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Controversial MS 8 Principal Murphy resigns

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Principal John Murphy resigned from his position at Middle School 8 in Jamaica Tuesday, after more than a month of protests from the Jamaica school’s teachers who claimed they had been on the receiving end of his tyrannical behavior.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said the controversial administrator stepped down as the principal of the school, located at 108-35 167th St., because he did not want to create a bad learning environment.

“Principal Murphy has come to believe that his continued presence at MS 8 is distracting from the school’s learning environment and focus on student academic performance,” Klein said in a statement released Tuesday, hours after Murphy submitted his resignation papers.

Murphy, who came to the school in the fall of 2005, has been accused by past and present school staff of harassment. Assistant Principal Cheryl Spencer will act as the intermediate principal until the Department of Education finds a permanent replacement, according to the chancellor.

The news of Murphy’s resignation pleased Christina Rozeas, a former MS 8 guidance counselor who was fired by Murphy last year.

“I think it’s a good thing for the school. The assistant principal is awesome. She has a better relationship with the children,” she said.

Last month Murphy allegedly scolded teaching aide Nyasia Johnson, causing her to have a panic attack and to be sent to the hospital in an ambulance, according to the police. The incident prompted the school’s staff to hold daily protests at the school, demanding that the DOE remove Murphy as principal.

The agency and the principal’s union backed Murphy despite the outcry and cited his 3-1/2-year record at the school. The school went from a D rating in the 2007 report card to a B rating in its 2008 report card.

Klein continued to praise Murphy for his work at the school.

“I thank him for his service and congratulate him and the entire school community, including teachers, students, and parents for the accomplishments of recent years,” he said in the memo about the resignation.

Teachers claim the report card grade was inflated because Murphy threatened to fire teachers who did not promote failing students. In a 2008 e-mail memo obtained by the TimesLedger, Murphy ordered teachers to promote 20 students who failed.

“Remember how we did it last year... We moved them up, and then gave them MEGA EXTRA help,” he wrote in the e-mail.

This is not the first time Murphy was forced to step down as a school head. Before coming to Queens, Murphy was principal of Danbury High School in Connecticut for less than six months before being compelled to resign, according to Leroy Gadsen, the head of the Jamaica NAACP, which investigated the principal for suspected civil rights violations.

Murphy allegedly harassed staff members in the Connecticut school, leading to numerous complaints against him, according to the NAACP head.

“We hopefully now can return to a place of normalcy where these kids can get a good education,” Gadsen said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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