No Confidence!

Feb 26, 2019 by

The vote was beyond resounding approaching unanimous.

Nearly 200 members of the Forest Hills High School professional staff have no confidence in Ben Sherman, the principal who was imposed upon them without consultation or consent, by the superintendent.  The vote was over 91 percent.  That’s a high percentage: same as the school’s graduation rate before Sherman’s accession.

Anyone who isn’t psychologically impaired by a grudge against all public school educators must wonder what could possibly have caused such spectacular censure. It’s beyond the realm of belief that there could be no basis for it and that the school leadership should remain intact. If change happens it will be because of the actions of the staff, who organized the vote of no confidence.

Forest Hills High School is historically one of the finest large academic institutions in the New York City school system. Its record compares favorably with the most prestigious and expensive  schools anywhere.  It won a “National Blue Ribbon” award  and former First Lady Hillary Clinton gave the commencement address at the time.

But it has fallen on hard times due to its failed leadership. It can quickly recover and flourish again, but it would require a clean break from the present reign. 

Will this be one of those almost unprecedented instances when  the Department of Education “taking the bull by the horns” and relieves the school community by relieving its shoddy leadership?

This seems to be a case more of incompetence than mendacity, although the principal is clearly smug and pig-headed. Brawls are common, locker rooms are no-go zones and the halls reek of marijuana which the principal finds is in keeping with the trend to legalization and not worthy of wasting human resources upon to correct.  There are reliable reports of pee being pitched into a classroom, staff members being concussed by students enjoying free reign, toilets being yanked from the floor, gang violence being tolerated by allowing identifying colors to be worn on clothing door alarms being frequently de-activated in violation of Fire Department regulations,  and other similar indicators of an environment out-of-control.

There had been personnel assigned to monitor flashpoints of chaos, but Mr. Sherman has deployed them elsewhere. One of his executive decisions made in ill-advised consultation only with his own conscience.

Ben Sherman has, in effect,abandoned his post and allowed it to be overrun. Nonetheless, he is being propped up, indeed lionized, by high-level, off-site bureaucrats at the Department of Education:  “The superintendent and principal will continue to collaborate closely with the school community to ensure staff members are receiving the support they need.”

This is standard, recycled poop.  It is the kind of a vague, shallow, self-serving, cynical, one size fits all press release clone that has been used ten thousand times before to deflect well-founded criticism, elude accountability and substantive reply by means of verbal formaldehyde.

“Continue” says DOE hack Doug Cohen? One cannot continue what has not started. “Collaborate closely” does not admit of rule by decree, “school community” is not limited to me, myself and I, and “support” must entail more than fig-leaf endorsement of a nakedly inept principal.

 The no-confidence was not taken primarily as a referendum on the principal’s philosophy or managerial style, except as it directly impacts the safety of all.

A good-faith effort is being made by the teachers union to resolve problems amicably. If this doesn’t work, the crisis will need to go up the chain of command, perhaps breaking some of those  human links  of the chain in the process. Mayor DeBlasio has already responded in a responsible and encouraging way:“If something like that is happening there will be serious consequences for anyone involved,” he said.

Ron Isaac

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