|Cobble Hill School of American Studies|
The New York City Department of Education has a plethora of employees who are either incompetent, lazy, careless, insensitive, and just plain unaccountable for their actions, or all of these at the same time.
Hoa Tu is the deputy superintendent for Brooklyn North schools. She had a rough start when she founded and became Principal of the Business Technology Early College High School. Perhaps Dr. Tu has a problem with transparency, supervision, or delegation from way back:
Hoa Tu, who is slated to be principal at the Business Technology Early College High School in September, dropped by the monthly meeting of Community Education Council 26 to introduce herself and to talk about plans for September.
But when talk turned to the enrollment process by which the 108 members of the school’s first freshman class were selected, some residents said their neighborhoods’ children had no opportunity to even apply for the school that will offer a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in some advanced technical fields.
“We supported this school,” said Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op community, indicating himself and representatives of two other civic groups in the room at Little Neck’s MS 67.
“I represent 3,000 families,” Friedrich said. “We weren’t made aware of the process, so our kids couldn’t apply.”
Students, parents and teachers staged protests last year when word of the possible co-location began leaking out.
Not all civic leaders in the area opposed the technical school. Friedrich and other residents who supported it were roundly booed at a public hearing last year when they were called on to speak.
If Tu thought explaining the application process back in March would smooth things over, she was mistaken.
She said first that DOE employees were under instructions not to discuss the school publicly until March 12.
While the school is intended to attract only two students, two education fairs at which the application process was discussed were held on March 18th and 19th.
It was not until March 20 that the third and final event was hosted at Queensborough Community College.
Tu said of the 108 students accepted into the first class, 10 are from within CEC 26 boundaries, with the rest from throughout Queens.
“It sounds like our children were ignored,” said CEC Member Susan Shiroma.
“They were ignored,” said Rhonda Kontner, the education committee chairwoman at Community Board 13, who was sitting in the audience a few feet away.
CEC member Anastasio Poltidis had a question of his own when asked about the logic or common sense behind Manhattan-based meetings to publicize a school for Queens students.
“You’re talking about the DOE, right?” he asked.
Friedrich, both last week and at Monday night’s meeting of Community Board 13, wasn’t in a mood to laugh.
“It was an epic failure, beyond belief,” he said on both occasions.
A DOE spokesman did not respond to emails requesting information on the enrollment process and the name of the person who set the meetings in Manhattan.
'her' is Margaret Tomasi, victim John Tomasi's mother.
"Before reporting a family for suspected child neglect, “DOE staff should first make multiple attempts to contact a family,” officials said."
blog Editor: Ah, this is the truth of the matter. It is indeed unfortunate that the NYC DOE uses the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) as their weapon of choice when they want to get a parent into line whom they believe is doing something harmful to their child(ren). However within the NYC DOE there are no "investigators" who find the truth, only agents of the Principals who go out and look into parents they are already told are doing something bad. The "investigators" are supposed to substantiate the bad acts.
When teachers are accused of false acts, no one does an in-depth investigation. My question to the Associate General Counsel of the UFT in 2004 was, "Why doesn't the UFT have investigators?" I kept asking over the years, but received no answer except that the Department has investigators and the UFT cannot "interfere".
Countless times I have received a call from a parent saying ACS showed up at their door, what should they do? Well, don't let them in unless they have reason to interview you. Or, let them in, but get the person's name, job title, and the complaint that they are investigating. It amazes me that anyone can call ACS and make an anonymous complaint about anyone, and start this ball rolling.
|PE Teacher George Kaliampos|
blog Editor: Whaaat? Who filled out the report cards? A staff member? The janitor? A para? A teacher? The lack of accountability is outrageous.
"The gym teacher, George Kaliampos, gave John the highest mark: “ME,” for “exceeds standards.”
blog Editor: Who told him to do this? Why would he give a student high grades for 100% absences - what line in the budget is there for "no seat time"?. We the public need to know. I hope they (the higher-ups at the NYC DOE) don't decide to charge you with 3020-a for misconduct, to get them off the hook! George - call me.
"A DOE spokesman did not explain why Chancellor Carranza, Principal Mule, and other Cobble Hill staffers did not respond to Tomasi’s messages."
blog Editor: the poor spokesperson for the DOE has to come up with something rational for this 4-month fiasco. Let's see what that might look like:
"The Department was so worried about COVID-19 infecting their computers that they did not use them in the headquarters (52 Chamber Street, Manhattan) or at Cobble Hill School due to fear of their computers getting the virus and infecting everyone". No computers can be used at the NYC Department of Education headquarters or district offices until everyone who works in any building is vaccinated.
"When the school got the names of students enrolling at the Cobble Hill School of American Studies, the staff was able to input the names of students only up to the letter "S". After that letter, it was just assumed that students were enrolled because no one was showing up anyway and time had to be made for finding a new remotely-taught curriculum for each subject rather finding out who would be in each class."
"The NYC DOE must get funded for students who show up as well as students who never show up. You understand that, right?"
"The Department does not know how this happened. No staff, teachers, or other employees of the Department have entered the school since mid-August, so there must have been a break-in or some kind of take-over by unlicensed hackers."
"A student with the same name registered with the school right before all the telephone numbers in the building were changed at the beginning of September due to fear of a hacker getting students' private information. Nothing, absolutely nothing with the students' or family data was put into the online computers at the NYC DOE or the school, but unfortunately, there was a fire at the school and all records were burned to a crisp.No NYC DOE personnel were harmed, and all the fire alarm equipment at the school have now been updated and turned on. Before September 1 2020 the school did not have any working fire alarms, but now the school is fully stocked."
You get my point.
I have joyfully worked for the Department of Education as a teacher, coach, and administrator since 1998. I strongly believe in the power of educating the whole child, helping students uncover their passions, pursue their interests, and unlock their potential. I am passionate about education, history, reading, cooking and art, and being a mom! I am so proud to be the school leader of the Cobble Hill School of American Stuies - in my opinion, the best school with the best students in all of NYC!
The city Department of Education turned John Tomasi into a phantom student — and not only gave him fake report cards but wrongly put his family under investigation for child abuse.
The 14-year-old never enrolled in Cobble Hill School of American Studies in Brooklyn. He never attended a single class, in person or remotely.
Yet this fall, the public school created two report cards for John, both including teacher comments.
His physical-education teacher twice gave John the highest grade: “ME” for “exceeds standards.”
His algebra teacher cited “progress toward … understanding the connection between proportional relationships, lines, and linear equations,” among other skills.
After two months, Cobble Hill put John on a missing-student list. On Nov. 4, the school alerted the city Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), which opened an investigation of “suspected child abuse or maltreatment,” the agency said in a letter.
“On Nov. 5, I got a knock on my door at 5 p.m. from an ACS worker stating that my son has not been attending Cobble Hill High School,” John’s mom, Margaret Tomasi, told The Post. “It was very traumatizing and shocking.”
That’s because John was earning a spot on the freshman honor roll at Xaverian HS, a private Catholic prep school in Bay Ridge — where he has not missed a day of in-person and online classes since September.
The Tomasi family’s ordeal spotlight’s the DOE’s spotty attendance system during the COVID-19 pandemic, its failure to keep track of students listed in remote or in-person classes, and the practice of keeping “phantom students” on school rosters, which generate taxpayer funds.
The ACS investigator asked John’s parents if they used drugs, were ever arrested, been on welfare, or had a history of domestic violence. The worker asked many personal questions, including what religion they practiced, and looked inside their kitchen cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer to check for sufficient food.
The investigator asked John to lift his shirt, pull up his pant legs, and remove his socks to look for bruises or other injuries.
The next day, a Friday, Margaret Tomasi called Cobble Hill HS to ask why the school never contacted them before alerting ACS.
No one answered the phone.
“Somebody needs to get in touch with me. There’s a huge mistake with my son,” she said in her messages, noting the ACS visit.
“He’s not enrolled in your school,” she continued. “He attends Xaverian High School. The admissions office can immediately clear this up. Please contact me.”
No one called back, Tomasi said.
The mom also wrote to Principal Mule on Nov. 9 at an email address listed on the school website. “I received a letter from your school in October with a schedule,” she wrote. “I tried to call but could not get anyone on the phone. How did one letter become a child neglect case (and) now an open investigation?”
The email bounced back saying, “There was a problem delivering your message.” She tried again, to no avail.
Meanwhile, ACS contacted Xaverian HS, which confirmed John was attending that school all along. Case closed.
Margaret was ready to forget the whole fiasco until the family received not one but two Cobble Hill report cards for John.
A report card for the first marking period, which arrived in mid-November, gave John grades of “NX,” which means “incomplete,” or “NL,” which means “recent admit,” in listed classes: English, Algebra, Principals (sic) of Biomed, Living Environment, Mindfulness and Global Studies.
The algebra teacher cited progress in three areas: “using properties of rational and irrational numbers,” “understanding solving equations as a process of reasoning and explaining the reasoning,” and “solving systems of equations.”
Under the DOE’s 2020-21 grading policy, eased due to the pandemic, students who don’t show up or don’t do work must be graded “NX.” Attendance is not required and failing grades are prohibited.
Had the Tomasi family never objected, John could have passed 9th grade at Cobble Hill.
Cobble Hill gym teacher George Kaliampos gave John the highest mark: “ME,” for “exceeds standards.”
A report card for the second marking period arrived Dec. 19. The same grades — including “exceeds standards” in phys-ed — were repeated, but with more teacher comments.
His Mindfulness teacher noted, “Frequently does not submit course work.”
The Algebra teacher cited two additional areas of “progress” by John: “understanding the connection between proportional relationships, lines, and linear equations,” and “representing and solving equations and inequalities graphically.”
But she added: “Insufficient work is available to determine the student’s grades despite multiple attempts to contact the student and family.”
That last comment “put me over the edge,” said Margaret Tomasi, who insists the family never got a call from the teacher.
The frustrated mom sent an email on Dec. 21 to Chancellor Richard Carranza with the subject line, “Cobble Hill High School’s Gross Negligence.” She wrote that a phone call could have prevented them from being dragged into the child-welfare system.
She added, “I received a report card from Cobble Hill. In case you were wondering, it said (John) was doing well in gym class. Since then we received yet a second report (card) from Cobble Hill and this one had comments on it. How is this possible?”
A Cobble Hill teacher blamed the school’s “general incompetence and inability to function properly,” saying administrators gave the faculty a bad contact list: “There were countless students with wrong phone numbers.” Administrators also refused to make home visits to look for kids who could not be reached, the teacher told The Post, asking to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation.
As for the report cards, administrators instructed teachers to choose from a list of canned comments. Citing “progress” is a gentle way to indicate failure, the teacher said.
Of John’s high mark in phys-ed, the teacher wasn’t surprised: “Everybody passes that class.”
Investigating the snafu herself, Tomasi learned that John’s 8th-grade teacher at his grammar school, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Academy in Brooklyn, routinely sends the DOE a list of graduates who might go to public high schools. This is done even for kids planning to go to private schools, as a back-up.
But the St. Joseph teacher later neglected to notify the DOE that John would not attend any public high school, and had accepted a seat at Xaverian.
Cobble Hill HS apparently didn’t get the message that he wasn’t coming.
Tomasi finally reached a staffer in the DOE’s enrollment office who assured her they would remove John from the system.
But when the family received the second Cobble Hill report card — a week after ACS deemed the child-abuse suspicions “unfounded” — she became worried that the case might be reopened.
Tomasi contacted The Post to tell the family’s story in hopes of “closure with Cobble Hill,” and improving the DOE system.
“We don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” she said.
On Thursday, shortly after The Post questioned the DOE, the deputy superintendent for Brooklyn North schools, Hoa Tu, called Tomasi to assure her the case was closed, and to apologize.
“It was all a very bad mistake,” Tomasi said Tu told her.
The Department of Education said in a statement, “This should not have happened.”
Before reporting a family for suspected child neglect, “DOE staff should first make multiple attempts to contact a family,” officials said.
The report cards “were issued in error, ” the DOE said, blaming one unidentified person. “A staff member made a mistake when filling out report cards.”
A DOE spokesman did not explain why Chancellor Carranza, Principal Mule, and other Cobble Hill staffers did not respond to Tomasi’s messages.