For years, a vocal group of former Bronx Science teachers — those who claim they have been wrongfully denied tenure and harassed at work — and their supporters, have said Bronx High School of Science Principal Valerie Reidy needs to go. Now, some of the principal’s detractors are finding new ways to fighting her.
Most recently, former Bronx Science social studies teacher Mark Sadok launched a Bronx Science New Principal Scholarship Fund website to have the controversial administrator removed. And in October 2010, the school’s former UFT Chapter Chair and tenured math teacher, Peter Lamphere, filed a lawsuit against Ms. Reidy, the DOE, former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Assistant Principal Rosemary Jahoda to reverse his “unsatisfactory” or “U” rating from 2008.
Mr. Lamphere said his salary was frozen as a result of the low grade and he wants to recover the money he lost. He argues that when he tried to help untenured math teachers who were being unfairly targeted by the administration he became a target himself.
Mr. Sadok was one of those teachers who claimed he was denied tenure in 2010 due to “the undeserved wrath of the principal” and has set out to raise money for the school, which he will fork over if and when Mr. Reidy leaves.
In a phone interview, he said he started the fund with $5,000 of his own money and has raised $500 more from the contributions of six others.
“I think the principal abuses her power and responsibilities. She also does not play by the rules that are established pursuant to the contract and I think the school is going in the wrong direction and her retirement is what’s necessary to reverse the negative direction of the school,” said Mr. Sadok, who has been unemployed since September 2010.
Mr. Lamphere also fund raised to support his legal fees. He held two events in February, including one at the Bronx Alehouse, and asked for donations on his website called Defend Teachers Against Harassment. He raised several thousand dollars, he said.
Bronx Science is a highly sought-out specialized high school that has churned out numerous notable alumni and consistently receives high marks from the Department of Education.
But teacher dissatisfaction has been a problem in recent years.
It dates back to at least May 2008, when 20 out of 22 teachers in the school’s math department filed a Special Complaint charging that Ms. Jahoda attempted to make changes by harassing four untenured teachers in an effort to meet the goals set out for her by Ms. Reidy. In April 2010, fact finder Carol Wittenberg concluded that Ms. Jahoda and Mr. Lamphere should transfer out of the school.
Later that month, Mr. Klein, who had the final say, rejected the finding that Ms. Jahoda “harassed [certain teachers]” and wrote that the arbitrator had relied on a surreptitious recording, while teachers withheld 18 months of other recordings in the investigation — something teachers deny.
Ms. Jahoda, who still works at Bronx Science, said after the dispute administrators partook in a team-building exercise, which helped greatly.
Bronx Science has had its share of problems on paper, too. The school received an A on its 2009-2010 Progress Report, which purports to measure how schools are doing compared to other, similar institutions, but got a C on the environment portion of the report, which is based on teacher, parent and student surveys. Parents and students gave the school high marks but teachers rated it average or below average in all categories, including engagement, communication, academic expectations and safety and respect.
Ms. Reidy said she would be more concerned if parents and students had given her low marks.
“I would like teachers to be content in their job … but that’s not my job. My job is to ensure that students are being served well,” she said.
EX-POW ASSOCIATION: The American Ex-Prisoners of War Association, Greater New York Chapter, meets the first and third Friday of each month at 10 a.m., at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 130 W. Kingsbridge Road, room 4B-50 on the fourth floor. All ex-POWs are invited. For more information, call 718-584-9000 ext. 5143.