City Investigating Principal at Queens School After Complaints

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on May 28, 2014 6:33am 

 A group of Queens Gateway students said they are disappointed in their principal. Clockwise from top left: David Aronov, Jade Dames, Michael Carter and Quintell Williams.
A group of Queens Gateway students said they are disappointed in their principal. Clockwise from top left: David Aronov, Jade Dames, Michael Carter and Quintell Williams.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — The Department of Education is investigating the principal at a Jamaica  school after parents sent a letter complaining about discontinued extracurricular activities, arbitrary increases in dues and intimidation tactics, DOE officials said.

The April 15 letter to the DOE was sent by a group of students and the PTA about the principal, Judy Henry, who was appointed to Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Secondary School two years ago.

Local City Council members, Rory Lancman and Karen Koslowitz, also sent a joint letter on April 16 to school Chancellor Carmen Fariña expressing concerns about "misallocation of funds that were assigned to extracurricular activities," and, among other concerns, "exhibiting unprofessional conduct towards students."

The letter did not go into specifics about their concerns for the school, which spans sixth through 12th grade and enrolls 805 students.

During Henry's tenure, the high school's grades have improved — from a B on the 2011-'12 high school report card to an A in 2012-'13.

But the students and parents say that Henry has divided the school and has been using intimidation tactics toward those who oppose her, including screaming at students.

Their letter states that "mismanagement, fear of retribution, and the need to bow and scrape have taken the place of teaching and learning." 

The students also said that numerous afterschool activities, including basketball, soccer, Zumba, and gardening clubs, have been cut this year.

Senior dues were raised to $200, up from $100 last year, and included a $20 charge for graduation cap tassels. The overall price was lowered only recently to $160 after students protested, they said.

“But it’s still not low enough for us,” said Jade Dames, 18, a senior.

Henry declined comment through her secretary and referred all questions to the DOE.

David Pena, a spokesman for the Department of Education, acknowledged that the agency received the letter from the school's PTA.

“The allegations made in the letter [are] currently being investigated,” he said in an email.

According to Lancman's office, the council members did get a response from the Department of Education officials who said they are “working on addressing the issues that have been raised in the letter.”

Chiara Coletti of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators said that "when any personnel matter is under investigation, we cannot comment."

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