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By Jillissa Drayton and Mohima Sattar, Features Editor and Opinion Editor
An emergency School Leadership Team (SLT) meeting was called on Monday in order to address budget concerns. The SLT discussion on the budget became tense when it was revealed that Interim Acting Principal Jahoda missed the deadline to apply for a major grant that THHS has been awarded in the past. In explaining the missed deadline, Ms. Jahoda referred to her status as a “new principal” multiple times and explained that “it is not 100% clear to me what the biggest [funding] priority is” for the school.
This grant, known as Resolution A, or Reso A, could have provided THHS with an undetermined amount depending on contributions made by both council members and the borough president.
At the meeting, Ms. Jahoda did not deny missing the deadline. When questioned, she said “to be honest…my focus was on using the money first that we have in our budget for whatever computer equipment we need. I was not prepared to put any kind of Reso A [application] in.”
She further elaborated, “You can’t submit for the same thing in a variety of places. …I’m not going to submit a request for Reso A money if I’m going to use the money to buy the same equipment…As a new principal, it is very difficult for me to determine what is most important and what is least important.”
Members of the SLT questioned Ms. Jahoda over this issue in a tense exchange.
Responding to Ms. Jahoda’s continued reference to being “a new principal,” Co-Chair of the PTA Susan Karlic said, “It’s March.” She went on to state that discussions of Reso A should have occurred earlier in the year and that all grant money should be sought for the school.
Assistant Principal of Organization Ellen Fee, who is applying for the job of principal at THHS, attended the meeting to speak about the budget and propose a plan on how to spend the amount of money that THHS had in its budget. She disputed Ms. Jahoda’s claim that a school cannot submit the requests for funding the same items through multiple possible areas. On the issue of Reso A, she said, “My feeling is that it’s a grant and you always apply for it.” After the meeting, Ms. Fee commented, “I’m disappointed that applications for the Reso A grants did not occur this year and I’m concerned about our technology needs, current and for the future.”
United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Chapter Leader Franco Scardino said, “I was very surprised, and… extremely disappointed, to hear that the Reso A deadline passed and Townsend Harris missed out on another opportunity to apply for funds to support student learning.”
Regarding Ms. Jahoda’s justification of being “a new principal,” Mr. Scardino said, “Mrs. Jahoda continues to hide behind the excuse that she is a ‘new principal,’ but after six months on the job, and two mentors, one would think these experienced individuals would have counseled her. Should I cut my 9th graders the same slack since they are new too? Ms. Jahoda has had plenty of time, opportunities and resources during her Interim Acting period to … inform herself of the responsibilities that are inherent with the position she seeks.”
Parent Karen Lin, who is on the SLT, said: “I am deeply disturbed that the interim principal missed the deadline to apply for significant funding through Reso A to help our school. The school year is almost 70% over and it is unacceptable that she is still unable to determine what the needs of this school are. It reveals, at best, poor judgment and inexperience, or, at worst, an utter lack of competence. These are not qualities befitting a principal of any school. ”
The Resolution A grant aims to improve schools through projects that are funded by individual grants from local politicians to renovate a variety of equipment within the school. At THHS, the tradition has been that legislative breakfasts, taking place in April, have taken place in order to garner support from local politicians.
Ms. Jahoda was unavailable for comment after the meeting. In recent days, Ms. Jahoda has told mainstream media that “While I am frustrated by these inaccurate allegations, I remain 100% focused on helping students and parents at THHS, and on moving the community forward.”
News of the missed deadline comes after The Classic reported that Ms. Jahoda has spent some of her time considering purchasing furniture for her office and receiving three swatches for the possible couch purchase. After the report, Ms. Jahoda said at a meeting that she does not plan to buy a couch, and “had no intention of purchasing anything.” Nonetheless, she confirmed the receipt of the swatches, saying they “were brought to my attention, and I accepted [them] and thanked the person for bringing [them].” After questioned further, she said “There were discussions about possibly getting a couch in the future.”
The swatches arrived at the school days before the deadline for the Reso A grant was missed on February 14.