View Full Version : Dark Hispanic Principal tried to push me out teaching job by calling me ‘Shrek’

The Bobster
05-22-2016, 04:25 PM

Principal tried to push me out teaching job by calling me ‘Shrek’
By Kathianne Boniello
May 22, 2016 | 11:25am

She’s no “Shrek,” says a Bronx teacher who claims her boss slapped her with the label in a bid to oust her.

Wendy Fields, 51, says she had no problems at MS 80 in Norwood until Principal Emmanuel Polanco took over in 2013.

Polanco favored younger, Hispanic educators, and wanted Fields out, she claims in a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit against the city and the Education Department.

She was slapped with the nickname “Shrek,” a homely green ogre, and hit with disciplinary charges for leaving work after a medical issue, she alleges.

Polanco wouldn’t give Fields training on new technology, and punished her for using her cellphone to talk to parents during school hours even though the principal said she could, according to the lawsuit.

The principal “is trying to force her out,” Fields says.

Fields is seeking $2 million in damages. The city will review the complaint, a Law Department spokesman said.

The Bobster
01-07-2018, 08:06 AM

‘Struggling’ Bronx school is a hellhole, teachers say
By Susan Edelman and Sara Dorn
January 6, 2018 | 7:26pm | Updated

JHS 80 in the Bronx
J.C. Rice

It’s been labeled “persistently struggling,” “out-of-time,” a “Renewal” and now a “Rise” school.

But to teachers, JHS 80 in the Bronx is an educational hellhole.

Despite receiving millions in extra dollars and services, the 655-student Norwood school suffers from out-of-control students, filthy, unsafe conditions and thuggish administrators who try to keep the horrors under wraps, insiders have told authorities.

HS 80 principal Emmanuel Polanco

When the city Department of Education recently announced it would close or merge 14 low-performing schools in its “Renewal Program,” which has spent $582 million in three years, JHS 80 escaped the ax. Instead, the DOE named it one of 21 “Rise” schools that have improved enough to leave the Renewal program in June. Yet only 15 percent of JHS 80 students passed the state English exams and 20 percent passed math last year — both well below the citywide average.

Beleaguered staffers cite a litany of woes under principal Emmanuel Polanco that belie the DOE’s claims of success:

Violence and fighting are rampant;  unqualified cronies — including a paraprofessional who has acted as a dean — serve in key positions; disruptive students face few consequences; textbooks have been replaced by laptops, which allow students to e-mail each other, play Minecraft, and view sex sites during class; and mold, rusty pipes, peeling paint and grime abound in the rat-infested building.

“It’s an ugly school,” said a parent, Leslie Cruz, whose daughter told The Post she was assaulted in an altercation with Polanco.

In what teachers call a cover-up, Miguel Benitez, a teacher Polanco named dean last month, warned the faculty about posting reports of student misconduct and disturbances on Skedula, a DOE online system.

The reports are read not only by the principal, but “the chancellor’s office” and superintendent, Benitez said at a staff meeting which a teacher videotaped and shared with The Post.

The higher-ups will “come after” the school’s management, and question teachers’ performance, with reason to say “gotcha,” Benitez warned.

Writing his cellphone number on a board, he said, “Please do me a favor, before you write anything online, let me know.”

Benitez, reached on his phone, angrily denied making the statements.

“That’s a lie,” he said.

A student’s confiscated laptop

The worst incidents include a horrific attack and alleged cover-up.

The DOE says it is investigating a November incident in which two eighth-grade boys allegedly lifted a sixth-grader by his arms and legs, and dropped him on his head, causing him to pass out and convulse.

A staff member told the FBI and the DOE that administrators delayed calling an ambulance, then forced the eighth-graders and a teacher who witnessed the cruelty to give statements calling it an accident.

“They lied to the parents,” the distraught staffer told an FBI hotline. “Someone’s child is going to die if nothing is done.”
Kids have cut themselves and others — during class, source said.

“Look, I’m bleeding,” a girl told her stunned teacher in February, showing a cut with blood running down her hand, a report says. She and other students said a boy had slashed her with a pencil-sharpener blade.

Teachers are routinely cursed and assaulted. During a science class in November, a paraprofessional was helping a special-needs student when a classmate picked up a plastic tweezer, and pinched her nipple, a staffer reported. The students also threatened to pinch the aide’s butt.

And discipline is often mishandled.

Polanco appointed his close friend, teacher’s aide John “Chucky” Perez, to act as a dean for nearly three years. Deans must be certified teachers, preferably with guidance expertise.

Last year, Polanco, an underling and a security guard “slammed” then-seventh-grader Hailey Lopez, who is Cruz’s daughter, on the ground, she and her mother claim.

A teacher who witnessed the brawl reported it to DOE investigators.

Lopez told The Post she was waiting for her mother after school when they brutally wrestled her to take her cellphone from her purse. Polanco has banned cellphones, and staffers constantly seize them.

“[They] threw me on the ground,” she said. “I was crying the whole time.”

Cruz said when she threatened to sue, the school said Hailey had to repeat the seventh grade. The family refused, and Hailey spent a month in a holding room for misbehaving kids.

“They wanted to cover it up. That’s how bad it was,” Cruz fumed. The DOE said, “We are looking into it.”

JHS 80 students get no textbooks. They stare at laptops from 8 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. each day. Glitches and crashes often occur because the building is not properly equipped for technology, staffers say.

Teachers try to police the screens, catching kids who use Google Chat, listen to music, play games, download photos of scantily clad women, and look up answers on the Internet.

Classrooms can get so noisy and unruly it drowns out teachers’ voices, said seventh-grader Adriana Alvarez.

“It’s hard for some of the teachers to project their voices when the microphone doesn’t work,” she said. “It’s not easy for [learning] to happen.”

In winter, steam-spewing classroom heaters are surrounded by electric wires plugged into extension cords. After hours last February, teachers were surprised when workers showed up for asbestos repairs, saying staff and parents were never notified.

The school’s $11.2 million budget has been padded for three years with Renewal funds. Last year alone, it received an extra $763,690, the Independent Budget Office said. The DOE has also paid ex-Superintendent Sandy Kase $1,400 a day as a “leadership coach” at JHS 80.

In addition, the DOE awarded a $1.2 million, two-year contract to Aspira of New York to provide mental-health services, plus academic and arts programs. Raki Barlow, a former Aspira director, told The Post that Polanco wanted the group to spend nearly all the money on a certain vendor, and had Aspira abruptly dismissed Dec. 31. The DOE said another community group took over.

Several teachers have begged for help from union, city, state and federal officials, calling Polanco — who starred in a seedy 2014 rap video as “El Siki” — a bully who boasts of friendship with Chancellor Carmen Fariña and instills fear in his faculty.

“President Trump, you seem to be my last hope,” a desperate staffer wrote to the White House, which replied that it was unable to intervene.

The Bobster
01-08-2018, 08:20 AM

City Council vows to investigate school after Post expose
By Michael Gartland, Kevin Sheehan and Max Jaeger
January 8, 2018 | 1:46am

The City Council vowed on Sunday to investigate a troubled Bronx middle school after The Post exposed alleged student violence, filthy conditions and even a coverup — while the de Blasio administration bizarrely chose to trumpet the school’s dismal test results. :rolleyes:

The Post’s interviews with parents and staffers at JHS/MS 80, as well as public documents, painted a picture of a school where students are allowed to shirk their studies, hurt each other and play on computers in rat-infested buildings, while administrators turned a blind eye and even discouraged staffers from reporting violence.

“This report is deeply troubling, and the council is looking into this issue,” said Robin Levine, a spokeswoman for new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

Even the school’s principal, Emmanuel Polanco, on Sunday didn’t deny video shared with The Post that shows one of his deans, Miguel Benitez, warning staffers to be very selective about what they report to the DOE and to “let me know” before doing so.

“There’s a complicated answer to that question that I can’t get into now,’’ Polanco told The Post at his home when asked about Benitez’s instructions to teachers.

Benitez has called the accusations against him “a lie.”

But despite the avalanche of serious concerns about the school, City Hall kept its head in the sand amid the Sunday Post report.

Asked what the administration might do in response to the damning exposé, a de Blasio representative touted such things as the students’ English language arts proficiency, which went up “15 percentage points” since 2014 — from a dismal 5 percent. :rolleyes:

De Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie also noted that the school’s math-proficiency rate was now at 15 percent — although that was hardly anything to crow about. The rate is up from 7 percent in 2014.

“ELA and math proficiency have gone up 15 percentage points and 8 percentage points respectively since 2014, and attendance increased from 89 percent in 2014 to 94 percent last year,’’ she said.

“Chronic absenteeism at JHS 80 also decreased substantially, and they met all their benchmarks,’’ Lapeyrolerie added.

“While the school still has a long way to go, it is clearly on the right track, and we’re encouraged by their results.”

The school has received hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2014 — including $763,690 last year alone — as part of de Blasio’s Renewal Schools Program.

De Blasio would like to draw a connection between the funding and school improvement, but critics such as the conservative Manhattan Institute think tank have said the effect of de Blasio’s education policies is unclear because state tests were made easier in 2016, when the number of questions was reduced and proctors began giving students unlimited time to complete exams.

The Bobster
01-14-2018, 08:59 AM

Principal at troubled Bronx school bullied teen: suit
By Susan Edelman
January 13, 2018 | 6:59pm | Updated

Emmanuel Polanco
Richard Harbus

The principal of a troubled Bronx middle school shoved a 14-year-old boy against a stairway wall, repeatedly jabbed his fingers into the teen’s chest, and screamed in his face, “I know you wanna hit me — hit me!,” the youth says in an explosive claim.

Jeremie Francis
J.C. Rice

Emmanuel Polanco of JHS/MS 80 in Norwood assaulted and humiliated 8th-grader Jeremie Francis last April because he was “on the wrong floor” — even after the boy told the principal he was headed to a music teacher’s room for a guitar lesson, according to the claim.

“I don’t care — get off this floor right now,” Polanco ordered, Jeremie said. But when he stepped into the stairwell — an area without security cameras — the principal “pushed me to the wall.”

Jeremie, 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds :eek:, said he told Polanco, “I don’t want to hit you,” but the teen later testified, “I was scared and angry that I let him treat me like that.”

The teen’s story of harassment and retaliation after his mom complained corroborates accounts from several MS 80 teachers that Polanco bullies staff and students he dislikes, while rewarding cronies and favored faculty members.

The Post reported last week that Polanco is under investigation for an incident in which two 8th-grade boys dropped a 6th-grader on his head, causing the child to pass out and have seizures. Polanco and John “Chucky” Perez — his friend and school aide who has acted as a dean — are accused of making the older kids and a staffer who witnessed the attack call it an accident in written statements.

Polanco and Perez are also under scrutiny for allegedly assaulting a 7th-grade girl while trying to yank her phone away, and trying to make her repeat the grade after her mom threatened to sue.

Polanco and Perez have refused to comment. Last week, Perez asked the girl’s mom, Leslie Cruz, to identify the whistleblower who gave Cruz’ phone number to a reporter.

While the city claims MS 80 has significantly improved under Mayor de Blasio’s $582 million “Renewal Program, The Post last week exposed a school with dismal math and English test scores, poor discipline, shoddy building conditions, and administrative cover-ups.

Jeremie’s mother, Hondina Diaz, said Polanco would not meet with her after the April 14 stairwell incident. She then went to the DOE’s Bronx office to complain, but was told to work it out with the principal. She also went to the NYPD’s 52nd Precinct, but when Polanco didn’t show up, cops declined to file a report, she said.

Diaz finally hired a lawyer, who on May 10 filed a notice of claim with the city Comptroller’s office seeking $2 million in damages for assault, battery and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

After that, Polanco went after Jeremie with a vengeance, he and his mom said.

On May 19, Polanco and aides surrounded Jeremie when he asked a question during a fire drill, he said. They took him to the office, and held him for an hour — with his arms handcuffed behind his back.

That prompted his lawyer, Todd Crawford, to send a May 23 letter to Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña. Begging them to “make it stop,” Crawford wrote that Polanco’s conduct violated Chancellor’s Regulations that forbid physical and emotional abuse of students.

“Bullying is not acceptable behavior for a principal,” he wrote.

Crawford said he got no reply.

After the letter, Polanco yanked Jeremie, who had scored highly on the state’s math and English exams, out of his honors classes and put him in a room with non-English speaking immigrants for the rest of the school year. “I just sat there,” he said.

Polanco also barred Jeremie from playing basketball and baseball after school. He would not let Jeremie join classmates on a trip to Dorney Park or go to the prom. :confused:

City Council vows to investigate school after Post expose
“It sucked,” Jeremie said, adding that a girl who got into lots of fights attended the prom. His pals shared photos on Snapchat: “I saw them having fun.”

The afternoon before graduation, the school told Jeremie he was barred from the ceremony.

Jeremie had completed all remaining assignments, he and his mom said, but was forced to go to summer school. He scored 100 on the final exams, they said. He then attended an August graduation ceremony at Bronx Science HS with a half-dozen classmates, but they got no caps and gowns — and not one JHS 80 staffer showed up.

Polanco did not answer a request to explain his treatment of Jeremie.

The DOE said it would not comment on pending litigation, but defended the principal, who started at JHS 80 as interim principal in 2012.

“Mr. Polanco has been an effective leader and strong advocate for JHS 80 for nearly six years and is dedicated to supporting the success of all students and staff,” spokesman Douglas Cohen said.

After The Post’s report last week, Polanco held a faculty meeting where teachers praised his leadership, and strongly disagreed with a negative portrayal of the school.

But the meeting got heated when several teachers blasted those who spoke anonymously to reporters.

“They made a fatal mistake,” one is quoted as saying. “Where I’m from, if you do something like that, you’re a rat — and if you stand by a rat, you’re a rat too.”

Banging on a table, he shouted, “I’m calling that person a f–king rat!… You’re a rat! You’re a rat!”

A staffer in the meeting took the words as a threat: “In the mob world, being seen as a rat means you’re going to get whacked.”

Another staffer suspected of speaking to a Channel 2 reporter transferred out after her photo marked with the word “rat” was plastered in a rest room, sources said.

In another meeting, a teachers’ union leader handed out index cards and asked teachers to write opinions about the school — with their names and e-mail addresses — to show higher-ups.

Other JHS 80 staffers collected more than 500 signatures on a Change.org petition, demanding a public apology from The Post for “slander.” The person listed as launching the petition, “Jamie Dunhurst,” is unknown. Records show no one with that last name in New York state.

But another teacher stepped forward to reveal more horrors.

She said she was assaulted twice in the classroom, and administrators ignored it. In one, case, she took a boy’s headphones because he was listening to music instead of working.

“He pushed me to the floor and kicked me,” she said.

A union rep advised her against filing a report or the school “will go after you,” she said. “They don’t care about me, and I could lose my job.”

In another case, she was thrown down when a gang member with a knife broke into the classroom to attack a student, and threw chairs.

The teacher said some colleagues misinterpreted the Post report.

“It’s not about the kids,” she said. “It’s about administrators who lie, cover-up the violence, and don’t provide proper supervision.”

“Where is the accountability?” asked Max Eden, a senior fellow who studies education at the Manhattan Institute think tank. “A guy like Polanco can physically assault kids, but is seen as a star. It sounds like the Mafia — as a ‘made man’ he can just attack kids without consequence.”

The Bobster
01-15-2018, 08:57 AM

Public advocate demands probe into ‘hellhole’ middle school
By Michael Gartland
January 14, 2018 | 7:30pm | Updated

Letitia James
Stefan Jeremiah

Public Advocate Letitia James is demanding the city “take real steps” to deal with a troubled Bronx middle school where one student accused the principal of shoving and harassing him.

The school, JHS/MS 80, has come under fire for dismal math and English test scores as well as allegations that its principal downplayed other violent incidents.

“Any instance of violence in our schools is unacceptable, but any at the hands of a principal is deeply alarming,” James told The Post Sunday.

“Our schools are supposed to be safe spaces where children are cared for and educated, not places where they are bullied and harmed,” she continued. “It is important that the DOE take real steps to address student safety, including accountability and training for staff and taking real input from students and parents.”

Her remarks came Sunday, the same day The Post revealed student Jeremie Francis’ claims that JHS/MS 80 principal Emmanuel Polanco shoved him against a stairway wall and jabbed him in the chest repeatedly with his finger.

Francis, who is 14 years old, complained about the incident and claimed Polanco and aides retaliated by having him handcuffed after asking a question during a fire drill.

Francis’ lawyer Todd Crawford filed a notice of claim with the City Comptroller’s Office in May seeking $2 million in damages. He said he sent a letter to both Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina about the harsh treatment, but neither responded.

City Hall and the Department of Education declined to comment on why they didn’t get back to Crawford, with a DOE spokesman citing ongoing litigation.

“Allegations against Mr. Polanco were referred for investigation and the case was closed‎,” said DOE spokesman Douglas Cohen. “‎We have detailed protocols and procedures in place to ensure complaints of misconduct are appropriately reported and addressed.”

City Councilman Mark Treyger, the body’s new Education Committee Chairman, called for a probe into the matter Sunday.

“These are serious allegations which must be investigated,” he said. “No one — not students, teachers, staff, parents, or guardians — should feel stymied in their efforts to report a potential incident of bullying or aggression.”

City Council spokeswoman Robin Levine said Sunday that the entire body is “continuing to look into this.”