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Sunday, August 28, 2022

Despised William Cullen Bryant HS Principal Namita Dwarka Gets a Promotion

Namita Dwarka

 It seems Chancellor Banks is thanking the most reviled principals in the City for their service to the New York City Department of Education.

I just posted this about Oneatha Swinton, Principal at Port Richmond High school in Staten Island:

Ex-Principal Convicted of Fraud Gets a Sweetheart Deal From The NYC Department of Education

The thing is, when a Principal changes grades, ignores violence among children at his/her school, promotes staff disharmony, etc, he or she is doing what they are paid to do, namely make the school look good and get rid of teachers who expose the wrong-doing.

I have defended many teachers at 3020-a hearings who have been accused of "making the NYC Department of Education look bad". I'm not joking.

I did a 3020-a disciplinary arbitration many years ago for a teacher who innocently questioned Dwarka about her double-dipping, padding classes with the same curriculum and kids so that she could get extra funding. He, the accused teacher, was sent to the "rubber room" and charged with verbal abuse. We won, because she testified that she put him into the auditorium as his reassignment when he was out on leave. And, the DOE attorney was simply incompetent. His reward - he got out of the school and became an ATR.

In fact, for many years the NYC DOE charged teachers with the alleged crime of making "the NYC DOE look bad". Yep, that is "Just Cause for termination"

Under what standard, you may ask. I don't know.

The teachers, of course, are treated to termination for grade changing, social promotion, all of the acts that are part of the Principals' job descriptions.

When I posted the article below I didn't quite get the extent to which Dwarka could go with her misconduct:

Dwarka's student trailer for  problem kids 2015

Now, we got this.

 Betsy Combier

Controversial NYC principal Namita Dwarka, who is accused of grade-fraud, gets promoted

by Susan Edelman, NY POST, August 27, 2022

The city Department of Education has promoted a Queens high school principal whose reign was marred by alleged grade-fixing and intimidation, The Post has learned.

Namita Dwarka, the controversial – and often reviled – principal of William Cullen Bryant HS, told staff in a farewell note, “As of Monday, August 29th, I will be assuming the position of Deputy Superintendent.”

“It’s a new low for the DOE,” said City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens), who has urged Chancellor David Banks to crack down on school culture that turns a blind eye to academic fraud in schemes to boost graduation rates. “She shouldn’t be working in the DOE, much less in a leadership role.”

Dwarka, with a $198,000 salary, will serve as deputy to Josephine Van-Ess, superintendent of the Queens South HS district, overseeing 29 schools. Bryant HS is in the Queens North district. Banks has given more power to superintendents in his DOE reorganization.

The appointment sent shockwaves through Queens education circles:

“She’s got a terrible reputation among teachers. I’ve been hearing horror stories about her for years,” said Arthur Goldstein, a teacher at Francis Lewis HS in Queens. “She inspires good people to leave the system at a time that we sorely need them.”

Dwarka’s 11-year tenure at the Astoria school, which was threatened with closure for poor results when she arrived, was rife with turmoil and tensions. Dozens of staffers, including assistant principals, quit under her “dictatorship” or were forced out, insiders say. Morale was low.

“She was the one willing to do the dirty work,” said Sam Lazarus, a former teacher and UFT chapter leader. “It was not a happy place.”

But Dwarka demanded more than hard work and good teaching to boost the school’s performance statistics, whistleblowers say

Just two months ago, Georgia Lignou, a Bryant teacher and current UFT chapter leader, wrote a letter to Dwarka decrying pressure from administrators to promote students who skipped classes or did little or no work – and even some kids teachers had never even seen.

Teachers were “intimidated by the tone” of emails they received from supervisors. When asked to “provide support,” Lignou wrote, “what they hear is ‘We want you to pass this student.'” In a common practice citywide, teachers would give failing students a few last-ditch assignments to pass them “with much less work than what they required in class.”

“They do promote students who should not have been promoted,” Lignou added.

The DOE gave no comment on the complaints or on Dwarka’s announcement. “Ms. Dwarka passed an internal background check and will be considered for a position as Deputy Superintendent,” said spokeswoman Chyann Tull. 

The DOE’s Office of Special Investigations has an open case at Bryant HS, but “it doesn’t name Dwarka,” officials said.

Dwarka could not be reached for comment. The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the principals’ union, did not respond to a request for comment.

Dwarka’s scandals go back years. In 2013, she confined more than 20  students with behavior problems in a moldy outdoor trailer that looked like a shipping container, where they stayed the whole day while teachers took turns going in

Dwarka called it “the Scholars Academy.” One mom said, “You might as well send them to Rikers Island.”

In 2014, dozens of students were falsely labeled “former English language learners” to grant them an extra hour to finish the Regents exams, teachers alleged. Many such students were native English speakers or otherwise proficient.

In 2015, then-Chancellor Carmen FariƱa appointed a task force on academic policy after a series of reports in The Post. In one, an 18-year-old Bryant student admitted she regularly skipped a government class, had failing grades, and even missed the final exam — yet received a passing score of 65  to graduate.

“New York City gave me a ­diploma I didn’t deserve,” she said. Her teacher blamed “a tremendous amount of pressure” to pass kids.

Another report detailed Bryant’s online summer-school classes that let kids surf the Internet to plug in answers.

“They’re not learning. They’re not becoming college- or career-ready. They’re just getting out of high school,” veteran math teacher Mary Bozoyan complained at the time.

After her comments, Bozoyan, who suffers physical disabilities and difficulty walking, was locked out of a restroom next to her classroom, and forced to use one down the hall. The teacher said Dwarka also refused her plea to use a side entrance with fewer steps, calling it “retaliation – and heartlessness.” 

“I felt a mix of anger and sadness,” the since-retired Bozoyan said last week of Dwarka’s promotion. “I have just one question: Why Chancellor Banks, why?”

Dwarka has curried favor with DOE brass as Bryant’s lagging graduation rate, which was 56.5 percent when she started in 2011, slightly below the citywide average.

Last year, Bryant’s graduation rate was 87 percent — about the same as citywide — with 61 percent deemed able to enroll in CUNY without remedial help.

Dwarka’s farewell note to the faculty and staff said, “I encourage all of you to continue on the relentless quest for excellence and provide our students with the highest quality instruction and support.”


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Just when you think things can't get any worse, Chancellor Banks, perhaps suffering from geranium in cranium syndrome, finds one of the very worst principals in NYC (that's saying something), and promotes her. That would be Namita Dwarka of Bryant High School. Dwarka has been repeatedly accused of grade-fraud, social promotion, and other Big Fun things that, if you were accused, you'd find yourself facing dismissal charges. 

For years Dwarka has lingered about, like a stench you just can't wash or spray away. I've gotten messages and emails, heard stories, but nothing seemed to happen. Now something has, and if you didn't think Mayor Eric Swagger was Bloomberg 2.0, let this be your wakeup call. He took six million dollars from the charter lobby, and you can consider Dwarka's promotion a small down payment on what he owes back. 

I'm told that Dwarka managed to raise test scores via whatever methods. I'm also told that teachers there are rated lower than anywhere else, and that they're regularly terrorized. The Bryant chapter leader is quoted in the Post article:

Teachers were “intimidated by the tone” of emails they received from supervisors. When asked to “provide support,” Lignou wrote, “what they hear is ‘We want you to pass this student.'” In a common practice citywide, teachers would give failing students a few last-ditch assignments to pass them “with much less work than what they required in class.”

Certainly this is one way to bring scores up. Of course, fudging the data doesn't ultimately change much, and doesn't always work well. Teachers who participate have often faced awful repercussions, and prosecutors actually used RICO statutes to go after 11 teachers in Atlanta. So when your insane principal asks you to do whatever you have to in order to pass kids, you have to weigh the inconvenience of the principal harassing you against the real possibility of that racketeering conviction. Oh, and principals can be charged too (though less likely under Mayor Swagger).

We share the guilt here. UFT has never fully embraced the discriminatory, unreliable nature and miserable quality of standardized testing. There is the assumption, among reformies like Bloomberg, Swagger, and Soaring High, that teachers are all lying crooks who will simply pass everyone if there are not tools like Regents exams standing in their path. Therefore, we must use only those tests only to judge them. The irony is that those same reformies, when placed in leadership positions, will use every means at their disposal to juke the stats. This is Campbell's Law at work.

I recall distinctly when Mike Bloomberg was crowing about increased test scores, and how his unique genius made that possible. Diane Ravitch compared them to unchanging NAEP scores and determined the tests were dumbed down. Bloombergians ridiculed her. Until, of course, a few years later, when overwhelming evidence proved Ravitch correct. Then, the tests were, ridiculously, aligned to the NAEP. Of course, the results were twisted to indicate that UFT teachers were some sort of collective antichrist. I don't recall who it was who said that standardized testing measures nothing better than zip code or home size, but I certainly agree. 

And, giving credit where credit is due, let's face it--It was an egregious error for us to endorse Mayor Eric Swagger. Sure, he was a shoo-in once he won the Democratic primary. Sure, it was possible, on some astral plane, that he would ignore the suitcases of cash that came pouring in from Eva's BFFs during the primary. But it was highly unlikely, and a bad bet at best. 

This mayor has said no city worker gets raises without production increases. Evidently, inflation doesn't affect his world, what with that free mansion and all those gala luncheons. In a time of unprecedented prosperity, he's cut public school budgets. And he's fought tooth and nail against any measure to lower class sizes. Now he can talk all day about test scores, and promote those who finagle them by hook or by crook. We all know that our kids need more role models, more attention, and that the only way to give it is to lower class sizes. Just how bad is this mayor? He would happily fire us all, sell all the school properties, and have kids learn on Zoom in classes of 400.  Even Bloomberg only advocated for classes of 70

What can we do about this? For one thing, we have to be more visible. Why on earth was it not the United Federation of Teachers bringing the lawsuit to reverse budget cuts? And why, once it appeared, did we not join it? Could we have been worried that Swagger would be mad at us? Given the promotion of Dwarka, one can only conclude that he already hates us and everything we stand for. What, exactly, have we got to lose? His offer of zero-percent raises? Every teacher and UFT member in the city can tell him exactly what he can do with that. 

It should be us out there asking the mayor questions as he walks our streets, hiding behind all those men in suits. It should be us forcing him to answer questions. So far, I've seen him walk away in full Donald Trump mode, ask those who bother him to pray, and calling them, us, again in Trump mode, clowns. 

So be it. We are many, and we should make this mayor see clown cars everywhere. They should, in fact, haunt him right up to the crack of dawn each and every morning when he crawls into his coffin to sleep.