The Failure Of PS 114, Part 1
The Department of Education announced recently that it plans to close 26 schools for poor performance. One of them is PS 114, an elementary school in Brooklyn. But teachers claim the problems at PS 114 are entirely the DOE's fault and that for years it ignored the school was being badly managed or not managed at all -- and the facts appear to back them up. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
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By many measures, PS 114 in Canarsie is failing. Barely a third of students passed the state tests last year, teachers and parents gave the environment an "F" three years in a row, and professional reviewers rated the school underdeveloped -- reasons the Department of Education says the school should be closed. But the 22-page report fails to mention the explanation teachers, parents and even reviewers hired by the city give for the decline: the school's leader from 2004-2009, former principal Maria Penaherrera.
"When you have parents and teachers standing together, telling you that there is something wrong with the principal that you put in charge of the building, for years, and you refuse to listen to them -- not only did they refuse to listen to them, the Department of Ed told the parents and teachers they were wrong," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.
But that's not what the DOE reported in its own reviews and surveys. Penaherrera's failures as a leader and manager were also documented extensively by the special schools investigator. Her direct supervisor even admitted to investigators she knew there would be problems the first time she met Penaherrera, yet she remained principal for five years.
"We kept saying, why isn't anyone doing anything?" said PS 114 Teacher Ellen Berkowitz.
Teachers begged the DOE for help and even chartered buses from Brooklyn to Manhattan to stage a rally. But Penaherrera was removed only because one day when she failed to show up to work, a carbon monoxide alarm went off and students were kept in class. This, because the school had no safety plan and she had left no one in charge. She also left the school $180,000 in debt.
"We’re in the negative, because we are still paying back that money," said Berkowitz.
The education panel votes in two weeks on whether the school should close, and a charter school take over. It's all part of the accountability plan but NY1 has learned that accountability doesn't include the former principal. In July, officials claimed Maria Penaherrera would be fired. Instead, she was quietly moved to the Bronx, where she is working as an assistant principal.