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By Mehrose Ahmad, Sumaita Hasan, and Mohima Sattar, Managing Editor, Editor-in-Chief, and Opinion Editor
In recent weeks, a common criticism of Interim Acting Principal Rosemarie Jahoda has been her lack of availability. Over the course of the past nine weeks, we have tried to set up interviews with Ms. Jahoda for over twenty articles. Each time, Ms. Jahoda told us that she was “unavailable.” We can now report that during part of the time Ms. Jahoda has been too busy to meet with The Classic, she has been shopping for furniture for her office during school hours.
On Friday, three swatches were delivered to Ms. Jahoda so she could make a decision on a new couch for her office. The swatches are for the “Orion Lounge Three-Seater” in vinyl and burgundy, the “Prairie Lounge Three-Seater” also in vinyl and burgundy, and finally, the “Sirena Lounge Three-Seater” in, once more, vinyl and burgundy. Ms. Jahoda has spent part of her work day discussing the buying options, looking at a catalogue, and ensuring the swatches get ordered before the final decision has been made.
A school fund dedicated to furniture purchases will be used to order the couch and any other items Ms. Jahoda would decide to buy for her office. The list price for each couch under consideration (with those specifications) comes in at more than $2000, though the DOE’s “Famis” ordering system would provide a discount (you can view the Sirena model here). Ms. Jahoda has expressed an interest in obtaining a better, upgraded phone for her office as well.
News of the shopping has led many in the school community to question both how Ms. Jahoda has been using her time and whether or not the potential purchases suggest that Ms. Jahoda has received any assurance about the hiring process that is currently under way.
In response to the possibility that Ms. Jahoda may have been given any assurances about the hiring process, Department of Education Deputy Press Secretary Will Mantell commented, “We are hiring the principal in accordance with Chancellor’s Regulation C-30.”
Superintendent Elaine Lindsey, who will be in charge of the principal hiring process, did not return requests for comment.
United Federation of Teachers Chapter Leader Franco Scardino said, “I think it’s a bit presumptuous to be ordering furniture before you’ve been given keys to the office. Ms. Jahoda would be wise and more considerate to wait until the C-30 process was over and then let the permanent principal decide on the colors and types of furniture.”
Dean Robin Figelman expressed frustration at the notion that Ms. Jahoda has devoted her time, in part, to this when she has been unsuccessful in getting Ms. Jahoda to devote time to changing the school’s cell phone policy. She asked, “How can a school run when the principal is hiding?”
Ms. Figelman has worked to clarify the school’s cell phone policy for over a month, and had requested that the policy be changed for the new semester. The issue was the center of a January 9 faculty meeting, but Ms. Figelman has not heard back from Ms. Jahoda about when the policy update will be made, despite assurances that it would. The new semester began two weeks ago.
Ms. Figelman emailed Ms. Jahoda last Friday about revising the cell phone policy. As of this morning, she still has not received an email in response. She had already emailed the principal’s secretary about the issue before as well, but did not get a response. She stated, “Students are concerned and wondering what is going on. They are in limbo because they’re waiting for an answer, as well as the faculty, who keeps asking me what the policy is going to be changed to. As of now, nothing has changed since Ms. Jahoda hasn’t gotten back to me.”
Ms. Figelman expressed frustration about Ms. Jahoda’s unavailability at a senior meeting, saying that “I’m trying to change some policy, but it’s very hard to change a policy when you can’t communicate with the leader.”
Mr. Scardino also expressed frustration that Ms. Jahoda would spend time shopping for furniture, when he believes that other, more necessary purchases, are not being made. He says her time “should be prioritized for [purchasing] a lot of outdated computer equipment that students and teachers use on a daily basis.”
Science teacher John Tsai, who is also in charge of maintaining the school’s technology, provided us with a list of computers in the building (besides those in computer labs). Out of 48, 22 were labelled “end-of-life,” which means that they need to be replaced.
Ms. Jahoda has been approached about ordering these new computers but, according to Assistant Principal of Organization, Health, and Physical Education Ellen Fee, “she has not made a final decision and is waiting to hear from the Queens North [DOE support center] staff.”
Questions about Ms. Jahoda’s visibility and how she spends her day have been raised for weeks.
Last week, The Classic published an article in which two assistant principals alleged that Ms. Jahoda was unavailable for much of Friday, February 3 when they tried to reach her about changing grades on transcripts. Ultimately, all senior transcripts were not sent to colleges until the following week because of the delay.
At a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting in December, Mr. Scardino claimed that Ms. Jahoda “is invisible to students and teachers.” PTA Co-President Susan Karlic has emailed Ms. Jahoda regarding the delay in mid-year reports, but she said that she never received direct responses to these emails from Ms. Jahoda. However, Ms. Jahoda sent an email to the entire student and parent body about the delay, and reassured them that the reports would be sent in time. In an article last week, a student reported asking to meet with Ms. Jahoda only to be told that she would not have the time to meet for a few days.
The Classic also previously published an editorial about Ms. Jahoda’s lack of availability.
When approached earlier today, Ms. Jahoda told us she was unavailable for comment.