Today’s news:

City removes 10 principals from Queens schools

The declaration came amid sweeping changes in the system that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein are trying to retool.

The DOE said last week that as many as 2,900 borough third-graders had been recommended for summer school after failing test scores just a day before school let out for the year.

The mayor this week released the results of an initiative to crack down on violence that included two Queens High Schools as parent councils prepared to take the reins from the abolished school boards July 1.

The 10 ousted Queens principals were part of a larger group of 45 throughout the city who the Department of Education said had received or were in danger of receiving unsatisfactory ratings in their performance evaluations.

The Queens list released from the department included: Robert Hickson of Springfield Gardens High School, Neil Bluth of Campus High School in Cambria Heights, Joseph Saccente of PS/IS 499 on the grounds of Queens College in Flushing, Carol Davidson of JHS 190 in Forest Hills, Jane Danapas of IS 230 in Jackson Heights, Nancy Drescher of PS 111 in Long Island City, Doris Rosado of PS 65 in Ozone Park, Barbara Pleener of Beach Channel High School, Cheryll Jones of Far Rockaway High School, and Frank Barone of Franklin K. Lane High School on the border of Woodhaven and Brooklyn.

Hickson and Danapas have tenure and will take another position at their schools as will Saccente, who was a probationary principal. Barone, also a probationary principal, resigned, and the rest will retire.

As those in the educational community debated the removals, the Department of Education was preparing to open its Summer Success Academy on July 6 for the 2,911 third-graders from Queens and surrounding neighborhoods who did not pass one or both of the city math and reading tests.

Under a policy instituted by Klein to end social promotion, those who failed were not sent on to fourth grade but were instead entered into an automatic appeals process to determine their fate. The summer academy is a part of that process.

At a news conference at Franklin K. Lane Tuesday, Klein, Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly presented a progress report praising their campaign to curb both disruptive behavior and major crime at 16 schools, including Lane and Far Rockaway High School.

Along with additional safety officers, the effort featured a larger police presence at the schools, a move not universally endorsed by students and their parents.

Another educational change, the replacement of school boards with 11-member councils chosen by the leaders of each parent and parent teacher association has also been criticized. The formal transfer of power was to take place Thursday, ending 36 years of school board advocacy.

The principals were replaced as part of an effort to increase accountability and responsibility among school administrators, the Department of Education said.

"We are following up on our promise to hold principals to high standards and make outstanding school leadership a priority," said Carmina Farina, acting deputy chancellor for teaching and learning.

It could not be determined the exact circumstances surrounding the removal of the 10 Queens principals. Of the 45 effected citywide, 18 are retiring or have resigned, 25 are returning to being assistant principals, and two are contesting charges of incompetence that have been brought against them.

The two facing charges have tenure, as did 14 others. Those 14 agreed to a settlement to leave the system or move to an assistant position, the department said, rather than have an incompetent charge brought against them.

But the union which represents the principals, The Council of School Administrators, portrayed the announcement of the removals as an attempt by Klein and Bloomberg to show they were making progress with school reforms. Last year 40 principals retired, resigned or decided they would rather go back to being assistants, a council spokesman said, but those decisions were not publicized. This year's tally also includes principals who already retired or resigned earlier in the year.

"Deliberately misleading the public about their new 'accountability' policy and making a spectacle of these removals, this administration has once again proven that it has no respect for its school leaders," the union said in a statement. The council is considering a lawsuit.

For the 1,796 Queens third-graders who failed the city tests, those whose schoolwork during the year was later judged sufficient by teachers and principals were passed. In Regions 3, 4 and 5, the school groupings that cover all of Queens and parts of the surrounding boroughs, 445 of the 2,911 failing students qualified. The rest were encouraged to attend the Summer Success Academy and then will be required to take the tests again in August if they want to become fourth-graders.

The academy, a special form of summer school, will feature parent volunteers recruited by the non-profit group Learning Leaders. But critics still doubt that third-graders can be brought up to standards so quickly.

"I don't see how if a kid is failing over a 30-week period you can fix it in a five-week period," said City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), a member of the Council's Education Committee and a proponent of earlier intervention.

On the effort to curb school violence, Klein said criminal incidents declined 10 percent and major felonies 48 percent for the first 12 schools targeted by the Impact Schools Initiative. Both categories dropped 66 percent at four more schools added in April. Statistics for the two Queens schools could not be determined.

"We have had terrific cooperation from the NYPD and the results are encouraging," Klein said. "It will take time, but as we are proving in other areas, it is possible to turn New York City's public schools around."

After years of stories about factional infighting among school boards, Bloomberg received approval from the state Legislature to replace the boards with parent councils. Unlike the old boards, members of the council must have children in the district they represent, an effort to make sure parents have more control.

But members of outgoing boards around Queens said they had accomplished much and were afraid that the councils would not stand up to the Department of Education on contentious issues.

"I don't think a lot of the people in the community are going to realize what they've lost until they need us," said Donna Caltabiano, a member of School Board 27 in Howard Beach, South Ozone Park ad the Rockaways for 11 years.

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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