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By Mehrose Ahmad and Sumaita Hasan, Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief
Additional Reporting by Mohima Sattar, Opinion Editor
Following news that assistant principals Ellen Fee and Susan Brustein were not given interviews for the C-30 process to become permanent principal of Townsend Harris High School, members of the community have called the C-30 process fixed, rigged, and corrupt.
At last night’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting, multiple parents and teachers expressed concerns about how the process works. Mother of senior Kortney Coburn, Jo-Ellen Kosack said at the meeting, “The problem is that if there are 38 candidates, there’s someone who selects five. It may not be the people we want. They could be the worst candidates, and that’s not fair. All of these people gather around, they sit, they interview, they do all this work. And for what purpose? The bottom line is the [superintendent] chooses the person and the [superintendent] doesn’t have to listen to any rec[ommendations] from the community. And that’s our problem here.”
Senior Samantha Jaloza’s mother, Michele Hutchinson also said at the PTA, “What happens to the other 33 [candidates] and why don’t our people see them or interview [them?] Who’s to say that these five applicants that we’re being given… could be the worst of the worst? Why are they being chosen?”
Dean Robin Figelman said, “Everybody thinks it’s fixed. We think the Department of Education is playing us.”
Many in the community were surprised that Ms. Fee and Ms. Brustein did not receive interviews, which they were informed of earlier in the week. Ms. Fee has been working at THHS for 15 years, while Ms. Brustein has been working for 17 years. Community members responded to the news on Facebook, with three people separately calling the process “rigged,” “underhanded,” and “bizarre.” Both APs have been outspoken regarding their issues with Interim Acting Principal Rosemarie Jahoda.
At this time, The Classic cannot confirm whether or not Ms. Jahoda received an interview.
In recent weeks, there have been consistent concerns of “assurances,” particularly after The Classic published an article that during school hours, Ms. Jahoda was shopping for furniture for her office. Later, Ms. Jahoda said that she has no plans to purchase a couch, but “there were discussions about possibly getting a couch in the future. Not this year.”
Furthermore, last week, at a District Leadership Team meeting, sources informed us that Ms. Jahoda’s Field Support Liaison Frances DeSanctis “affirmed [her] opinion of Ms. Jahoda as a qualified candidate” while referencing “community concern” of Ms. Jahoda as the product of an environment “in which ‘fake news’ is being widely circulated.”
In December, Deputy Superintendent Leticia Pineiro, while seeking student opinions, appeared to consistently defend Ms. Jahoda. At one point, she compared Ms. Jahoda favorably to former principal Anthony Barbetta, saying, “There are different types of leaders” and she respects Ms. Jahoda for being dedicated to following procedures (such as trip forms) correctly, while alleging that Mr. Barbetta did not.
Both Ms. DeSanctis and Ms. Pineiro work in the superintendent’s office.
With the growing sense that Ms. Jahoda is being pushed through the process despite community uproar, multiple sources informed The Classic about interactions with Ms. Jahoda from the fall that they believe demonstrate that Ms. Jahoda was provided assurances over her position by someone within the DOE.
Assistant Principal Ellen Fee claims that at cabinet meetings in the fall semester, in regards to policy changes, Ms. Jahoda discussed that she would wait to make changes until after December 8th when she’s appointed. An anonymous AP similarly claimed that Ms. Jahoda said she is holding back until the C-30 is over and is warming up for the time after the C-30.
In an audio recording that The Classic published earlier in the year, Ms. Jahoda said, “Times are changing.” In the conversation, Ms. Jahoda mentioned she would not set up a meeting with Mr. Scardino to discuss concerns about their relationship “until after December 8,” which was the date of the previous C-30 for THHS that was postponed.
Another source, this time a teacher, claimed Ms. Jahoda made statements saying the Department of Education supports her. The anonymous assistant principal claims that Ms. Jahoda has “repeatedly” said the DOE supports her. The assistant principal said Ms. Jahoda would speak as if she is certain to get the job and that they found such comments “confusing.”
None of these sources claim that Ms. Jahoda directly mentioned Superintendent Lindsey or anyone specifically from the DOE.
Mr. Scardino also informed The Classic that the DOE has not made a decision in regards to a grievance that he filed against Ms. Jahoda for union animus earlier this year, despite a 48 day deadline that passed this week. Due to this, the grievance will not be resolved before the C-30 interviews next week. Regarding this, Mr. Scardino said, “I strongly suspect that this is part of a larger, secretive and anti-democratic attempt to rig the process in favor of Ms. Jahoda by withholding a decision that would negatively impact her chances of being selected permanent principal. Why else delay…? The Chancellor’s Office is undermining public confidence in an institution that serves 1.1 million students and their families.”
Of additional concern for members of the community, today The Classic was informed that Assistant Principal Veronica York was removed from the C-30 Level I Committee, which reviews candidates during the hiring process for the permanent principal position. Previously, Ms. York was the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators [CSA] representative. Sources claim a principal from outside of THHS will replace Ms. York.
Ms. Fee said, “If you’re asking someone outside of the community what their input is of the candidates that applied then you’re missing the point… it seems to me that the C-30 committee should have on it a representative from the assistant principals that are in this building.”
The anonymous assistant principal believes the removal of Ms. York proves that the C-30 is fixed, as they think a member who is not part of the THHS community is a “generic” individual, who “will be fooled by Ms. Jahoda’s facade.”
Of these developments, one political insider speaking under condition of anonymity stated, “The mob is more subtle” than the DOE.
Ms. Jahoda declined to comment for this article.