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Students protest as Townsend begins search for new principal

Students stage a sit-in at Townsend Harris High School.
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Students at Townsend Harris High School engaged in a sit-in protest at the school Wednesday afternoon as a committee held its first meetings with potential applicants to fill the position of permanent principal.

Many in the school community have criticized Interim Principal Rosemarie Jahoda and are questioning if she will seek the position. Freshman/Sophomore President Maximilian Kurant derided the secrecy of the so-called C-30 process to select a principal.

“This makes us very angry, because we’ve made our voice very, very clear,” he said. “This is not the person we want to be our principal.”

Several dozen students. including Kurant, staged a sit-in criticizing Jahoda and the selection process near the school’s administrative offices, where the interviews were expected to be conducted, according to a video released by The Classic, the student newspaper.

The first meeting of the Level I Committee, which includes selected parents, students, school representatives and others, met with an unknown number of applicants. The search has become controversial due to sustained criticism of Jahoda. State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) said, to the best of his office’s knowledge, Jahoda was still being considered for the permanent job, and he called Townsend Harris one of the “gem” high schools in the city.

“I’ve never had a situation where an entire school community was so unanimous against a principal,” he said.

Weprin and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña March 3 describing an incident that took place during the Leadership Team Meeting for School District 26, in which Townsend Harris is included. At the meeting, a representative for District 26 High School Superintendent Elaine Lindsey said some of the community’s worries were being exacerbated by “fake news” about the process.

“To insinuate that the community’s shared concerns could be equated to ‘fake news’ further demonstrates the lack of transparency and understanding that has guided the C-30 process,” the letter from the Assembly members read.

The Classic has consistently reported on the controversy, and Editor-in-chief Sumaita Hasan and Managing Editor Mehrose Ahmad responded with a public letter, saying that if they had been making up their stories, they “would be able to leave school far earlier than we do.”

“In this political climate, where the media is persecuted by the new president’s administration, it has never been more important to uphold the principle of honesty in journalism,” the letter read. “Moreover, this is part of a troubling pattern where Superintendent Lindsey sends out representatives who speak of and to students in a manner many would find disparaging.”

Borough President Melinda Katz also sent a letter to Fariña March 7, requesting more transparency in the process, including a suggestion that the names of applicants be made public. Currently, the process is confidential.

“Entirely shrouded under a veil of silence and secrecy, the current process excludes any public oversight,” the letter said. “This has proven to erode precious trust from the respective school community’s stakeholders - especially parents - and it is unacceptab­le.”

The Level I Committee will deliver evaluations of the applicants to Superintendent Lindsey, who will conduct the Level II review and eventually make the appointment, according to the DOE. A neutral observer had also been assigned to oversee the Level I process to ensure it is conducted in accordance with regulations.

“We value hearing from students, elected officials and school communities, and continue to listen to their feedback,” a DOE spokesman said.

Kurant said Lindsey could still decide to select Jahoda, despite whatever recommendation the Level I Committee made; he said it was one of the reasons the student community believed the process was “rigged.”

“There’s something that’s really wrong about this, and that’s why we feel like we’re being silenced,” he said, “that we’re without a voice.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

Updated 2:29 pm, March 16, 2017
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Reader feedback

Leonard from queens says:
More dumbness from a site that tries to keep NYers low-informed. Since this krap began there was NOT ONE incident noted which involved the acting principle in a negative way. Snowflake whimpering students are simply mad the principle is making them do actual school work. End of story.
March 16, 4:26 am
Brian from Queens says:
To know Townsend Harris HS's acting principal is to loathe her. As any teacher, parent or student can tell you, she is running the place into the ground. She should not be at the helm of one of Queens' finest schools.

Like most Trump supporters, "Leonard from queens" is quick to side with a powerful bully rather than the people whose lives/education are being negatively impacted.

Thank you, Times Ledger for this terrific reporting.
March 16, 1:03 pm
lack of understanding from Queens says:
Sorry Brian, the world is not as you see it. Nothing to do with politics. Sorry sick and corrupt H did not win, get over it. The point here is that the principal runs the school, not the students and not the parents. The same way in any company, the mgmt. makes the decisions, not the employees. Time for you to grow up.
March 16, 1:58 pm
... says:
LOL says it isn't about politics then mentions politics.

Using your metaphor, employees strike when they want something. Why can't students?
March 16, 6:50 pm
joe queens from queens says:
And so now HS students across the state will select their Principles. I'm thinking, all these geniuses must know where the door is.
March 16, 8:20 pm
Thor says:
Been trying to trade the forex for years now and never could make money. I found a website called Emini S&P Trading Secret which is having a special right now purchased all their videos got some help from the support and now I'm doing my own trading and making money. I will never go back to trading the forex ever again!
March 16, 9:41 pm
says should not say from queens says:
Brilliant idea for student to strike. We will do what we did when the air traffic controllers struck - fire them. Expel any student who strikes.
March 17, 7:50 am
jack jones from queens says:
hmm... never did like my principle. Who knew, should have just sat my butt down. Perfect precedent. DOE ought to clean house. School of prepped pansies.
March 17, 5:07 pm
... from Queens says:
"Leonard from queens" you have completely missed the point, as have many of the other respondents. The community wants transparency in the process of picking the new principal. There is secrecy and very little due process being done (on the D.O.E.'s part) in this matter, and students, parents, and teachers feel as though they are being silenced and have no voice.

I hate to tell you, but schools are not run like businesses. The leaders of a school are NOT the boss in the sense of a business owner being a boss to his employees. There is a checks-and-balance system in education that has been around for years, and when a principal is selected, many stakeholders get involved to ensure the appropriate leader is placed.

The principal steers the ship of the school and ensures that students are getting a high quality education. When three stakeholders (students, teachers, and parents) are telling you that something is wrong with the current leader, then clearly the leader has lost control of his or her ship - if that is not a sign that the leader has been placed in an inappropriate environment, then I don't know what is.

Aside from your egregious spelling errors in your post, the likes of which would never be found in a post from a student of Townsend Harris, I suggest you do your own due process before insinuating something so ironic and laughable: a student of THHS attempting to oust a principal because of a desire to do less work? HA.
March 17, 5:10 pm

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