January 21, 2011
The city is keeping the principal of a Bronx high school in place, despite a report’s conclusion that she instructed her assistant principals to give teachers unsatisfactory ratings without ever watching them teach.
For public school teachers, an unsatisfactory rating on their annual observation can mean the beginning of the termination process. For Iris Blige, the principal of the Fordham High School of the Arts, “U” ratings were to be handed out to teachers she wanted to get rid of, regardless of how good they were in their classrooms.
A report by the Office of Special Investigations found that from 2007 to 2009, Blige told several of her assistant principals to give unsatisfactory ratings to half a dozen teachers before those teachers were formally observed. The report, which was completed last August, substantiates the claims of Blige’s current and former employees. Regardless, city officials have decided that Blige will keep her position and will pay a fine of $7,500.
According to the report, assistant principal James O’Toole told investigators that Blige told him to “get rid of” a certain teacher. O’Toole told investigators that he did not follow Blige’s request.
Another assistant principal, Ahmed Edwards, told investigators that when he refused to give a teacher an unsatisfactory rating Blige reminded him that his job was still in jeopardy. Edwards said he felt threatened by Blige’s response and gave the teacher a “U” rating. When she asked a subsequent time, he refused.
According to the report, Edwards maintained that Blige gave him a “U” rating in 2008 because he wouldn’t comply with her demands. He now works in another school, as does another assistant principal who Blige “U” rated.
When interviewed by investigators, Blige denied that she instructed her assistant principals to give teachers “U” ratings before they completed their observations.