal and would then be open to have her job terminated. 
New teachers can be fired for small violations of DOE regulations under Department of Education guidelines. In fact, a guidebook on how to fire teachers was recently released secretly to all principals in the public school system. 
Gianninoto did file an incident report with the school's union representative, however and spoke to a union representative from another local school as well. 
And, while no other adults were present to corroborate her story, a number of students witnessed the incident and told other teachers in the building about what had happened. Those teachers did corroborate the fact that witnesses supported her story. 
Union officials also corroborated the fact that the incident report was filed on the day of the alleged incident. 
When contacted for comment on the allegation, Region Five officials issued a prepared statement that read, "It is the policy of school that teachers remain in the hallways during passing." 
That statement did not address the question of the principal placing his hands on the teacher, something that is not allowed under Department of Education guidelines. 
Gianninoto admitted that she had stepped into the classroom against rules to quiet her class. 
She also admitted that she has had problems with the administration of the school in the past. 
"I was observed a few weeks ago by the principal and we never had a post-observation conference as required by our contract," she said. "Today, a secretary came to my room and asked me to sign the observation without reading it. She was in a hurry and told me not to read it, I did. The bottom of the observation noted that there had been a post-observation conference." 
Shortly after the alleged incident with Gianninoto, Comer issued a memo to all teachers and staff. 
"Be aware no one is to call 911 without the permission of the principal or the principal's designee," the memo said, although Department of Education rules require teachers to report certain abuse and criminal activities to the police immediately. 
Gianninoto told The Wave she believes that the principal is harassing her. She said that the union was working out a deal for her to be transferred to another school, but Department of Education officials deny that such a deal is in the works. 
Comer declined to take phone calls for comment and did not return messages left with his secretary.
Previous WAVE articles about Comer:
Comer Appointed MS 180 Principal
By Howard Schwach, The WAVE, June 11, 2004
John Comer, a newcomer to District 27, has been appointed principal of Middle School 180 in Rockaway Beach, effective immediately.
The position became vacant last month when long-time principal George Giberti left to take a middle school principal's position in Nassau County.
Assistant Principal Monica Murphy has been in charge of the building since Giberti left. It was unclear at the Wave's press time as to what her role would be in the building for the remainder of the school year.
The school is in the process of being phased out as a traditional zoned middle school. 
Beginning with the 2005 school year, the building will house the "Scholar's Academy," a gifted school for all peninsula students. At that time it will contain only a traditional eighth graded – the terminal grade for the school.
It is widely speculated that PS 114 principal Brian O'Connell would then become the principal of the gifted school and that Comer would perhaps move to PS 114 in his place.
A Region Five source, who asked not to be identified because there had been no permission to talk with The Wave from the Department of Education said however, "This is an indication that, even though the school will change next year, we are not leaving the students suspended this year. We are committed to every school and we expect that the new MS 180 principal will continue to move that school forward."
Cashin: New Principal 'A Take Charge Guy'
The WAVE, Front Page June 18, 2004 
Despite the fact that the newly-appointed principal of Middle School 180, John Comer, has only eight years of experience in the school system and only one as an acting assistant principal (at Middle School 226), Regional Superintendent Kathleen Cashin told The Wave recently that she is sure that Comer will be an excellent administrator for the often-troubled building.
"He is a real take-charge guy," Cashin says of Comer. "He demonstrated excellent skills as an assistant principal and took over the Region Five Science Fair his first year as an administrator."
Comer was the administrator for the seventh grade at the much-larger MS 226 in Ozone Park, Cashin pointed out.
"He supervises more children now on the seventh grade than he will next year at MS 180 administrating the entire building."
Cashin says that she is not deterred by the fact that Comer has only one year as an acting assistant principal, pointing out that she went straight from teacher to principal with no intermediate step to assistant principal.
"I promise the MS 180 community that they are getting a good guy with Comer, one who will be dedicated to the school," Cashin said. "It's good to have experience, but many people with more experience do not necessarily do a good job. There are other aspects than experience to look at in any candidate."
A number of parents have contacted The Wave this week to complain that the region was placing an "inexperienced young man" in the principal's position while demoting acting principal Monica Murphy, who has been an assistant principal at the school for many years.
A new assistant principal, chosen by Comer from two candidates, will come to the school with the new principal because, Cashin says, "We want him to come in with an AP of his choice."
Cashin says that Murphy will be given a position at another, undisclosed school in the region.
There has been some conjecture reported in the pages of The Wave that PS 114 principal Brian O'Connell would be transferred from the elementary school to MS 180 as principal once the "Scholar's Academy" is in place.
A supervisor at the regional office, who asked not to be identified, said, however, "We have an entire year to make those kinds of decisions. A lot could happen in a year and we have not yet made any decisions about moving anybody at this time.