BY JAMES FARRELL
Townsend Harris High School students, faculty members and elected officials gathered in front of City Hall on Feb. 24 to call for the removal of their interim acting-principal Rosemarie Jahoda.
The rally is the latest episode in the school’s monthslong fight to remove Jahoda, who took over this year after the previous principal, Anthony Barbetta, transferred. The school first made headlines in December after hundreds of students held a “sit in” protest in the school’s hallways.
Members of the school community have accused Jahoda of mistreating faculty members, being unavailable to students, failing to address student concerns after alleged discrimination against Muslim students, and creating an unwelcoming environment in the school. Many allegations have been reported by the school’s newspaper, The Classic.
The controversy has also caused some elected officials and other community leaders to call for changes to the Department of Education’s C-30 principal-selection process. As the Queens Tribune has reported, many have claimed that the process is not transparent, as candidates are selected for interviews without school community input. Jahoda’s opponents have pushed for her to be excluded from that interview process.
“Our only course of action is right here, addressing Mayor [Bill] de Blasio to save our school,” said Alex Chen, the student union president at Townsend Harris, in front of dozens of students and faculty members. “Here is our ultimatum: Replace Ms. Jahoda with someone we can trust, Mayor de Blasio. Open a real conversation about our C-30 process, or risk losing one of the best academic powerhouses in New York City.”
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) also attended the rally, supporting the students as an alumna of the school.
“Enough is enough,” Rozic said. “We’ve seen our school’s environment and tone change for the worse.”
Rozic also sent a letter to Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña, outlining complaints from constituents—including mismanagement of transcripts that led to delayed college-acceptance statuses and a lack of engagement with her faculty. The letter called for more transparency in the C-30 process and was co-signed by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest).
“When the process first began, little community input was considered in the selection of Ms. Jahoda as interim acting-principal when the former principal, Anthony Barbetta, transferred,” the letter read. “This is a dangerous precedent and one that we hope will not continue in the C-30 process.”
In a statement, DOE Spokesman Will Mantell expanded on the selection progress.
“We reposted the Townsend Harris principal position as of Feb. 1 and are hiring a principal in accordance with the C-30 regulation,” he said. “The C-30 process takes up to 90 days. We continue to listen to feedback from this school community, and Rosemarie Jahoda remains interim acting-principal.”
Jahoda also issued a statement through the DOE.
“While I am frustrated by many of these inaccurate allegations, I remain 100 percent focused on serving students and families at Townsend Harris and working to move the school community forward,” she said.
Meanwhile, an online petition demanding Jahoda be replaced by assistant principal of organization Ellen Fee has garnered more than 1,100 signatures.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.