WE DEMAND ANSWERS, APOLOGIES AND INVESTIGATIONS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 11, 2016
CONTACT: Cindy Grosz
A press conference was held Monday, July 11th, in front of MS226 addressing the issues of bias and prejudice, suspicious school practices and accountability of the de Blasio administration.
“As long as what seems to be the mismanagement of school monies, the unjust evaluation system that targets some, and not others and the feeling of discrimination within lessons, the treatment of educators, students and staff, the public will bear the costs of failure and the risk of their safety,” stated Joseph Concannon, a former NYPD Police Captain, candidate for City Council, and leader of Protecting Our Teachers and Children For Better Education (POTACFBE).
The informal group started over a month ago after Concannon found questionable practices at IS109 and has been demanding that Preet Bharara, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other federal officials start investigating the suspicious activity in Districts 27, 28, 29 and 30 in Queens.
When Jewish AP David Possner was the target of a defamatory mural, which offended Hindu staff and students, POTACFBE helped expose the story. As previously reported, the mural also depicted a figure that insulted Hindu students and staff, and leaders of the Hindu Community have demanded a public apology. The mural was removed, however, Posner received was seemed to a “U” rating from MS 226 Principal, Rushell White days after the story broke, in what seems to be retaliation from Ms. White. As of this conference, no formal statement of apology has been printed as requested. White seems to be “untouched” by the recent events.
This troubles many, especially those who are now speaking up in defense of David Possner and have questioned Ms. White’s leadership of MS 226.
Ed Mergenthaler, a former teacher and UFT chapter chairperson of MS 226 said, “I witnessed Rushell White marginalize, demean and treat AP David Possner differently than the other supervisors. I viewed the mural in the school yard of 226. It depicted David Possner as a miniature man off to the side of the stage. I was the UFT Rep of MS 226 when Philip Weinberg conducted a state review of the school. He stated that it was evident to him that David Possner was the most talented of the supervisors. Mr. Weinberg is currently a deputy chancellor.”
Linda Weiss was as a teacher at MS 226 and was experiencing her own anti-Semitic issues with Ms. White. “I was the I.E.P. Coordinator at M.S. 226 during the 2010-2011 school year, and worked per session on clerical matters for the upcoming Quality Review. Ms. White had approved my per session, knowing that my purpose in doing so was to amend Annual Reviews that were out of compliance with state regulations. At the time, the school was being audited due to issues with F.B.A. and B.I.P. section of the I.E.P, and it was imperative that they were corrected in a timely fashion. I discovered other additional irregularities in so many I.E.P.s and was forced to spend many additional hours after school. You can imagine my shock and outrage when I discovered Ms. White had denied payment, even having waited many months to contact the school wondering what happened. After a few attempts, she finally answered my phone calls, and told me she denied it, and never approved it even though she saw me working many tireless nights at the school. What was interesting was that my assistant, who was not Jewish, was paid. I ultimately contacted the Office of Special Investigations who handled the matter. It took a year to finally work out. I had heard through the grapevine that White told people that she felt I didn’t need the money, although she never came out and said it to me directly.”
Many more want to speak out, but are afraid of the consequences of coming forward, especially since only days before the mural display, Possner was subpoenaed to testify against White.
“People need to do summer homework and learn more how their tax dollars are being used on education.” states Cindy Grosz, author of Rubber Room Romance, a realistic fictional novel, and education activist working on national education issues. Her work includes ending lessons that distort facts that create an environment of discrimination in school communities. She added, “Either people in the know are afraid to speak up, or simply the public-at-large does not know how our system runs. David Possner’s story is one that should be explored carefully, highlighting a controversial evaluation system, a troubled school, questionable practices and tax dollars that could be spent more effectively. Unfortunately, David’s story is not unique.”
“Acculturating students to accept anti-Semitism as normative, injects the most perverse form of critical analysis into the formative minds of young people. How can judgments about foreign policy and national security be made with this conditional exposure to bigotry? Our schools have a responsibility to be fair, dispassionate and honest. That translates into the avoidance of even a suggestion of anti-Semitic rhetoric,” states Herbert London, President of the London Center for Policy Research. The goal of the organization is the pursuit of policies that enhance American security here and abroad.
Grosz applauds the Gov. Cuomo on the legislation that supports Israel and its businesses, despite the BDS movement asking for boycotts, divestments and sanctions. However, she cites many examples where our education system has to also address the accurate details of teaching Jewish history, Israel and anti-Semitism. “Teachers point out that they read with their classes Anne Frank’s diary, and then teach about the Palestinian-Israeli issues with a bias that is debatable. BDS does not start on college campuses.”
Americans for a Safe Israel (ASFI) released this statement in regard to anti-Semitism in our classrooms: “Textbooks used in all American school systems need to be checked to insure that the information contained in them and in particular maps that are displayed do not distort reality and create animosity towards Israel, Zionists or the Jewish people. On information and belief, some of the materials used in these schools are outdated and prejudicial. ASFI exhorts teachers and administrators to carefully review the materials they disseminate to insure that they are accurate, timely and even-handed.”
Rachel Cohen, Founder of the National Movement, “Choose to Refuse the Common Core,” cites her own frustrations that led her to lead over 30,000 members to share their concerns of distorted education lessons. “The “Common Core” aligned curriculum, has been in place, in our schools, for the past five years. I am the proud founder, of the national, anti-Common Core page, “Choose to Refuse Common Core”. I began my journey on Facebook, due to an inappropriate “Common Core” literature sheet, given to my then 4th grader. My son’s literature, contained anti-parent, anti American, rhetoric, even going so far, as teaching our children that the “Holocaust”, never happened.”
Grosz cites that through her work with bipartisan elected officials and multiple organizations, she has been able to find handouts and other supplementary materials that are shared in classrooms that offend African-Americans, Judeo-Christian values and challenges our constitution and history. It is time, especially now, when we have to come together as a nation after Dallas, to use our classrooms as a tool for ending prejudice and building respect for educators, administrators and parents who work tirelessly to help students build a positive foundation for a better future.”
Possner is touched by the outpouring of support he has received since his initial litigation against White and the NYCDOE over a year ago. “Ms. White starts off every morning by telling our staff and students, “To whom much is given, much is required” which is a passage from LUKE of the New Testament. Those biblical words are engraved on a large banner that is display in Ms. White’s office and above her desk. They were the same words from the bible that were painted on the banner that quickly outraged members of our staff, the community, and upset and confused our students. Within the banner, there was a “not so hidden” message that many were quickly able to see at first glance. The banner depicted separation, intolerance, and isolation rather than embracing love, unity and respect. I greatly appreciate the ever increasing level of support that I have received from people across the globe. I hope that others will step forward to expose injustices, bullying, and harassment. I truly believe that something can be learned from all of this.”
Rajan Zed, president of the Reno-based Universal Society of Hinduism, made a public request for an apology from Mayor de Blasio for the mural, saying that the painting trivialized a venerated deity.
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced in June that the United States has filed a lawsuit against the NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (the “DOE”) for engaging in a pattern and practice of discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII. The Government alleges that during the 2012-2013 school year, the DOE permitted Principal Minerva Zanca and Superintendent Juan Mendez to discriminate against every black teacher at Pan American International High School (“Pan American”) and retaliate against an assistant principal who spoke out against the discrimination.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “It is nearly unthinkable that, in this day and age, one of the largest and most diverse school districts in the United States would allow racial discrimination and retaliation to flourish. Yet that is what we allege happened at Pan American International High School. Federal civil rights laws prohibit this misconduct. This suit seeks to remedy the violations that occurred at Pan American and ensure that the New York City Department of Education protects its employees’ civil rights.”
Bharara’s suit is one behalf of three African-American educators. Are Jewish staff members entitled to the same protections he cites???
Protecting Our Teachers and Children For Better Education will update the public as details unfold. Joseph Concannon is a retired NYPD Police Captain, candidate for City Council, and a leader of Protecting Our Teachers and Children For Better Education (POTACFBE).