DOE tunes out

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Is anyone at the Department of Education listening to the parents, teachers, students at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing and their elected officials?

For months the Townsend community has complained that the interim principal, Rosemarie Jahoda, ignored Muslim students’ harassment after the Trump election and jeopardized seniors’ college admissions by mismanaging transcripts.

Jahoda, who was appointed in September, arrived at Townsend Harris after a rocky ride at the Bronx High School of Science, where an independent arbiter found that 20 out of 22 math instructors blamed her for creating a hostile work environment and intimidating teachers.

The arbiter also said she applied school policies unevenly, according to a petition circulated by the Townsend students as they staged their first sit-in back in early December. They contend Jahoda is treating their teachers unfairly.

Freshmen have joined seniors to rally on the steps of City Hall, cover the ongoing turmoil in their high school newspaper and make an online video — only to be accused by a District 26 official of reporting “fake news.”

Queens’ future leaders are getting a crash course in civics in the new Trump era of confrontation.

Lawmakers have heard their grievances as has the Parent-Teachers Association, which demanded Jahoda’s immediate removal on Dec. 15.

Borough President Melinda Katz, in a letter asking the DOE to send a high-ranking official to address Townsend’s concerns, said in her 20 years in public office she has never received such an outpouring over selecting a principal.

Katz, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Assemblyman David Weprin, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, Councilman Rory Lancman and Sen. Toby Stavisky called for a transparent process to identify the candidates in the running for permanent principal.

Missing in action is the DOE, which has fallen back on bureaucratic procedure to dodge the tough question of whether Jahoda should be removed. She has not publicly addressed her critics and it’s possible she has been maligned, but she should be allowed to defend herself if the DOE had a more open method for handling high-profile personnel problems.

Instead the selection process, which was suspended in December because of the protests, resumed this month as students held another sit-in outside the meeting, where the candidates remained a mystery and an independent DOE observer watched.

The DOE has turned a deaf ear to serious complaints about the acting head of one of the city’s prized high schools and stonewalled the elected officials who represent the students and their parents.

Updated 12:43 pm, March 31, 2017
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