Staff wins grievance against ‘bully’ Coney Island principalBY DOROTHY CALLACI | SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 NEW YORK TEACHER ISSUE
PRINCIPAL GRETA HAWKINS 'Antithesis' of a good administrator
A Coney Island principal repeatedly accused of bullying parents and staff and sent for sensitivity training by the Department of Education after making offensive racial remarks has been ordered
to stop “harassing or otherwise discriminating” against union members lawfully exercising their rights.
A June arbitration ruling upheld UFT charges that PS 90 Principal Greta Hawkins’ decision to
hold a separate meeting with each of the 14 teachers named in a Step 1 grievance concerning
lesson plans was both a violation of the contract and an “intimidating and hostile act.”
Hawkins initiated the individual meetings after holding a Step 1 hearing with Chapter Leader
Vicky Giasemis and Betty Matos, a teacher and UFT delegate who represented her 13 colleagues. That initial attempt to resolve the dispute over “excessive” demands to format lesson plans, said Matos, turned into a power play when Hawkins’ manner became “angry and belittling.”
Giasemis testified that at each of the individual meetings, which she attended after warning
Hawkins that they were improper, Hawkins was “belittling, bizarre and angry in tone and body language” as she essentially tried to bully each member into withdrawing the grievance.
In his June 26 decision, the arbitrator agreed with the UFT position that not only did Hawkins
act improperly under the contract by initiating individual meetings but that her goal was “more
aimed at browbeating each grievant than arriving at a mutually satisfactory resolution of the
et al grievance before her.” He called her actions “the antithesis” of a good administrator’s
conduct in addressing a grievance.
Since the original grievance was filed in 2012, nine of the 14 members who filed grievances,
fearing intimidation and reprisals, have transferred to other schools.
“After 15 years at PS 90, it broke my heart to leave but I just couldn’t work another year for
Hawkins,” said Jennifer Meisner, who is now at a Queens school.
The departure of those nine teachers — all veterans — were part of a mass exodus last year
of some 25 staffers, including teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries and custodians, totaling
almost half of the small staff of 60 at the Brooklyn school.
Hawkins has been at the eye of the storm since her arrival at PS 90 in 2009. A New York
Teacher article about her [“Brooklyn principal a ‘bully,’” March 12, 2013 issue] detailed
complaints brought by parents and staff that Hawkins “took a healthy school culture and
made it toxic.”
Grievance Department Director Ellen Gallin-Procida hailed the arbitrator’s decision and the
teachers who stood up for their rights.
“Not only does this decision assure members that the contract protects them, it also
encourages them to stand up against harassment,” Gallin-Procida said.
The UFT also has an unfair labor practice charge against Hawkins on another matter pending
at the state Public Employment Relations Board.