Principals ousted from schools for misconduct or incompetence often land softly in the city Department of Education bureaucracy — where they make as much money and get the same health and pension benefits as their peers who do the work of running schools.
Chancellor David Banks vowed after taking over the DOE to rid the system of needless bureaucrats. But the system makes it difficult, cases show.
It’s time-consuming and costly to fire a principal who won’t resign or retire — and trying to do so may backfire, insiders say. After a lengthy administrative trial, the state-appointed hearing officers who decide whether to terminate tenured DOE employees may decline to dismiss even those found guilty. Instead, they will impose a fine or suspension, or require some training.
“In their mind, they are balancing at what point do you destroy someone’s career — instead of at what point do you decide this person should not be in front of kids,” said Eric Nadelstern, a deputy chancellor of teaching and learning under ex-Mayor Bloomberg.
“There are obviously people in the system who shouldn’t be there.”
But a trial might also air embarrassing details and counter-accusations against DOE higher-ups – resulting in bad publicity. It becomes “expedient,” Nadelstern said, for the DOE to keep the unfit administrators at a taxpayer-funded desk.
Among recent cases:
- Karen Hambright-Glover, removed from PS 245 in Crown Heights in January after numerous complaints of bullying and verbal abuse of students, parents and staff, including the use of obscenities, the BKReader reported. Hambright-Glover is “currently reassigned away from students,” the DOE said last week. A report by the DOE’s Office of Special Investigations is “under review.” Her salary: $187,530.
- Oneatha Swinton, removed as interim principal of Port Richmond HS in June 2018. She pled guilty to car-insurance fraud. A probe found she improperly funneled $100,000 to a vendor friend, and “failed to safeguard” 600 DOE computers, laptops and printers that vanished when she led John Jay School for Law. Her salary: $187,043.
- Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir, ousted from Maspeth HS last August. Investigators confirmed reports in The Post that the school created fake classes, gave credits to failing students, fixed grades to push kids out, and intimidated teachers who objected to fraud. Chancellor Banks let Abdul-Mutakabbir stay on the payroll for seven years until he retires. His salary: $187,043.
- Howard Kwait, removed in May 2018 from John Bowne HS in Queens in May 2018 after the The Post reported the city paid $830,000 to female staffers who accused him of sexual harassment — including crude and explicit remarks. Kwait also was fined $4,500 by the city Conflicts of Interest Board after a school aide he had an affair with paid $10,800 for their trips abroad together. His salary: $198,355.
- Benjamin Sherman, forced to step down from Forest Hills HS in June 2019 after complaints of rampant marijuana smoking and general chaos. A faculty vote of no-confidence alleged odd behavior such as leaving the door to his office and bathroom open while he urinated. His salary: $198,355.
- Astrid Jacobo, pulled from Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in The Bronx in October 2017, a month after a student was stabbed to death in class by a boy who claimed he was bullied. Her salary: $191,372.
All the exiled educators are entitled to contractual raises, paid vacations and holidays, accrued pension benefits, and health insurance.
The DOE said all have the job title “principal assigned,” but would not describe their duties.
“It leaves so many parents and staff members just awestruck that they do not get rid of these people who are dangerous or problematic in a school setting,” said Adam Bergstein, a teacher at Forest Hills HS who led the faculty opposition to Sherman. “It also undermines the DOE’s credibility, because instead of actually addressing the problem, they just kind of cover it up and protect their own.”
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