BY JAMES FARRELL
Protests at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing over whether or not controversial interim acting principal Rosemarie Jahoda should be considered for permanent principal have captured headlines in Queens over the past week. But the incident has also raised questions about the process that decides school leadership, also known as the C-30 process.
On Tuesday, for instance, Borough President Melinda Katz criticized the C-30 process at Townsend Harris, calling for it to be restarted. She cited a flood of parent complaints about a “lack of information” about the process, and a recent vote by the PTA that demanded the process start over and that Jahoda be removed.
“Such a significant outcry from the school community simply cannot be ignored,” said Katz in a statement. “Faculty, parents, students and alumni of this coveted high school are demanding a fair, open transition of its leadership.”
In the C-30 process for replacing principals, the superintendent is designated as a “hiring manager” who decides the interim acting principal, and who sorts through applicants to create a pool of candidates. These candidates are brought before a Level I Committee, which consists of school community members including teachers, parents and students. The Level I Committee interviews and rates the candidates, and the hiring manager takes those ratings into account in the final decision.
At Townsend Harris, the Level 1 Interview Committee meeting was scheduled for Dec. 8—the day that students organized a sit-in to protest Jahoda. The Department of Education postponed the meeting after student backlash and complaints from the School Leadership Team about the C-30 process, according to Katz.
Franco Scardino is a social studies teacher at the school and the school’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative, and is part of the Level I Committee. Scardino was also on a C-30 Level I committee four years ago for former principal Anthony Barbetta. At that time, Scardino says, the committee’s first meeting was to look at the résumés of the hiring manager’s candidates and help decide who would be interviewed. Two days before this year’s meeting was scheduled, the nature of the meeting was still unknown despite attempts to contact the superintendent—no one even knew the time or place, Scardino said.
“What I was hearing was, ‘Oh no, we’re not going to be viewing résumés; we’re going to be interviewing the candidates.’ Other people thought, ‘Well that’s not possible. We should see the résumés because that’s the way we did it four years ago.’ No one was able to clarify anything in house because we weren’t getting any communication from the superintendent’s office,” said Scardino.
“My personal concern was, if we were just going to be presented with a group of candidates to interview, who did that vetting and why wasn’t the C-30 committee, which is made up of the school community, a part of that conversation to vet the applicant pool?” Scardino added.
Susan Karlic, the PTA president for Townsend Harris, agreed that the C-30 process had posed some concerns for parents. The meeting, for instance, had been postponed without explanation, amid rumors that the process had not been followed correctly. She thanked Katz in a statement.
“This is a great step moving forward,” she said. “I thank Honorable Katz and our elected officials in supporting us, and look forward to working with the chancellor to find the right permanent principal for Townsend Harris through a fair and transparent C-30 process.”
Superintendent Elaine Lindsey did not respond to a request for comment.
“The C-30 process has not yet occurred,” said a DOE spokesperson. “We are listening closely to the feedback and concerns of this school community, and will continue to engage them as the C-30 process moves forward.”
In her letter to New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Katz thanked the DOE for postponing the meeting and putting the C-30 process at Townsend Harris “under investigation.” She asked that the DOE send a high-ranking official to explain how Jahoda was chosen as interim acting principal.
“I am requesting that the C-30 process start over with transparency so that a principal who is supportive and fosters a positive learning environment is chosen for a school that was ranked eighth by U.S. News as one of the best high schools in 2016,” she said.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, email@example.com or @farrellj329.