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Probe: “No-show” P.S. 106 principal collected pay despite chronic tardiness

A two-month investigation into allegations of a principal’s spotty attendance record found that she never docked herself pay despite chronic lateness and numerous absences.

As a result, investigators are recommending that schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña terminate Sills’ employment at P.S. 106 and bar her from working again in the city school system. They also recommended that the school’s former assistant principal, who resigned this month, face disciplinary action for fudging time cards after the investigation began.

A spokesman for the Department of Education called the report’s findings “disturbing” and vowed to follow-through with the recommendations.

The probe was sparked by a front-page story in the New York Post on Jan. 12 that reported of widespread dysfunction at the Far Rockaway elementary school. Much-needed curriculum was still missing halfway into the school year, while students watched movies instead of attending art or gym classes, the Post reported.

The Office of Special Investigations, which handled the probe, did not address those allegations in a 13-page report released this afternoon. It instead focused on details of Sills’ tardiness, which was corroborated in interviews with several P.S. 106 staff.

The school’s custodian, for instance, said Sills usually showed up to work anywhere between 9:15 a.m., more than an hour after the school day started, and noontime. An aide said she sometimes saw Sills enter the school through a side door near the cafeteria while students were eating lunch in the late morning hours.

Interviews with school officials who oversee and support P.S. 106 also highlight the murkiness around who is in charge of ensuring that principals follow basic rules.

Lynn Pomerantz-Antwork, a network liaison from the nonprofit Center for Educational Innovation – Public Education Association (CEI-PEA), which contracts with schools to provide administrative support, said she has asked Sills and Assistant Principal Tonya West for their missing attendance records last year, but eventually stopped inquiring. Both women told Pomerantz-Antwork they had “no absences” to report and Sills said she submitted the timecards to her district superintendent.

But Superintendent Michele Lloyd-Bey, who evaluates the job performance for 48 principals in District 27, where P.S. 106 is located, told investigators it wasn’t reasonable to rely on a district superintendent to check up on attendance and time records for all principals. She said that job should fall to someone who works in the school.

Sills told investigators that she “pretty much live[d] in [her] building,” and said she usually arrived at work between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. But even the staff who she said would vouch for her daily whereabouts in the school contradicted Sills’ claims in interviews with investigators.

Lloyd-Bey added that she required principals to email her when they were absent or late, a policy that Sills said she followed and also served as the lone evidence of her attendance.

After the Post published its expose, Fariña responded quickly. She sent a top aide to visit the school on the next day and said that the school was more orderly than it had been portrayed in the press. Since then, new curriculum has been delivered and prekindergarten students were given real classrooms after spending much of the year in the school auditorium and classroom.

In response to Tuesday’s report, department spokesman Devon Puglia said the city would remove Sills from P.S. 106 and move to terminate her employment.

“As we do that, we are going to continue to support this school as much as possible going forward,” Puglia said.

Here is a link to the full report.

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