Add Michael Soet, the high school principal who paid teachers to attend holiday parties and recently allowed booze at prom, to the long list of principals who’ve had problems at Lafayette High School.
The large Brooklyn high school closed in June and it currently houses five new small schools, most of which have had their staff and students in the headlines. So far, only two schools — Expeditionary Learning School for Community Leaders and Kingsborough Early College Secondary School (which was not happy about moving into the building) — have managed to avoid public controversy.
International High School: In July of this year, a report by the Special Commissioner of Investigations found that principal Michael Soet allowed adults to drink alcohol at the school’s prom. He also paid teachers about $5,000 in overtime to attend the prom and, in previous years, had paid them overtime to attend holiday parties. Commissioner Richard Condon did not recommend that Soet be disciplined and Soet remains the school’s principal.
High School of Sports Management: In 2009, a student sued the Department of Education and principal Robin Pitts, claiming that the school had failed to protect him from severe racial harassment. Michael, the student, alleged that teachers looked the other way while his classmates taunted him for being white and that when he reported the bullying, administrators informed his attackers, which led to more bullying. The student’s mother claimed that school administrators denied her son a safety transfer, so she pulled him out of the school. Pitt is still the school’s principal.
Life Academy High School for Film and Music: In June of 2009, principal Kaia Mashariki was spotted vacationing at a Florida resort when, officially, she was supposed to be chaperoning students on a field trip. At the time, Mashariki was already under investigation for claiming unearned overtime and taking long, unauthorized absences. She is still the school’s principal.
Lafayette High School: Before the school closed in June, the Post revealed that Lafayette High School principal Jacqueline Boswell had pressured teachers into giving a half-dozen students passing grades they hadn’t earned. These students then graduated as part of Lafayette’s last senior class before the school was phased out entirely. One of the students Boswell graduated had hardly shown up to the high school for classes, much less passed them.
Five years before Boswell appeared in the news, there was Alan Siegel, a Lafayette High School principal who was found to have spent about $1,800 in Title I money on a social event for school staff at the Staten Island Hilton Garden Inn. Advertised to staff as a Title I Administrative Planning Conference, the event was mainly a social dinner and school staff were encouraged to bring their spouses. During Siegel’s tenure, Lafayette HS also drew lawsuits over bullying of Asian American students.
When Siegel retired — staff say he was forced out — his replacement, Jolanta Rohloff, soon became unpopular with students in staff. In the two years she was at the school, students staged a walkout and Rohloff was accused of inappropriately paying teachers overtime to clean their classrooms (though the DOE reversed its position on this). Recently, she was assigned to oversee a Staten Island rubber room, but was removed after getting into a physical fight with a teacher over a time card.
Searching for reasons why one school building could house so many problems, a source said, “It must be the water!”