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Townsend Harris Students and Teachers Mount Fight Against Acting Principal

By Amy Zimmer | December 9, 2016 3:00pm
 Townsend Harris students
Townsend Harris students
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Townsend Harris website

QUEENS — Students and educators at Townsend Harris High School are outraged over the possibility that their interim principal might soon be installed permanently at the elite school on the Queens College campus in Flushing.

Students staged a sit-in on Thursday, live-streaming their protest on Facebook against Rosemarie Jahoda. Also, a change.org petition demanding Jahoda's ouster garnered more than 3,000 signatures in a few days.

“The principal of Townsend Harris High School should have a high respect for the humanities tradition, preferably with a background in the liberal arts and/or the classics,” the petition states. “Like Townsend Harris himself, the principal should be a first-rate diplomat, someone with an open-door policy who is approachable and serves as a natural magnet for students, teachers and parents.”

In three months that Jahoda has been interim acting principal, however, she has been a bad “fit,” many said.

“This semester, there have been rumors of numerous instances of faculty harassment, significant changes to programs and course offerings without input from the faculty and [Student Leadership Team], and as time has passed, less parent engagement,” the petition said. “Our children have not been insulated from this. Several have complained about her being aloof or even combative.”

In their dealings with Jahoda, teachers and students expressed frustrations over things like field trip procedures, creating uniform grading policies regardless of the level of coursework difficulty and lacking sufficient time when scheduling certain assignments, according to an article in the school newspaper, the Classic.

“Change is always welcomed if the outcome is to improve things,” Social Studies teacher and UFT Chapter Leader Franco Scardino told the Classic. “Townsend Harris is a well-oiled machine. It has always been a well-oiled machine and that does not mean some things might need to be changed. There are directives that have to be adjusted to, but if all the plumbing in your house is working and maybe one faucet is leaking, you would just change the washer in the sink, you wouldn’t rip out all the pipes.”

Jahoda did not immediately respond to request for comment.

DOE officials noted that the official principal hiring process, known as C-30, has yet to begin.

“Principal hiring and assignment decisions are made by the superintendent in accordance with the Chancellor’s Regulations, and based on consultations with members of the school community,” DOE spokesman Will Mantell said. “We listen closely to the feedback and concerns of all school communities, and engage them as part of the C-30 process.”