IAP Jahoda accused of not prioritizing Special Education at THHS and failing to set up meetings Special Education teacher Georgia Brandeis describes as “essential”
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By Mehrose Ahmad and Sumaita Hasan, Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief
On Thursday, Interim Acting Principal Rosemarie Jahoda faced questions at the monthly United Federation of Teachers (UFT) executive board meeting attended by a committee of faculty members from different departments. For the meeting, English and Instructional Support teacher Georgia Brandeis prepared a statement regarding what she calls Ms. Jahoda’s “lack of involvement” with the school’s Special Education program, and criticized the acting principal for failing to set up a series of meetings designed to help students in the school with Individualized Education Program [IEPs]. After the statement was read, Ms. Jahoda claimed that she was never asked to hold these meetings. We can report that an email was sent to Ms. Jahoda in mid-October regarding the issue. Ms. Jahoda never responded to the email.
In her statement, which is included in the meeting’s minutes, Ms. Brandeis, who oversees the school’s special education program, writes, “I have not felt listened to and I do not feel that you have prioritized our students with IEPs (and without) in any way. As their advocate, this upsets me most of all.” Following this, Ms. Brandeis described the absence of a series of meetings that she feels is essential for the success of the Special Education students at Townsend Harris High School.
Last year, under the leadership of former Principal Anthony Barbetta all teachers who taught students with IEPs would meet in the principal’s conference room every marking period to discuss the progress of these students over lunch. In her letter, Ms. Brandeis criticized Ms. Jahoda for failing to continue this practice this year and explained that such meetings “were an excellent tool” as “teachers… discuss[ed] individual student progress, share[d] best practices and ideas, and receive[d] updates on new information pertaining to special education.”
At the UFT meeting, English teacher and Classic advisor Brian Sweeney was asked to attend the meeting as Ms. Brandeis’s proxy and read the letter aloud, as Ms. Brandeis was unable to attend. After reading the letter, Mr. Sweeney asked Ms. Jahoda why the meetings in question were not set up. Ms. Jahoda replied, “It’s not my job to set them up. There is an AP of that department that could have set up the meetings. I never objected to any meetings.” Mr. Sweeney then asked, “Were you asked to set it up?” and Ms. Jahoda replied, “No.” After further questioning, Ms. Jahoda said “I have no objections to the meeting taking place. No one said to me ‘could we have the meeting?’”
The assistant principal of the department is Veronica York who claims that she did ask Ms. Jahoda to set up the meetings. She said, “I brought [the meetings] up to Ms. Jahoda earlier in the year.. a few times.” According to Ms. York, Ms. Jahoda wanted to meet with Ms. Brandeis and Instructional Support teacher Kevin Claesgens first and instructed Ms. York to hold off on setting up the wider teacher meetings until this occurred. However, Ms. York said that as Ms. Jahoda never set up this first meeting, the group teacher meetings that Ms. Brandeis wanted never took place either. Ms. Brandeis confirmed that Ms. Jahoda never met with her and Mr. Claesgens about setting up the teacher meetings.
In an email to Ms. Jahoda titled “ISS [Instructional Support Services] teacher meetings,” Assistant Principal of Guidance Veronica York wrote: “I know you want to meet with the ISS team [Brandeis and Claesgens] first. Let me know how I can help. We really need to meet with the teachers ASAP. I’m concerned kids are failing/really struggling.” The email was sent on October 19, days after the first marking period ended. Ms. Jahoda never responded.
Ms. York said, “In the email I was trying to set up the meetings that Ms. Brandeis was speaking about. I was concerned about our students.”
Of the meetings, Ms. Brandeis told The Classic, “They were essential. In order for us to do our work, teachers need to be in constant communication about student progress.”
On Friday, Ms. Jahoda declined to comment on Ms. Brandeis’s concerns, saying, “I am not going to discuss… a teacher. As an administrator, I just can’t.”
According to the minutes of the UFT meeting, Ms. Jahoda repeated four times the same statement about the meetings: “I have no objection to [the] meetings.”
In response to the questions Ms. Brandeis raised through her letter, UFT Chapter Leader Franco Scardino told Ms. Jahoda at the meeting, “There are some poignant questions. And you should answer these questions for this committee.”
Of the Special Education program prior to Ms. Jahoda, Ms. York said, “Mr. Barbetta knew the program in and out. He knew every single student. It’s extremely different from what it is now.” She said, “[Mr. Barbetta] was extremely involved in the student body. He knew when individual students did well on a math test or [were] struggling in certain classes. Being able to be in the hall and say to a kid ‘Hey, I think you did really well on an exam, you should be proud of yourself’ or ‘You hit a great jump shot.’ I think that meant a lot to students.”
In her statement, Ms. Brandeis also brought up other concerns she had regarding the special education department. She expressed that Ms. Jahoda’s tone towards special education is one that is “antagonistic.” Overall, Ms. Brandeis feels that while Ms. York, Guidance Counselor Justine Meyer, and all of the teachers involved in the department have contributed to “many wins” for the special education program, Ms. Jahoda remains as someone who is not her “ally” to prioritize students who need instructional support.
Regarding the statement, Ms. York said, “Ms. Brandeis passionately cares about student achievement. She’s an amazing educator who wholeheartedly wants to do the right thing.”
These accusations follow a report in The Classic from last month on allegations made against Ms. Jahoda about how she handled one student’s IEP at The Bronx High School of Science. Visually impaired alumna Eva Hangartner, along with her mother, Anna Schuchman, claimed that Ms. Jahoda “sabotaged” her by purposely denying her the services mandated by her IEP.
Earlier in the year, Ms. Brandeis announced that she would be leaving THHS to take another job. She will leave when the school hires her replacement.
Ms. Brandeis’s statement can be viewed below. Untitleddocument-56