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Three SD 26 middle schools lose principals

The remaining principal decided to stay only after his staff begged him to remain, said the administrator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The personnel decisions were particularly striking in District 26, the highest performing school district in the city.

All five principals grew tired of the top-down changes and lack of support from the city Department of Education, the administrator said, with one suffering a stress attack because of the added pressure this past school year.

"It's been a very tough year," the administrator said. "It gets to a point where you reach critical mass and enough already."

District 26 covers Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Glen Oaks, Floral Park, Bellerose and parts of Auburndale, Flushing, Fresh Meadows and Queens Village.

In the district, Janice Imundi of MS 216 in Flushing, Michael Mazun of MS 74 in Bayside and Mae Fong of MS 67 in Little Neck announced their retirements before the school year ended, the administrator said. Tom Scarpinato, previously the interim acting principal at MS 172 in Floral Park, decided to take an assistant principal post at the school, while Charles DeMeo of MS 158 in Bayside was convinced to stay.

MS 216 will now be run by Reginald Landau Jr., MS 74 by Andrea Dapolito, MS 67 by Zoi McGrath and MS 172 by Jeffrey Slivko, the administrator said. Slivko received a full appointment, while the others are interim acting principals. No other administrators could be reached for comment, as the school year is over.

The administrator said the school year had been a long one for all five principals, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein tried to revamp the education system and bring it more directly under centralized control.

Under the changes, community school boards were replaced with new parent councils this month, while school districts were grouped together into regions last fall, leaving only a skeletal structure at the local level.

With the organizational change, the Department of Education tried to impose a one-size-fits-all model on the schools and failed to provide support and the proper communication channels, the administrator said.

"Things that normally took five minutes took weeks," the administrator said. "It's a level of frustration that becomes insufferable."

Compounding the problem, parent coordinators, all in new positions created for this past academic year to facilitate communication, were caught in the middle between their individual schools and the department's Parent Academy, which trained them.

"Parents always had access to the superintendent and the school board," the administrator said of the old system. "It worked."

And while principals had to deal with new programs, the mandates were often left unfunded, the administrator said, with the school heads no longer given discretion on how to spend funds.

"You have no budget to be in charge of now," the administrator said.

Adding to the stress, District 26, the highest scoring in the city on standardized tests, has felt the burden of the federal No Child Left behind Act, which allows children from failing schools to transfer to those facilities that have room for them.

And signaling that principals are under the microscope, the department replaced 10 from Queens for their alleged lack of performance, a characterization the union disputed. None of the 10 was from District 26.

The administrator said the department has not tolerated criticism from its principals.

"If you express an opinion other than that which has been made public, you are either not a team player or a dinosaur," the administrator said of the department's stance.

When one of the principals in District 26, where school heads were close to one another and shared similar views, decided to retire, several others followed suit.

"You don't want to be the last girl at the prom," the administrator said. "The will to fight just subsides."

The administrator said those left realize that it is too late to bring back the old system but want principals to regain their say in how things are done. The fact that four of five principals chose not to return in the city's top school districts should be an omen, the administrator said.

"Wouldn't that cause anyone to pause and think?"

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

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