A Tyrannical Principal at MS 8

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A tipster referring to the principal: "He has abused the school PA-system, staff and students. The general office cleansed of all the qualified African American staff – I’m calling because something has to be done about this man,"

[The Mis-Education Of Children]

On March 17th, at approximately 10 P.M., I received a call from a Department of Education (DOE) staff member complaining about the principal, John B. Murphy, of the New Preparatory Middle School 8, in South Jamaica Queens.

"He has abused the school PA-system, staff and students. The general office cleansed of all the qualified African American staff – I’m calling because something has to be done about this man," stated a staff member from the school who is using the code name Shana for now.

The Black Star News had prior complaints from two other DOE schools.

Two Manhattan teachers with 60-years of service combined with the DOE were fired from A. Philip Randolph Campus High School and a half dozen more, have filed federal lawsuits. At another Queens school, Martin Van Buren High School, a teacher complained about not receiving tenure and is being harassed for doing so.

In each case, race, age discrimination, disrespect to staff and arrogance have played a major role, involving principals and vice-principals.

If not criminal, these complaints surely can be filed under the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which highlights another problem; the EEOC is not properly investigating these kinds of complaints.

"Most of the charges on race and discrimination are tossed in the garbage," an EEOC investigator told me. "If I don’t get the investigation, the person making the charge is out of luck." The Black Star News is presently investigating the EEOC as well.

However, less than 12-hours after receiving complaints about the principal of MS 8 and after the 8:30 A.M. mishap just about every news agency was at the school’s front door.

"A student, who did not belong in my classroom, entered my class and began to throw pictures and chairs on the floor. Dr. Murphy heard what was going but would not allow me to explain," said Nyasia Johnson, a Paraprofessional working with Special Education students for 11 years.

Johnson was rushed to Long Island Jewish Hospital after being agitated by Murphy. "He was in my face talking very loud and kept pointing his hand in my face. I was threatened and afraid to the point I thought he was going to slap me," Johnson said, from her LIJ Emergency Room bed, still not fully recovered.

The student who interrupted Johnson’s classroom and caused the confrontation between her and the principal was not given a referral or sent to the dean.

The next day following the incident, Johnson’s harassment continued when she tried to call the school’s general office.

When the secretary learned it was her on the other end of the line, the telephone was hung up; this occurred three times. "The payroll person who’s supposed to handle the compensation paper said it was not her job to fill out the paperwork and she did not know how to do it anyway," Johnson said.

An administrator from DOE’s downtown office told the payroll secretary it was her job to fill out the paperwork and it took her two tries to get it right.

Johnson’s incident with Murphy was the last straw for many of the staff and students at MS 8. Approximately 10 teachers stood in front of the school complaining to the media about Murphy’s alleged wrongdoings, which has been swept under the rug for years, they contend.

"We are tired and he has to go," said Ondrea Harris, MS 8 PTA President speaking about Principal Murphy.

Harris has been exposing Murphy for two years and he retaliated against her by calling in complaints to Administration for Children Services (ACS) on her son who attends the same school, she said. The ACS found the first complaint unfounded; however Murphy’s second ACS complaint is still pending.

Parents, teachers and students were on the same page this past Monday when they rallied in front of the school on a frigid spring morning carrying signs that read, "Teachers against tyranny," "Teachers deserve respect," "Murphy get out of our school right now," "End Murphy’s reign of terror," "Murphy, where will you be working next year?", and "Murphy must go."

One staff member said Murphy tripped the alarm at 5 A.M. getting into the school to avoid the rally.

"The DOE loves this guy because they think incidents in the school went down, when, in fact, the incidents are just not being reported. The DOE is not removing him and the teachers are still afraid," Shana said.

"This principal has been here for too long. This principal is someone who is abusive, disrespectful to staff and to parents. This administration, Chancellor Klein as well as Mayor Bloomberg should take this principal out. Mayoral control is supposed to mean something. It means swift removal of someone who is this abusive and this harassing," Randi Weingarten, President of The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) sais at a press conference in front of the school.

The Department of Education (DOE) has another view, as David Cantor, press secretary made clear: "Under Principal Murphy, JHS 8 has improved from a D to a B and the school just came off the state’s list of failing schools. He has particularly targeted ineffective teaching. The paraprofessional has been absent 13 days and late 14 times this year and Principal Murphy was attempting to have a discussion about her classroom performance. She has not filed charges. There is no evidence that he acted inappropriately and nothing to justify his removal. Disorder at the school is irresponsible and ignores the best interests of the students."

A lot of teachers at the school said Murphy did not bring the school to a "B" rating, the teachers did. It is unclear how or who vetted Murphy because he has been fired from several schools because of his behavior and management style.

He threatened 15-teachers with U-rating if they did not pass students who were in fact failing and told the attendance person to tamper with official records – this is criminal – where is the Department of Investigation (DOI) investigation?

The rally brought together community groups and several local politicians. Betty Dobson and Dr. James McIntosh were on hand from CEMOTAP and went to meet with the UFT inside the school – the press was locked out of the meeting.

The Jamaica branch of the NAACP was at the rally and held a meeting at their headquarters where many of the teachers gave their testimonies. One of the NAACP’s board members said she never witnessed so many teachers come out to testify and she has traveled across this country.

"Teachers who gave testimony at the NAACP will have the protection of the NAACP," stated, Leroy Gadsden, President.

Teachers on medical leave were disrespected by Murphy. "I was injured in the school. Murphy said I was not injured and came to my home uninvited," said Deborah James.

"I am on a medical sabbatical. I sent the principal a medical email that I was going to be out and he forwarded it to the whole staff," Pauline Elliott stated.

"Dr. Murphy claims to be the superintendent when in fact Ms. Jeanette Reid is our superintendent," added David Butler a music teacher at MS 8, has been blowing the whistle on Murphy for four years.

"He caused enough trouble in this community with our children. We are here to save our children and to get this man out of here. Send him back to Connecticut where he came from, we don’t need him here. As soon as possible, ASAP, get him out of here," Rev. Charles L. Noris, Sr., pastor of Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church, in Jamaica, New York, concluded.

Ironically, at the same time Principal Murphy was raising hell at MS 8, across town was an African American principal who took his school IS 109 from a failing school to the highest rating school in the district.

But, when he was accused of misappropriation of school funds and assaulting a student – there were no protests outside the school demanding his removal, yet Richard Condon, DOE’s top investigator from Special Commissioner for Investigations (SCI) was sent in to remove this principal from the school.

He was sent to the rubber room and later fired. Now there is a fundraiser being held for that Principal, Shango Blake, April 10th, at the Riverview Restaurant and Lounge in Long Island City.

Call 718-723-1416 for more info.

Contact Winkfield for his consideration regarding covering your own story: By mail: On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423; Email: Bsnonthespot@aol.com or milton@blackstarnews.com; call (212) 481-7745. Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about. To comment or to subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, or to send us a news tip, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to Milton@blackstarnews.com

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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