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Queens Metro teachers see principal turnover as a "fresh start"

A Queens school where scheduling problems cost students days of instruction last fall has a new principal.

Greg Dutton comes to Queens Metropolitan High School from a stint as an assistant principal at the high-performing Williamsburg Preparatory High School. He’s replacing Marci Levy-Maguire, a graduate of the city’s Leadership Academy for new principals, who presided over the scheduling snafus a year into her tenure as the school’s founding principal.

At the time, GothamSchools reported that students received as many as 10 new schedules between September and November, and Levy-Maguire canceled some classes to make time for administrators and teachers to work feverishly to fix the scheduling issues.

At a meeting with parents, Levy-Maguire suggested that her administration was simply in over its head, first by enrolling far more students than originally planned, and then by offering too many elective courses.

“We didn’t know how much we needed to plan last year. I had no idea how much we would have to plan as early as February,” she said. “This school feels like a small school to people. But we’re a big school, and we didn’t have the systems in place to run a big school.” …

“Next year will not be the same,” Levy-Maguire said. “I over-burdened the school. I gave your kids lots and lots of choice. I need to limit those choices unfortunately. I cannot offer your kids as many electives this year as I would have hoped to.”

She has taken a job as the director of Paideia Academy, a charter school in Apple Valley, Minn.

One teacher who asked not to be named to avoid risking her relationship with the new leadership said Dutton will be inheriting a school whose problems went far deeper than scheduling debacles.

“During [Levy-Maguire’s] two years, new and struggling teachers received virtually no support, no observations,” the teacher said. “Several untenured teachers have lost their jobs, rather than getting regular observations and [professional development] when they needed it. Many of our academically strong students have left the school.”

James Vasquez, a teachers union district representative for Queens high schools who worked closely with teachers at Queens Metro this year, said teachers throughout the system receive too little professional development. But he said he thought Levy-Maguire’s leadership improved as the year progressed.

“Everybody throughout the year was looking to move forward, and we were much more successful in the spring semester than in the fall,” he said. “She was a new principal in a new school a new setting — and a hotbed of political activity because that campus was 10 years in the making — and they gave her very little support and guidance on what to do.”

Vasquez said teachers told him they felt relieved after meeting Dutton in mid-June.

“The initial impression was that he seemed very welcoming to the staff, inviting dialogue,” he said. “The staff is seeing this as a fresh start.”

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