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Details emerging about turnaround schools' leadership, hiring

More details are emerging about how “turnaround” is proceeding at 26 schools still slated to undergo the controversial overhaul process.

For a month, the department has been informing principals of some of the schools that they would be removed at the end of the school year or even sooner. Now their replacements are making their first appearances at the schools, and teachers are starting to learn about the schedule for the rehiring process that could cost up to half of them their positions.

Teachers at Newtown High School found out this week that their longtime principal, John Ficalora, would be replaced by Marisol Bradbury. Bradbury has been working in school support at the Department of Education for the last several years but led a small high school in Brooklyn, Bedford-Stuyvesant Preparatory High School, before that.

A proposed principal for the school that would replace Long Island City High School toured the building yesterday with the superintendent, according to teachers there. The city’s choice to take over is Vivian Selenikas, Long Island City’s current network leader. Selenikas led the High School for Arts and Business in Queens from 2003 to 2007 and will replace Maria Mamo-Vacacela, who does not actually have to be removed under turnaround rules.

And at Flushing High School, teachers and families have been invited to a “meet and greet” with Magdalen Radovich on April 25, the day before the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on the turnaround plans. Radovich is currently an assistant principal at Queens Vocational Career and Technical High School. The city decided not use turnaround at Queens Vocational, where a residency program has been training teachers to work in turnaround schools.

Teachers at Flushing have been told that they will have to start interviewing to keep their jobs the same day that the PEP is set to vote on — and presumably approve — the turnaround plans, according to a teacher there. The teacher said the leadership change is welcome but ill-timed and unlikely to yield optimal results.

“I’m optimistic the leadership will be better, but the whole turnaround plan is a mess in general and the timing of this announcement just makes things worse,” the teacher said. “It’s impossible to plan for next year this way and nearly impossible to program 3,000+ kids if we dont start until after July 1, not to mention the fate of all the programs and fall student activities in clubs is up in the air.”

The teacher added, “We are supposed to begin interviewing for our jobs starting [April] 26th which makes it hard for teachers to focus on prepping for Regents exams. Also, this whole thing makes it incredibly difficult for the new principal to succeed when she has to walk into such a mess with no time to plan.”

Nick Lung-Bugenski, a Long Island City teacher who is active in the United Federation of Teachers, said he thought the timing of his principal’s replacement was “despicable” because of its timing shortly before spring break and a public hearing about the turnaround plan scheduled for the following week.

“Doing this two school days before we have our meeting on the 17th — I see this as trying to undermine all the voices of our school community,” he said.

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