notes on many scandals

The curse of Lafayette High School? A brief history of scandal

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!”

    on the run

    ‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

    Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

    Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

    Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

    Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

    In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

    “I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

    Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

    In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

    Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

    cooling off

    New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

    PHOTO: Chalkbeat
    Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

    In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

    “I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

    That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

    Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

    “I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

    During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

    Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

    “You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”