BY JAMES FARRELL
Students at Townsend Harris High School staged a sit-in protest in the halls of the school on Wednesday as interviews were being held to determine who would be the school’s new principal.
The school’s Level I committee—a group of parents, teachers and students representing the school community—interviewed candidates as part of the Department of Education’s ongoing C-30 principal selection process. Candidates are selected from a greater pool—in this case, 38— of applicants by the superintendent and receive recommendations after being interviewed.
Those recommendations are taken into account in the superintendent’s final decision.
Beginning with a previous sit-in protest in December, Townsend Harris students have been calling for the removal of interim-acting principal Rosemarie Jahoda, requesting that she not be interviewed for a permanent position. They have also been protesting the C-30 process at large, railing against what they say is a lack of transparency and accountability. The school’s newspaper, The Classic, reported on Facebook after the protest that Jahoda had been considered for a Level I interview.
“There’s a problem with this whole system,” said Freshman Sophomore President Max Kurant in an address to the students, one of the organizers of the protest. “Even if they rank Ms. Jahoda fifth, which is the lowest rank, Superintendent [Elaine] Lindsey has no obligation, at all, to not choose her. So no matter what these people say, Superintendent Lindsey can easily ignore that. So the reason we’re here today is to put pressure on them.”
Students sat along the hallway on the third floor, holding signs that read, “Fix The System,” “The DOE Doesn’t Listen,” and “Transparency So We All Can See.”
In a live video posted by The Classic, reporters Sumaita Hasan and Mehrose Ahmad interview student protestors.
“I’m here today because I don’t like the way Miss Jahoda is running things around the school,” said one student in the video. “I don’t think that she deserves to be leader of such a prestigious school.”
In a statement, DOE spokesman Will Mantell responded to the sit-in.
“Feedback from students and school communities is essential for strong schools,” Mantell said. “We value hearing from students, elected officials and school communities, and continue to listen to their feedback.”
The day after the C-30 interviews and protests, teachers at Townsend Harris provided their own feedback known in a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio. The letter is signed by Townsend Harris’ United Federation of Teachers representative and social studies teacher Franco Scardino on behalf of 47 undersigned faculty members spanning seven departments.
The letter expresses concerns about the transparency of the C-30 process and a dissatisfaction with how the process has been carried out at Townsend Harris.
“We the undersigned faculty members of Townsend Harris High School are deeply concerned with the lack of transparency in the process of selecting a principal, which is causing turmoil in our school community,” the letter reads. “Of 38 applicants, only four were presented by Superintendent Elaine Lindsey and we believe that some of those four may not be as qualified as the more than 30 who were not selected. We suspect that Ms. Lindsey is trying to ensure that Ms. Jahoda emerges as the preferred candidate, when all evidence points otherwise. We are also alarmed by statements Ms. Jahoda has made to members of the school community indicating that Superintendent Lindsey has assured her that the job is hers.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.