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By Mehrose Ahmad and Sumaita Hasan
Last week, on the day of the C-30 Level I interviews, The Classic confirmed that Interim Acting Principal Rosemarie Jahoda was one of five applicants who received an interview opportunity. In the lead up to the interviews, numerous members of the community accused the DOE of “rigging” the hiring process, suggesting that they are pushing through an unqualified candidate despite an official investigation, numerous accusations, and public outcry. Now one outspoken critic of the principal and the process is claiming that Ms. Jahoda’s activities on the day of the interviews represents a “significant breach of protocol” that further demonstrates the Department of Education’s inappropriate favoring of Ms. Jahoda over others.
On the day of the interviews, the three candidates besides Ms. Jahoda arrived to the interview independently. Ms. Jahoda, however, was seen with a DOE-provided mentor multiple times after school hours on the day of the interviews. This mentor is Margaret Lacey-Berman. Reporters for The Classic saw Ms. Lacey-Berman in the library where candidates waited to be called for an interview after school. Reporters also saw her and Ms. Jahoda exit the library together following the end of Ms. Jahoda’s interview well after 7 PM. Both declined to comment when approached that day.
UFT Chapter Leader Franco Scardino said he learned that Ms. Lacey-Berman was meeting with Ms. Jahoda after school on the day of the interviews from Patrick Thomas, the C-30 coordinator. Mr. Scardino said, “It seems very inappropriate, and another example of poor judgement…I do not know when her mentor arrived, but it doesn’t matter whether she was there for hours or minutes before. This is supposed to be a highly confidential process according to the DOE and having her mentor present in the room with the other candidates seems to be a significant breach of protocol.”
An administrator, speaking on condition of anonymity, also thought the appearance of Ms. Lacey Berman was inappropriate: “It’s clear that Ms. Lacey-Berman was there to support Ms. Jahoda through the interview process. Why does the DOE pay someone to help [Ms. Jahoda] get hired by the DOE? Shouldn’t the other candidates have had DOE-connected helpers to help them too? If they know she needs so much help, she can’t possibly be more qualified than 33 other candidates. She shouldn’t have received an interview.”
According to See Through New York, a website that catalogues the salaries of public employees, Ms. Lacey-Berman is paid $173,352 a year by the DOE. She is officially a Coaching Fellow and has “responsibilities related to sharing, facilitating, and modeling of best practices [for new principals].”
Regarding these issues, Ms. Lacey-Berman declined to comment. Hiring Manager and Superintendent Elaine Lindsey also declined to comment despite being approached and emailed multiple times. Ms. Jahoda has not returned requests for comment.
Other members of the Committee did not find Ms. Lacey-Berman’s presence inappropriate. Co-President of the Townsend Harris Alumni Association Selina Lee, who is also part of the Level 1 Committee, said, “Ms. Jahoda as the IAP is still in training and learning how to be a principal. I thought perhaps she and her mentor was working on something else.”
Similarly, Parent Representative on the C-30 Kerry Rosen said, “I do not believe that having a mentor present outside the room of the actual Level 1 C-30 interview itself gave Ms. Jahoda any advantage. The C-30 committee was comprised of people that have enough experience working directly with Ms. Jahoda all school year to adequately judge her as a candidate, regardless of mentor impact.”
The day of the C-30, Ms. Jahoda was unavailable throughout much of the school day. Classic editors attempted to reach out to her to confirm if she had received an interview opportunity, but she was in a meeting with Ms. Lacey-Berman.
Assistant Principal Ellen Fee, who applied for the principal job, but did not receive an interview, was unable to find Ms. Jahoda for much of the school day. She said, “I was hoping to accomplish some tasks on Wednesday afternoon that needed input from the principal and she told me she wasn’t available because she was meeting with her mentor. Those tasks did not get finished because of the mentoring.”
Ms. Jahoda’s mentors have been sources of controversy before.
Frances DeSanctis is another person paid by the DOE to provide advice to Ms. Jahoda. Though Ms. Jahoda has disputed that Ms. DeSanctis is her mentor, she has called her a “representative from the DOE who acts as a support liaison,” during a Parent Teacher Association meeting. Ms. DeSanctis is paid $161,946 per year, according to See Through New York.
The anonymous administrator stated, “The DOE is paying two people six figure salaries to help Ms. Jahoda do her job. It’s not normal for a principal to need this much help and for them to be in the building as long as they are. Clearly, someone at the DOE knows there is a problem and that Ms. Jahoda can’t be trusted to do her job on her own. Why spend the money for three principals to run one building when they could just hire one competent one?”
Previously, reporters of The Classic witnessed firsthand how much time the mentors spend with Ms. Jahoda. In an effort to get a comment from Ms. Jahoda in February, Classic members waited outside her office for a total of six hours from Wednesday to Friday after school. The mentors were with Ms. Jahoda each day. Ms. Jahoda was with Ms. Lacey-Berman on one day and with Ms. DeSanctis on two days. On the Friday before the February break, Ms. DeSanctis was with Ms. Jahoda until 7 PM.
Ms. DeSanctis began coming to help Ms. Jahoda after the sit-in and was seen during Town Halls taking notes and then accompanying Ms. Jahoda to her office.
She previously stated that Ms. Jahoda was a qualified candidate for the permanent principal position, and also labeled reporting surrounding Ms. Jahoda as “fake news,” which The Classic responded to. Additionally, at an earlier School Leadership Team Meeting, PTA Co-President Susan Karlic became especially frustrated with Ms. Jahoda and Ms. DeSanctis; Ms. Karlic said, “At one point [when I was] speaking directly to her [Ms. Jahoda], she rolled her eyes and turned her head towards her mentor and dismissed anything else I was saying (which even the team and observers witnessed).” The Classic was present at this meeting and witnessed this interaction; during the meeting, Ms. Jahoda was seen speaking to and laughing with Ms. DeSanctis.
Regarding the expenses of Ms. Lacey-Berman and Ms. DeSanctis, Mr. Scardino said, “The DOE has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Ms. Jahoda with mentors, helpers, and support staff to learn the job of principal. Using the most fundamental cost benefit analysis, the DOE has squandered substantial resources at taxpayer expense.”