College Point calls for new PS 29 head

State Sen. Tony Avella (c.) speaks at a rally calling for the removal of PS 29 Principal Jennifer Jones-Rogers. Photo by Caroll Alvarado
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Parents, teachers and a state lawmaker called for the ouster of a College Point elementary school principal last week.

A rally was held Aug. 1 outside PS 29, near the corner of 23rd Avenue and 126th Street, where Jennifer Jones-Rogers has overseen the pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade institution for the past three years.

“I’m here because of the disgraceful actions of Principal Jennifer Jones-Rogers,” Avella said. “I’m calling for the removal of this principal.”

The crowd had a laundry list of grievances against the educator: she forced teachers out of their jobs, crammed children into special education classes without the consent of parents, wasted money on contracts and overtime and dismantled the computer lab and library.

The city Department of Education said it would investigate the claims, while the principal union’s executive vice director disputed the claims and had a more forceful response.

“This is a typical case of a handful of disgruntled people — and a politician who is looking to further his constituent base in an election season — ganging up on an effective school leader,” said Mark Cannizzaro, of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

A key indicator of dissatisfaction is the 25 out of 45 teachers who have left over the last three years, former and current educators contend.

One teacher who did not want to be named said he was forced to resign after Jones-Rogers threatened to fire him, while another former instructor at the school said when she disagreed with the leader, she actually got the ax.

Data from the state show that after Jones-Rogers’ first year ended, seven teachers jumped ship before the start of her second year, which is not out of line with previous years’ numbers. Information was not available on the number who left between her second and third year, but a former teacher at the school said eight people — including the third assistant principal during her tenure — left between May and August of this year.

Cannizzaro countered that “nowhere close to 25 faculty members have left the school in the last three years.”

DOE could not provide specific numbers to settle the score.

Jones-Rogers graduated from a fast-track principal training program called the Leadership Academy in 2009. It was developed under former city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and has been criticized by some for producing administrators who use heavy-handed management tactics, according to a report from education blog Gotham Schools.

Jones-Rogers went on maternity leave days before the rally and could not be reached for comment.

Parents and current teachers charged she stuck general education kids in special education classes to boost her school’s rating for personal gain.

When the school was ranked in the 96th percentile in 2011, the city gave her a bonus of $17,000, according to a WNYC report.

Department statistics show the total number of special ed students fell during the first two years with Jones-Rogers at the helm, from 97 under her predecessor to 87 in Jones-Rogers’ second year.

In her first year, 6.3 percent of special ed students were actually returned to the general student population at a time when the citywide average was 1 percent.

But the number who were put in isolated environments — rather than being instructed alongside general education students — increased from 32 to 47 kids under the first two years of Jones-Rogers’ tenure, which is the specific accusation leveled at the educator.

“She placed my son in special education. My son is not a special education student and I had to fight it,” said parent Marisol Chavez, who has a child in fifth-grade.

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