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By Mehrose Ahmad and Sumaita Hasan, Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief
With the resumption of the c30 process and the job opening for principal of Townsend Harris to be posted on February 1, current Assistant Principal of Organization, Health, and Physical Education Ellen Fee has confirmed that she will be applying for the position.
Ms. Fee said, “At this time, when our school community needs healing and a vision for moving forward, I believe that I can contribute to our school.”
Ms. Fee began working at THHS in 2002 as assistant principal of mathematics. She started her career as a math teacher in Newtown High School in New York.
Ms. Fee said, “[over the past few months], I began to think that my experience at THHS for the last 15 years enables me to know the building more thoroughly than any other person.”
Many members of the THHS community positively responded to the news that Ms. Fee decided to apply as a candidate for the permanent position.
United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Chapter Leader Franco Scardino, who has candidly expressed his disagreements with the current Interim Acting Principal Rosemarie Jahoda, supported Ms. Fee’s decision to apply. He described her extensive experience at the school, saying, “She has experience as an academic supervisor, as a teacher, [and] as the assistant principal of organization, so she’s essentially responsible for the running and operating of the school.”
He went on to contrast Ms. Fee’s abilities with his belief that Ms. Jahoda “does not have the ability to build relationships across the school community.” He said, “Ms. Fee and I have worked together for 15 years. We have always found a way to collaborate, cooperate, compromise when necessary and move forward because we share a common vision for the school. I think we understand the mission of the school and share a similar sense of fairness and justice.”
Others shared Mr. Scardino’s enthusiasm. Dean Robin Figelman said, “I am totally excited. I think Ms. Fee will be a great candidate for our school. She knows the school; she knows the students. She’s caring; she’s considerate. She listens to people, works collaboratively with people… I would love to work with someone who has my back.” She added, “Clearly the acting interim has not consulted with the APs to create a positive environment. Instead, it has become hostile both with the APs and the teachers.”
Mathematics teachers Stephen Mazza and Magdalena Frankowski also recalled their interactions with Ms. Fee. Dr. Mazza previously worked with Ms. Fee when she was a mathematics teacher at Newtown High School. He said, “I always found that [Ms. Fee] does very well with concern for all the parties involved. I would be very happy to work with her as a principal of the school.” Ms. Frankowski also said that Ms. Fee “knows the ins and outs of the school and she would be wonderful for this job.”
Co- President of Seekers Christian Fellowship senior Jin Li, who has had many interactions with Ms. Fee as an adviser, provided her input: “If Ms. Fee were to be principal, I think THHS would benefit a lot from that.”
Class of 2016 alumna Nancy Yone recalled that she first met Ms. Fee during Festival of Nations (FON) and expressed, “Ms. Fee is perfect for the position! She is one of the kindest, understanding, and most welcoming faculty members. Her office is so warm and welcoming.” Nancy said that Ms. Fee gets along with “the faculty members and students,” and added that, “in my four years at THHS, I’ve never heard anyone complain about Ms. Fee.”
Simran Wahan, an alumna from the Class of 2015, said, “Ms. Fee is someone who has inspired me and motivated me since I was an underclassman at Townsend. She helped me found the Sikh Students Association in my sophomore year. Ms. Fee has been a vital part of my high school experience. I know she will be amazing at whatever opportunity she is given to serve students.”
An anonymous administrator was surprised Ms. Fee did not apply initially, adding, “She’s a competent administrator who takes care of all of the school.” They cited that her involvement in student activities such as MIST [Muslim Interscholastic Tournament] and her role as an advisor for both Seekers and the Muslim Student Association is something “you don’t usually find [with APs].”
“I believe that Ms. Jahoda should be immediately removed from THHS and Ms. Fee should be the new interim acting principal starting with the new semester, it’s perfect timing,” the administrator concluded.
Ms. Jahoda declined to comment.