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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Principal Greta Hawkins of PS 90 in Coney Island Tampered With Parent Questionnaires

In the vast ocean of stories sweeping the internet this is not the worst that a Principal has done. But the tampering with surveys, votes and grades is so rampant in NYC schools, I thought Sue's story was worth posting.


Betsy Combier

Coney Island principal tampered with parent surveys: staffers
, NY POST, March 16, 2014


A Coney Island school principal who caused a furor by refusing to let kindergartners sing “God Bless the USA” at their graduation is in hot water again — this time for allegedly having an aide tamper with parent questionnaires.
Two staffers at PS 90, the Edna Cohen School, say Greta Hawkins instructed an aide to open envelopes holding Department of Education parent surveys and fill in “bubbles” with a pencil.
Greta Hawkins
“She was ripping open white envelopes that were sealed and bubbling in answers to the survey,” a teacher told The Post.
The DOE prohibits any breach of the confidentiality of the surveys, which rate schools on “academic expectations,” “safety and respect,” “communication” and “engagement.” They help city officials gauge a school’s environment and principal performance.
Last school year, PS 90 received average and below-average scores on its survey, with 76 percent of parents participating. In its last progress report, for 2011-12, PS 90 earned an overall grade of “B” but an “F” in “school environment” based mainly on parent and teacher surveys.
At parent-teacher conferences Tuesday, parents picking up their children’s report cards were also handed surveys. Hawkins said parents who filled them out on the spot would get two “No Homework Passes” for their kids.
When a parent picked up a report card Wednesday, a source said, Hawkins directed a staffer to give her a survey and tell her “the school has no drugs or gangs.” Last year parents cited concerns about both issues.
Parents get a green envelope containing the survey and a white first-class-postage-paid envelope addressed to a processing center in St. Paul, Minn. Parents are supposed to seal their completed surveys in the white envelope, then mail them or leave them for the school to mail.
Two school staffers said that while Hawkins ran a conference Wednesday, they saw the school’s community assistant, Tiffany Starks, in the main office with a box of survey envelopes. Both staffers said they saw Starks open green and white envelopes.
“She broke open the seal of a first-class envelope and altered surveys completed by the parents,” the teacher said.
A video taken by the teacher shows Starks removing a survey and discarding the green envelope. The two staffers do not know what Starks did with the uncompleted surveys.
Asked why she was marking completed surveys, she replied, “I’m just making sure they did it right,” and said she was “fixing” bubbles not filled in properly, according to the second staffer.
Starks admitted she felt uncomfortable with the task but said, “She [Hawkins] told me to do it, so that’s what I’m doing,” according to the staffer.
Reached Thursday night, Starks declined to comment.
Hawkins did not return a call or e-mail seeking an explanation.
DOE spokesman David Peña said officials will investigate.

Brooklyn principal a ‘bully’

UFT District 21 Representative Judy Gerowitz (left) and Chapter Leader Vicky Giasemis outside PS 90,
where Principal Greta Hawkins has drawn the ire of parents and teachers.
“We have a no-bullying rule for the schools,” parent Heidi Rotondo told Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott at a District 21 Community Education Council town hall meeting on Jan. 11. “So what are you doing about the principal at PS 90 who’s doing the bullying?”
Walcott dodged the question, insisting he couldn’t deal with “personnel specifics publicly.”
Rotondo was one of more than two dozen parents from Coney Island’s PS 90 who turned out at the town hall meeting to complain about Greta Hawkins, the principal since September 2009 and a New York City Leadership Academy grad.
Parents and teachers want her gone.
Organized as the Action Committee to Save PS 90, the parents produced a two-sided flier for the meeting that contained a long list of accusations against Hawkins, including:
  • threatening to report the parents of misbehaving students to the Administration for Children’s Services;
  • chronically underreporting safety incidents; and
  • refusing to account for $3,600 of Title I parent involvement funds from the previous school year.
Numerous special education complaints filed with the UFT over the past two years document how Hawkins allegedly assigned paraprofessionals to do office work or run errands while students went without special education services, thus violating Individualized Education Program mandates. (The network and the principal responded by making corrections.)
Hawkins also has been criticized by staff and parents for closing the school’s library and selling off its books (at 25 cents per book); shutting the school’s state-of the art computer lab, which was funded by local Councilman Domenic Recchia; and ending instrumental music instruction at a school ironically named the School of Performing Arts.
The Department of Education reprimanded Hawkins and sent her to sensitivity training after investgators from the DOE’s Office of Equal Opportunity found that Hawkins made offensive racial remarks at a June 2010 faculty meeting.
Nine UFT members who attended the mandatory meeting filed a complaint.
Principal Greta Hawkins

Principal Greta Hawkins  (above, left) has drawn the ire of parents and teachers.In their Sept. 8, 2010, findings, the investigators concluded: “By deliberately differentiating herself, a black Jehovah’s Witness, and the previous principal, white and Jewish, in the context of a mandatory staff meeting addressing rumors and discussing hiring and upcoming changes in the school, Principal Hawkins offended multiple staff members.”

Chapter Leader Vicky Giasemis said that many of the teachers who filed the complaint — even though they were not identified by the Office of Equal Opportunity — were removed from their positions.

Hawkins’ critics say she took a healthy school culture and made it toxic.

“She’s not a boss who pushes the staff to work better. She’s a boss who lies to end your career,” said one longtime school veteran, who asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Hawkins has since singled out the chapter leader for abuse. Giasemis had what she described as a “spotless record” for her first 12 years of teaching. That ended in 2010, when she became the school’s union representative, she said.

“Immediately the retaliation started,” Giasemis said. “All of a sudden I became incompetent and abusive.” Hawkins wrote her up multiple times and gave her a U-rating.

Among the formal grievances pending against Hawkins, District 21 Representative Judy Gerowitz said, was one brought by 13 members accusing Hawkins of micromanaging the format of the lesson plans.

In a case in point, Hawkins’ Jan. 30 school newsletter The Monday Message contained “a fourth reminder” in which she spelled out in minute detail what lesson plans must include. Gerowitz noted that the UFT contract stipulates that supervisors cannot require a particular lesson plan format unless a teacher received a U-rating, or has been given a formal warning of a possible U-rating.

The chapter leader herself has filed grievances charging Hawkins with disciplining her for carrying out union duties.

Still, Giasemis doesn’t heap all the blame on Hawkins.

“It’s the DOE’s doing,” said Giasemis. “They want to break the schools one school at a time.”