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Friday, May 2, 2014

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Ron Smolkin


Independence High School Principal Ron Smolkin Sent Hate Mail To Teacher Michael McPherrin
Ron Smolkin, Principal of Independence High School in Manhattan is the author of hate mail targetting teacher Michael McPherrin and his partner, according to McPherrin, who had the handwriting on the letter analyzed. Let's hope that the penalty handed down by prosecutors of this heinous act by Smolkin is equal to the harm he has caused, and he does not get off with a slap on the wrist like Iris Blige did.

    Here is a link to the story in New York Teacher:

Principal Ron Smolkin’s relations with staff at Manhattan’s Independence HS were always frosty, teachers say. But they turned arctic last spring after the school’s faculty leadership team made a series of ambitious recommendations on safety, teaching, guidance, consensus and collegiality.
The team never got a reply or even an acknowledgment from the principal. As Chapter Leader Michael McPherrin put it, “Smolkin refuses to discuss plans and leadership style. He even takes suggestions as a personal affront. He goes after those he sees as disloyal; questioning his policies is to enter a world of pain.”
He also apparently plays payback — as a sequence of events reported by the media in late March suggests.
McPherrin, a leading member of the faculty leadership team, got a big surprise when his co-op board received an anonymous letter charging him with sex and drug crimes. With copies sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as well as the FBI and the IRS, the letter declared that McPherrin and his “undocumented” partner were engaged in “spreading disease” and “unsafe sex with underaged boys.”
An independent handwriting analyst hired by McPherrin found it “highly likely” that the author of the hand-addressed envelope was Smolkin.
In late summer, McPherrin got a second surprise, when his classroom at the West Midtown campus was trashed. It was the only classroom in the school so destroyed, McPherrin said. Since December, McPherrin has received five letters in his file. Prior to last spring, he had received none.

UFT District 79 Representative Marc Korashan (left) with Chapter Leader Michael McPherrin
Now Smolkin is under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for aggravated criminal harassment, and the state’s Human Rights Commission is also conducting a probe. McPherrin has filed a harassment complaint against Smolkin under Article 23 of the contract.
As the New York Teacher went to press, McPherrin reported that Smolkin had filed 3020a dismissal charges against him for unprofessional conduct.
Smolkin has been principal at the two-campus transfer alternative high school (a smaller campus is housed in the West Village) since the spring of 2004. The school educates 425 overage, under-credited students who have aged out of their class cohort or dropped out.
McPherrin says the principal’s relationship with the staff is “poisonous.”
“He’s the biggest obstacle to the school’s success,” McPherrin says. “He operates in terms of who’s in and who’s out.”
The six other teachers at Independence HS interviewed for this article, all on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation, confirmed that Smolkin is widely viewed as remote, divisive and vindictive.
McPherrin and other staffers said the school is not safe for students and staff alike. There is gang activity and drugs are used openly, said the chapter leader, “usually near the LYFE center,” which houses infants and toddlers of students.
McPherrin and others accuse Smolkin of underreporting safety incidents and not enforcing discipline. “He won’t take a stand because he’s afraid that if he does, attendance will drop,” one teacher said.
Since December, McPherrin has filed five union safety complaints, charging Smolkin with having no meaningful student removal process, making no effort to deter student texting in class, not supervising the school’s vendor-run after-school program, and refusing to hold safety committee meetings for his school.
Staffers say it’s no coincidence that the academic performance of the students is suffering. Independence HS received another C on its most recent School Progress Report, but there is a widespread belief among faculty that Smolkin fiddled with the parent survey results to avoid an F. The school received an F in student performance and a C in student progress, but somehow pulled off a near-perfect score on the Learning Environment Survey to earn an A in school environment. Staff noticed that the returns showed the number of parent responses exceeded the number of parents who picked up surveys.
Smolkin keeps parents at arm’s length, too. He has done as little as he can to create a school leadership team. Only after staff complained to the superintendent did he move the team meetings to a time more convenient to parents.
Marc Korashan, the UFT’s alternative high schools district representative, blasts the DOE for not riding herd on Smolkin. In an email letter to Manhattan HS Superintendent Elaine Gorman, Korashan said that the principal “continues to make veiled threats about reorganizing the school and putting people out of jobs. His attitude toward staff remains dismissive or threatening. It seems clear that [the principal] does not want an active parent body or an effective SLT looking at what is happening in the school.”
Korashan’s email letter concludes: “The question remains: When does administration step in to support the school and not the principal?”
Gorman and a representative from network leader Sumita Kaufhold’s office met in February with 12 staff members at their request, but so far neither official has intervened.
“This kind of support for a principal who is leading a school to fail is something we’ve seen time and again with this DOE,” said Korashan. “If Independence HS is put on the Persistently Lowest Achieving list, it will certainly not be the fault of the teachers who have tried to create a collaborative, student-centered culture at the school only to be stymied by this principal.”
Independence High School Principal Ron Smolkin Sent Hate Mail To Teacher Michael McPherrin
Ron Smolkin, Principal of Independence High School in Manhattan is the author of hate mail targetting teacher Michael McPherrin and his partner, according to McPherrin, who had the handwriting on the letter analyzed. Let's hope that the penalty handed down by prosecutors of this heinous act by Smolkin is equal to the harm he has caused, and he does not get off with a slap on the wrist like Iris Blige did.

NY1 Exclusive: City Principal Investigated In Retaliation Probe

By: Lindsey Christ, NY1

A veteran public school principal is under investigation for allegedly attempting to smear one of his teachers through a hate-filled letter. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Last June, an anonymous letter was sent to the managers of Michael McPherrin's co-op. It contained ugly allegations against McPherrin, a public school teacher, and his longtime partner Andre Lopes.

"As you read, your jaw just keeps dropping because it just gets worse," McPherrin said.

There were private details, like the couple's HIV and immigration status, as well as allegations of drug use and pedophilia. It said, in part:

"The talk of the building is that both Mike and illegal immigrant Andre suffer from full blown AIDS and have no problem infecting others including the underage boys they bring to the apartment."

"This was an attempt to destroy our lives and me professionally," McPherrin said.

The writer claimed to represent concerned residents, but the building management called it "anonymous hate mail" and wrote McPherrin that, "our records indicate there are no complaints against you or your partner."

McPherrin says he knows who sent it: his boss, Ron Smolkin, the principal of Independence High School in Manhattan.

Since the addresses on the anonymous letters were handwritten, McPherrin hired a handwriting analyst who found it "highly likely" they matched samples of handwriting McPherrin said were Smolkin's. Then, there was the information in the notes.

"That we are HIV positive. That Andre has an outstanding immigration issue. That we have a second residence. The social security number. That information could’ve only been gotten from my personnel file," McPherrin said.

McPherrin says his trouble with Smolkin started after he became the teacher's union rep and organized staff members concerned about Smolkin's leadership.

"He has a history of retaliatory vindictive actions," McPherrin said.

Other staff members at the school make the same charge. In one case, a judge ruled Smolkin falsely accused a school aide of an assault inside the building and fired her without benefits. A former assistant principal says Smolkin had her removed on trumped-up charges after they hadn’t been getting along. Current staff members also gave NY1 other examples -- off the record -- saying they were afraid of further retaliation.

The Manhattan district attorney's office, state Human Rights Commission and teachers union are all investigating the anonymous letter. But Department of Education lawyers argue there is "no evidence of a hostile work environment" and have asked the human rights commission to drop the case.

Smolkin would not speak with NY1 on the record but through a lawyer says he denies the allegations. Also, the DOE and the groups investigating him all have policies against speaking on the record about ongoing cases.

Meanwhile, McPherrin says the principal continues to target him and has slapped him with four disciplinary charges this school year. He says they're the first in his 23 years of teaching.

From Betsy Combier:

Below is a letter that Mike McPherrin sent the DOE in 2013:

Office of School Personnel Review
And Accountability
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue, Room 981 EBA
Albany, NY 12234

Dear Sir or Madam:

Enclosed please find the complaint I am submitting to you regarding the unethical and immoral actions of Principal Ron Smolkin of Independence High School, located at 850 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY  10019. It is an alternative high school in midtown Manhattan, District 2, Department of Education, City of New York. Its mission is to help over-aged, under credited students towards a high school diploma.

 I am a recently retired high school social studies teacher from Independence High School, where I taught for twenty-five years.   I enjoyed a wonderful career, and worked with many excellent teachers and principals. My professional record is replete with commendations from my supervisors, and my record of success in the classroom has been amply recognized, including laudatory praise from Mr. Smolkin throughout his first five years as my principal.

In the spring of 2010, I was elected UFT representative for our Local Chapter, and began asking some questions about the budget, and safety issues at school, including unchecked drug and gang activity, and upticks in physical threats to teachers by students. Teachers were developing a consensus on how to address these issues to discuss with the administration, but it appeared Mr. Smolkin interpreted this as a personal attack on him. (See Exhibit A)  I became a target for his retaliation at my home and at school.

On June 10, 2010, three “anonymous” hate filled letters arrived at my co-op building (to the building manager, co-op president, and a resident real estate broker) accusing me and my same-sex partner of “using our pets to lure underage boys to our apartment, where (we) infect them with AIDS.”  The letters, purportedly written by “Concerned Parents of Park Terrace Gardens,” urged the building management to evict me and my partner, for having sex parties with boys, using illegal drugs,  illegally harboring an illegal alien (my partner is a Brazilian national), and thus  lowering the property values of shareholders through these nefarious crimes.  The letters were copied to the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, IRS, and the Local Police Precinct 36. (See Exhibit B)

After obtaining the hand-addressed envelopes of these three letters, I sent them for handwriting analysis, along with a sample of Mr. Smolkin’s handwriting, and the examiner found the samples to be “highly likely” written by the same hand. (See Exhibit C)  I reported this case to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for Special Prosecutions, and they conducted a five-month independent forensics investigation of my claims, including obtaining samples of Mr. Smolkin’s handwriting by subpoena.  In March of 2011, I received a call from ADA Amy Justiniano (212-335-3339), who informed me that the results of the investigation confirmed Smolkin’s handwriting.

Although the District Attorney’s Office declined to charge Mr. Smolkin under hate crimes statutes, Mr. Wornum suggested I pursue civil claims for libel and defamation.  I am currently suing Mr. Smolkin in New York State Supreme Court, and lawyers for the City have used every tactic available to shield Mr. Smolkin from accountability. Our claim was filed in May of 2011.  This case may still be dismissed, or  Corp Counsel has indicated they may be willing to offer a settlement, including a “Confidentiality Agreement” which would preclude my ability to speak to a reporter, or anyone else about this case forever.  They have made it clear that removing Mr. Smolkin from his position is not under consideration. My lawyer is Matt Taub of the Taub Law Firm (646-484-5020).

It is my position that anyone who engages in such behavior demonstrates a lack of the moral compass required of a state-licensed principal or teacher.

For your information, Mr. Smolkin is being sued by two other former subordinates.  The most recent case concerns another “anonymous” letter to Mr. Smolkin from a “concerned parent” that the teacher was a pedophile. (See Exhibit D)  She was “U” rated based on this letter, and was forced out of her position at Independence High School. She is being represented by Mr. Taub as well, in a separate civil claim.  In the other case, Mr. Smolkin fired a school aid without benefits claiming she “broke the wrist of her DC37 Representative during a break in a disciplinary meeting.”  This claim was contradicted by a secret recording made by the school aide, and played in court. (Ms. Adrian Floyd: 646-329-6957)  The judge sternly admonished Mr. Smolkin and his DOE lawyer, and restored the benefits to the school aid. Mr. Smolkin was never called to account for these actions, including perjuring himself under oath.  Mr. Smolkin was found to have misused school funds by paying his secretary from school funds to edit and type his graduate school research papers, according to the Conflict of Interest Board. (See Exhibit E)  He was fined and had to return the money. It is truly stunning to anyone familiar with these cases, that Mr. Smolkin has not been removed.

Please see Exhibit F for another anonymous letter found in my personnel file, purporting to be a disgruntled female student. The letter contains gay-baiting, and is written in “Ebonics”.  The handwriting expert compared the writing with the original Smolkin samples, and found it highly likely” that the authors are the same.

Please see Exhibit G  Business cards of investigators involved in this case

Please see Exhibit H for the arbitrator’s award regarding the 3020a charges against me brought by Mr. Smolkin, and the dismissal of those charges as a reason to fire me.

Please contact me if you would need more detail on any of the above, or if you would like further documentation.  If you Google “Smolkin/ McPherrin”, you can discover what has already been reported in the media. (See Exhibit I for samples)

 Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Michael P. McPherrin


Anonymous said...

He should have been removed years ago. No one who is familiar with this case can believe he is still supervising teachers and students.

Anonymous said...

he still is the principal till this day august 14, 2014.. i cant believe what he did i cant wait to graduate from this school

Anonymous said...

Principal Ron Smolkin should be removed for sending that vicious hate mail to destroy a teacher's life.

Anonymous said...

Smolkin hasn't been removed yet? Such an outrage.

Anonymous said...

Don't believe this bullshit....he is the best principal I ever had and cares about kids.....there is more to this story than is being presented......

Anonymous said...

He does great things for students......I suspect there is more to this story....

Anonymous said...

Those last 2 comments were left by Smolkin.