|Richard Carranza, his wife (left) and former Chancellor Carmen Farina|
CHANCELLOR CARRANZA ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF LINDA P. CHEN AS CHIEF ACADEMIC OFFICER AND NAMES NEW EXECUTIVE SUPERINTENDENTS
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Banished by the School, Beloved by Its Parents
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS, APRIL 17, 2005
As the principal put it in a formal disciplinary letter, the assistant principal had "failed to attend to a life-threatening emergency." He had ignored the needs of an unconscious child in a classroom. Instead, he had chosen to do the hokeypokey and the Macarena with 120 kindergartners. It seemed an open-and-shut case.
Except for one thing. The word in the halls of Public School 165 on the Upper West Side was very different. In a "Rashomon"-like twist, parents, teachers, secretaries and custodians all defended "Señor Howard," as they called him.
The conflicting narratives reveal the often yawning gulf between the rule-bound, corporate-style management of schools these days, and the more nuanced view on the ground. To listen to the city's Department of Education, the school system is defined by regional offices, local instructional superintendents and strict chains of command. To the people closer to the ground, a place like P.S. 165, on West 109th Street near Amsterdam Avenue, is like a family, dependent on an intricate network of human relationships to function smoothly.
Most of the facts about this episode are not in dispute. On Jan. 25, in a first-grade special education classroom, a boy knocked a classmate named Clarence to the ground, rendering him unconscious. The class was being led by an inexperienced teacher who had been having problems maintaining order. Before the fight, Clarence's mother had complained to the principal that her child was being bullied.
The principal, Linda Chen, was away at a conference, but someone in the main office called 911, and the school nurse rushed to the class. Meanwhile, a secretary went downstairs to find Howard Matza, the longtime assistant principal, one of whose many jobs it was to oversee hundreds of children in the cafeteria and on the playground because of complaints that the school aides were not able to keep order.
Mr. Matza told the secretary to send Fabayo McIntosh, a math coach, to the classroom, because he thought that she could get there faster and that he should stay with the 120 kindergartners he was supervising. The math coach hurried to the classroom; the mother arrived soon after and accompanied her son to the hospital.
A month later, on Feb. 28, when parents and teachers returned from a weeklong winter break, they were mystified to find Mr. Matza gone. Teachers began wearing buttons with the letters WH -- for "Where's Howard?" -- until the principal ordered that they be removed.
It turned out that Mr. Matza had been removed for "dereliction of duty," as Ms. Chen put it in the disciplinary letter. He was sitting idly in a regional office while the Education Department was deciding what to do with him. (He was still there last week, and he said he was still confident he had done the right thing.) On March 11, parents sent a letter to their instructional superintendent, Roser Salavert, demanding that Mr. Matza be reinstated. When that request went nowhere, they sought help from Eva Moskowitz, chairwoman of the City Council's Education Committee.
Ten days ago, Ms. Moskowitz called a meeting at P.S. 165 to hear parents' concerns. About 30 teachers sat together wearing black, as if in mourning. Some 60 or 70 parents filled the front of the auditorium, many with children in tow. The Department of Education sent two high-ranking officials, Dr. Salavert and Dan McCray, a lawyer.
Ms. Chen, the principal, was there too, sitting in a front row with her union representative. But despite heckling from the audience, she never spoke. Her silence, some parents said, was telling.
Last year, Mr. Matza was the unofficial first choice of a search committee of parents and educators to become principal of the school, but he withdrew his candidacy. Ms. Chen, a teacher and literacy coach, was appointed over the committee's objections. But many parents said they found her cold and autocratic. They complained that she never greeted them at the door. Teachers said that she scolded them for small infractions like missing deadlines. P.S. 165 is a dual-language school (English and Spanish), but Ms. Chen does not speak Spanish. (Her second language is Chinese.)
One mother, Diane Lanier, took the microphone to suggest that if Mr. Matza had left the lunchroom and something bad had happened there, he would have been blamed. Had Mr. Matza broken any rules? Ms. Moskowitz asked. Mr. McCray, the lawyer, said he didn't know, but added that the bottom line was that "Mr. Matza did not personally take charge of a situation in which a child was unconscious." As for Clarence, happily he was back in school the next day.
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As Chief Operating Officer, Recy (pictured above, bottom row left) leads system-wide operations, district partnerships and growth strategy. Recy formerly served as the Senior Executive Director for Cities at New Leaders, a national nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders. He managed and supported all city executive directors across eight program sites nationally. Recy filled numerous roles at school districts, including the New York City Department of Education where he was the Executive Director of the Charter Schools Office, leading a team responsible for coordinating a portfolio of 136 charter schools. Recy also served as Executive Director of Early Childhood at the NYCDOE, managing early childhood initiatives citywide with a focus on Universal Prekindergarten. Previously, he worked at Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland and before that completed The Broad Residency in Urban Education while at the District of Columbia Public Schools. Prior to his education experience, Recy worked in the public and private sector in several organizations. Recy has an MBA and an MA in Education from Stanford, and undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, he completed his School District Leadership certification program at Bank Street College of Education.)