David Ephross is a veteran music teacher who keeps power tools at PS/IS 308 because “I like to fix things.” In September 2020, he used those tools to extricate a teacher who got locked in a school bathroom, and later that day he emailed the principal about making repairs.
A year later, as the newly elected chapter leader for the school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ephross sent another email telling the principal that one of the stalls in the boys’ bathroom had no lock on it and couldn’t be opened. Soon after, he was writing about another boys’ bathroom that couldn’t be used and a second-floor staff bathroom with only one functioning toilet.
It wasn’t Ephross’ idea of how to hit the ground running in his new leadership position. PS/IS 308 is on the state’s list of low-performing schools.
“I was disturbed because there was other stuff to concentrate on,” he said, but the quality-of-life issue for students and staff needed to be addressed.
Each time Ephross raised it with the principal, however, she responded that she was not the custodian. Appeals to the custodian also made little headway.
Ephross pressed on, sending the principal a total of 23 emails on the subject. On a colleague’s advice, last March 13, six months into his campaign, he wrote to Carmine Franzese, a deputy director in the city Department of Education’s Division of School Facilities.
Franzese dispatched two aides to the school the following day and then pledged all three bathrooms would be repaired. By April 4, one boys’ bathroom was working, and by May 12, the other one was fixed and a new toilet had been installed in the staff bathroom.
Georgette Clarke, a veteran humanities teacher at PS/IS 308, said, “We just appreciated the fact that we had another stall to use.”
This past November, two weeks after two staff bathrooms became problems, Ephross again contacted Franzese. Within four days, both had been fixed.
“He tends to be proactive on all levels,” Clarke said of Ephross. “He’s so hands-on.”
Ephross shrugged off the compliments, saying, “If the chapter leader doesn’t speak up for people, who will?”