To the Department of Education,
The signers of this petition urge the Department of Education NOT to select Rosemarie Jahoda as the permanent principal of Townsend Harris High School.
The principal of Townsend Harris High School should have a high respect for the humanities tradition, preferably with a background in the liberal arts and/or the classics. An excellent candidate with a scholarly background in mathematics or the sciences certainly should not be disqualified but must demonstrate a firm understanding of the preeminence of the humanities at Townsend Harris as first among equals and of the importance of writing in every subject including math, science and physical education. The principal should also recognize that it is the humanities focus that sets Townsend Harris apart from other intensive academic high schools in New York City and that the alumni and parents regard the current screened admissions process as extremely effective in identifying students who will succeed at Townsend Harris and categorically oppose the adoption of the specialized high school exam as the basis for admission to the school.
The principal of Townsend Harris High School should be a visionary and collaborative educator with the commitment and capacity to work with all constituencies – especially the parent and the alumni bodies – in support of the school and its mission. The principal should place a premium on the school’s longstanding partnership with Queens College and should make parents, alumni, teachers and students, full and constant partners in the operations of the school on a daily basis. Like Townsend Harris himself, the principal should be a first-rate diplomat, someone with an open-door policy who is approachable and serves as a natural magnet for students, teachers and parents.
The principal of Townsend Harris High School should demonstrate an ability to think in critical and visionary ways about the meaning of a humanities education in the 21st Century, and the role of globalization in shaping the academic lives of young Americans today. The principal should demonstrate an understanding of the particular issues and pressures facing highly motivated, academically gifted students.
There was unfortunately no input as to the selection of Ms. Jahoda as interim acting principal when Mr. Barbetta transferred. In her three months as interim acting principal, Ms. Jahoda has demonstrated that she is not the right fit for this school. We believe that Ms. Jahoda might be a very good fit for other schools, but we believe that this is simply not working out.
This semester, there have been rumors of numerous instances of faculty harassment, significant changes to programs and course offerings without input from the faculty and SLT, and as time has passed, less parent engagement. She has simply not been as approachable as previous principals. Meetings have become more like speeches from her. Our children have not been insulated from this. Several have complained about her being aloof or even combative.
We are also quite concerned about a number of issues that occurred while Ms. Jahoda served as the Assistant Principal at the Bronx High School of Science. While we realize it is difficult to address these issues publicly due to legal restrictions, several legal documents are in fact publicly available and show a pattern of harassment. In 2010, an independent arbitrator recommended Ms. Jahoda be transferred out of the school due to her intimidation of faculty. A 2013 court case involved one of those faculty bringing action against New York City because of Ms. Jahoda’s actions. Given that this treatment of faculty seems now to be a pattern, we firmly believe she would be a disruptive force to our school.
Given these issues, we do not feel that there is a path forward for her at Townsend Harris High School. Appointing her will be going against our wishes for our children and for the future children who will be attending the school.
In short, as parents, faculty, alumni or other members of the Townsend Harris family, we vehemently urge the Department of Education NOT to appoint Rosemarie Jahoda as permanent principal.