News stories

Schools fight back: PS 22, Brooklyn

Principal blamed for plummeting enrollment

UFT District 17 Representative Rick King speaks out against the closing at a DOE Dave Sanders

UFT District 17 Representative Rick King speaks out against the closing at a DOE hearing at the school on Jan. 24.

For more than five years, the Department of Education has turned a deaf ear to the persistent complaints of the staff that PS 22 Principal Carlen Padmore-Gateau has harassed, humiliated and driven teachers out of the Prospect Park school.

According to District 17 Representative Rick King, who has led the union’s effort to support the school chapter as best it can, more than 50 staff members and two assistant principals have been forced out.

The staff publicly voted “no confidence” in Padmore-Gateau in both the 2006-2007 and the 2008-2009 school years. The school community gave the principal some of the lowest scores in the city year after year on the school’s Learning Environment Survey. The school’s enrollment has dropped from 1,000 — when Padmore-Gateau took the reins eight years ago — to 515 students today. Not even when test scores in math and reading dropped precipitously in 2009 did the DOE show any interest.

Now, it plans to close the troubled school.

As Chapter Leader Denise Williams observed, “It’s unbelievable. The chancellor lets her stay when things just keep getting worse and worse for all of us and for the school’s rating.”

Even senior teachers are afraid to give their names for fear of additional harassment and U ratings. One teacher who has been at the Prospect Park school for 12 years remembers that “it used to be a happy place.” She described how U ratings, fully written up, now follow observations within an hour as if the results had been decided on before the observation took place.

Some teachers have already been notified that they will be getting U ratings for the year.

The list of charges against Padmore-Gateau is legion, including: failure to report safety incidents, neglect of English language learners, failure to honor student IEP modifications, failure to respond promptly to classroom emergencies and violations of the student discipline code. The school was on the DOE’s unsafe schools list.

Built for pre-K to third grade in 1996, the school now serves classes through fifth grade, busing in students from throughout Brooklyn. Fifth-grade students are packed into classes designed to accommodate much younger children, the staff say.

Teachers, many of them humiliated by the principal in front of students and parents, feel the DOE has profoundly let down both them and the students they teach.

As one teacher put it succinctly, “It’s hell working here.”

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