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At some turnaround schools, city is telling principals they're out

The city has begun telling principals at some of the schools slated for a controversial overhaul process that they won’t be part of the changes.

The city is moving forward with plans to overhaul 33 struggling schools according to a federally prescribed school improvement strategy known as “turnaround.” Turnaround requires that schools replace at least 50 percent of their teachers, revise their curriculums, and get new principals.

The federal regulations make an exception for principals who have been in place less than two years or who arrived three years ago as part of a deliberate effort to overhaul their schools. Those principals are allowed to stay on.

That means that about half of the principals at the schools slated for turnaround are likely to keep their jobs — and half will have to go. Some have already started getting the bad news.

“Most principals found out that they would be leaving as of June 30 and they’re concerned to keep up the progress that the school has made,” said one of the principals who is being removed. “It’s a very upsetting thing because we’ve worked very hard to make progress in our schools.”

A Department of Education spokesman, Frank Thomas, declined to comment on ongoing personnel issues but said the city is working with the state to determine what leadership changes would be required at the turnaround schools. “Each situation will be decided individually,” he said.

Many of the 33 schools got new principals when they were selected for two less aggressive overhaul strategies in 2010 and 2011. The city abandoned those strategies after failing to reach an agreement with the teachers union over new evaluations, which those strategies required.

But 15 of the schools have principals who have been in place since at least 2009, and the principals of several have been in place for nearly a decade. One, John Ficalora at Newtown High School, has headed his school since the early 1990s. Many of them are learning this week that they will be removed at the end of the year.

A teachers union official confirmed that Anthony Cromer, principal of August Martin High School, was being removed. Other principals have also been notified, according to a spokeswoman for the principals union, whose president, Ernest Logan, has urged the state not to allow the city to move forward with the turnaround plans.

The spokeswoman, Chiara Coletti, said the union questioned why the city would tell principals they are being removed before the state has considered — or even received — the turnaround applications.

So far, the city has posted public notice about turnaround plans for just 15 of the 33 schools. But in order for the city to meet the legal deadline for notice to be given, it must detail all of the plans by Monday, which is the six-month mark before the likely start of the 2012-2013 school year.

Principals who are removed will continue to work in the system. Some of them might even wind up heading other low-performing schools, if recent history is any indication.

For example, Denise Vittor was pulled from Queens Vocational and Technical School in 2010, where she had been principal since 2001. Vittor then became principal at Grover Cleveland High School, which is now slated for turnaround. Geraldine Maione moved from Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School to Grady High School when both schools began the “transformation” process in 2010.

The city has found other ways to soften the blow for other principals snagged in the federal requirements. At Long Island City High School, 17-year principal William Bassell stepped aside so the school could receive $2 million in federal funds, but the city kept him on as a mentor to his replacement for a year before installing him this year at Queens’ Academy of American Studies.

Schools whose principals must be replaced under turnaround rules, unless an exception is granted:

Alfred E. Smith CTE High School: Rene Cassanova, since at least 2003
August Martin High School: Anthony Cromer
Bronx High School of Business: Enrique Lizardi, since at least 2005
Bushwick Community High School: Tira Randall, since 2004
I.S. 136 Charles Dewey: Eric Sackler, since 2007
J.H.S. 22 Jordan L Mott: Linda Rosenbury, since 2008
J.H.S. 80 Mosholu Parkway: Lovey MaziqueRivera, since 2004
J.H.S. 142 John Philip Sousa: Casmirio Cibelli, since 2007
J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin: Maria Ortega, since 2004
John Adams High School: Grace Zwillenberg, since 2003
John Dewey High School: Barry Fried, since 2001
M.S 391: Pedro Santana, since 2005
Newtown High School: John Ficalora, since 1991
Richmond Hill High School: Frances Desanctis, since 2005
William Maxwell CTE High School: Jocelyn Badette, since 2008

Schools whose principals are new enough that they might be allowed to stay on:

Automotive High School: Caterina Lafergola, since 2011
Banana Kelly High School: Antonio Arocho, interim acting since 2011
Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School: Rodney Lofton, since 2011
Cobble Hill School of American Studies: Annamaria Mule, since 2010
Flushing High School: Carl Hudson, since 2010
Fordham Leadership Academy: Mary Ann Tucker, since 2011
Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School: Steven Demarco, since 2010
Grover Cleveland High School: Denise Vittor, since 2010
Harlem Renaissance High School: Nadav Zeimer, since 2010
Herbert Lehman High School Rose Lobianco, since 2011
High School of Graphic Communication Arts: Brendan Lyons, since 2011
I.S. 339: Kim Outerbridge, interim acting since 2011
M.S. 126 John Ericsson: Rosemary Ochoa, since 2010
Long Island City High School: Maria Mamo Vacacela, since 2010
School for Global Studies: Joseph O’Brien, since 2010
Sheepshead Bay High School: John O’Mahoney, interim acting since 2012
William Cullen Bryant High School: Namita Dwarka, since 2011
William Grady High School: Geraldine Maione, since 2010

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