FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 9, 2020
STOP TEACHER TERMINATIONS AT HUDSON HIGH SCHOOL FOR LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES: Racist Administrator Rehired by DOE is Abusive Again During Pandemic
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NEW YORK, NEW YORK: As the semester ended on June 27, three teachers at Hudson High School for Learning Technologies were given discontinuance letters, effectively ending their careers as secondary school workers in the Department of Education. They were targeted after speaking out against administrative abuse at their school, particularly from Assistant Principal Caterina Lafergola, who has a long and well-documented history of wrongdoing and racism in her mismanagement of public schools. She was rehired by the DOE in 2018-19 after resigning as Principal of Automotive High School in Brooklyn and then Baldwin High School in Long Island.
Teachers and parents at Hudson HS attempted to prevent the hiring of her boss, Principal Michael Wilson, based on a culture of administrative abuse and mismanagement, led by Lafergola, that was flourishing during the beginning of Wilson’s first year. Superintendent Vivian Orlen told the school community that she was “well-aware” of issues. But she finalized the hirings of both administrators, Lafergola during 2018-19 and Wilson during 2019-20, without democratic input from the school community.
A litany of abusive and biased practices by Lafergola, with supervision and collaboration from Wilson, were reported in the letter above written by Hudson HS chapter leaders. Many teachers who had for years been given Effective and Highly Effective ratings on observations were now given Ineffective and Developing ratings by the new school administrators, including one teacher who was the recipient of Big Apple Teacher of the Year Award in 2019-20, demonstrating the bias and abuse in administrative management of the school. Instead of support and guidance, teachers reported bullying behavior in feedback sessions, especially by Lafergola. When one instance of bullying was reported to Principal Wilson, he said if he were “in a court of law” he would say he “did not perceive” any bullying. Lafergola, who is not certified in special education, also routinely violated the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, changing students’ special education services and removing IEP-mandated support personnel to fit budget and scheduling needs.
The administrators continued to give poor observation ratings to teachers who spoke out, culminating in letters of discontinuance for three probationary teachers this year, one of whom is a black Dominican male. The three teachers report feeling “belittled and demeaned” by the school administrators, especially as all three had spoken out against abusive management. The school’s union leader has attempted to file grievances, as it violates state law to discipline or terminate public workers for opposing (mis)management.
Lafergola’s history of abuse started long before she arrived at Hudson HS. During her tenure at Automotive HS, she systematically removed black teachers from the school, starting by giving 16 educators “Unsatisfactory” ratings, 14 of whom were of African descent. For those most senior teachers who stayed and defended themselves, Lafergola pursued their permanent removal from the classroom with dehumanizing attacks. Two long-time black teachers were removed from their classroom positions and reassigned to an out-of-service bathroom. Another black teacher had student achievement records suspiciously removed from her “Measure of Student Learning” rating in order to threaten that teacher’s job security. Lafergola’s wrongdoing continued at Baldwin HS in Long Island, where as principal she violated privacy law by making public the names of suspended students.
In 2015, Mayor DeBlasio went to Automotive HS to defend Lafergola. To get a job again in the NYC DOE, Lafergola needed re-appointment in NYC, meaning DeBlasio’s bureaucrats are still supporting her, despite her history of abusive and racist behavior.
MORE demands the following:
- Superintendent Orlen immediately rescind the discontinuances of the three probationary educators at Hudson HS.
- Immediate termination of Lafergola. If the DOE believes in equity and anti-racism, she should not have been rehired in our city. Wilson should also be investigated by the DOE to determine his own wrongdoing and consider his removal.
- The UFT work to establish real protections for probationary teachers, such as those outlined by MORE in our spring petition.
- The DOE and UFT revise and reform the C30 process so school communities have a real say in the hiring of administrators and are not forced to accept abusive administrators that DOE superintendents handpick for positions.