Principal probed by DOE investigators


The Department of Education is investigating PS 24 Principal Donna Connelly, a DOE spokesperson confirmed Friday. 

The DOE would not reveal any details about the investigation except to say it is based on complaints received a few weeks ago. 

PS 24 parent Cliff Stanton said a group of one to three unhappy staffers lodged a complaint with the DOE claiming that Ms. Connelly misused fund-raiser money and is holding the assistant principal position open while her choice for the job, Manny Verdi, gets his AP license.

Mr. Stanton called the claims “absolute garbage,” “bogus” and “nonsense.”

“The sole purpose was to get themselves a headline story in the Riverdale Review,” he said of the staffers who filed the complaint. 

Ms. Connelly agreed, calling the charges, “totally ridiculous” during a phone interview on Tuesday. 

Since taking over in October 2009, Ms. Connelly has been no stranger to controversy. She received criticism almost immediately for naming Mr. Verdi assistant principal. After claims surfaced that Mr. Verdi was unlicensed, Ms. Connelly changed his title to guidance counselor. Since then, the AP position has been left unfilled. 

Mr. Stanton defended Ms. Connelly’s decision to hold the AP position open, saying Mr. Verdi will have his license early next school year and that he and the principal make a “very dynamic duo who compliment each other very well.”

Ms. Connelly received more flak after PS 24 earned an F on the environment portion of its Progress Report, which is based by parents’ and teachers’ responses to a survey that asks questions about their school. Ms. Connelly, as well as parents, including Mr. Stanton and Joe Zizzo, attributed that grade to dissatisfaction with the former principal, who was removed, and Ms. Connelly’s myriad changes to the school. 

“Change is happening and I think that maybe it makes people uncomfortable,” Ms. Connelly said.

Some of the changes Ms. Connelly has brought to the school include going from a five-day schedule to a six-day rotation, hiring new staffers, adding lunchtime enrichment classes and instituting a book-of-the-month club. Some said the restructuring upset longtime teachers who were used to the status quo. 

“I’m not going to deterred from the goals that I’ve set for the school,” Ms. Connelly said.