Posts tagged "fort hamilton high school"
October 16, 2012
The price of admission for forgetful students at Fort Hamilton High School is finally falling.
Under new leadership, the school has put an end to an unusual and unpopular policy that for years required students who did not bring a paper copy of their schedule to school to pay a fine.
Like all large high schools, Fort Hamilton faces a daunting task of keeping track of thousands of students’ whereabouts each day. At some schools with advanced technology, administrators can scan students’ plastic identification cards to check their schedules. Most schools instead require students to carry a program card, a sheet with their official schedule printed on it, to prove that they are where they are supposed to be.
But unlike many other schools, Fort Hamilton had for years enforced the rule by charging $1 to students who came to school without their program cards. Students and teachers at Fort Hamilton, which enrolls 4,000 students, said the policy was strictly enforced.
“I’ve wasted a good $30 during my entire four years here,” senior Matthew Cora said.
One teacher estimated that as many as 50 students per day had to wait in a separate line before they could go to their first-period classes, suggesting that the school likely took in thousands of dollars a year through the fine. (more…)
September 24, 2012
Weeks after teachers at Fort Hamilton High School began speculating that their longtime principal was on her way out the door, the Department of Education has appointed a replacement.
Kaye Houlihan, an administrator who for seven years led the English department at the city’s most selective arts high school, is the city’s choice to take over for Jo Ann Chester. Chester retired precipitously last week after 13 years at Fort Hamilton’s helm.
Chester had long maintained a low profile beyond the Bay Ridge school, but in the last year, she ended up under multiple investigations. One focused on a cost-cutting scheme in which Chester hired teachers on a full-time basis but paid them as substitutes. Another investigation began in February after a Department of Education audit concluded that some Fort Hamilton students had gotten passing grades on Regents exams when they should have failed.
Shortly after school year began, teachers at the school said they saw Chester removing personal belongings from the building. ”She left quieter than a mouse,” one teacher said after the second week of the year.
Last week, after Chester did not return after the Rosh Hashanah holiday, and department officials confirmed that her retirement would become effective the next day. On Friday, an official from the school’s support network, Bill Dugan, arrived to take charge for the day, but teachers were told that a permanent replacement would not come until today. (more…)
September 18, 2012
As more chronically underpaid teachers at Fort Hamilton High School seek redress, the school’s beleaguered principal appears to be planning her exit, according to multiple people close to the school.
As GothamSchools first reported in August, the Department of Education is investigating a cost-cutting payroll scheme engineered by Principal Jo Ann Chester, who hired teachers and paid them a lower substitute rate, even as they stayed on full-time for months. Some of the people taught for over a year.
Previously, just two of the 14 eligible teachers had filed grievances for backpay. But that number has increased in recent weeks and is likely to include even more, a union official said, meaning the school could be on the hook for up to $300,000.
Here are more details on the scheme from our August report:
According to multiple sources, Chester contrived a system to use substitute teachers for more than a year at a time without adding them to the school’s teaching roster, which would have required them to be paid more, or bumping them up to different pay rate for long-term substitute teachers.
Then, she fudged documents to make sure that the teachers did not show up in the Department of Education’s payroll system, the sources said. On daily attendance sheets and student report cards, Chester replaced each substitute teacher’s name with the last name of an assistant principal and the first initial of the first name of the sub.
The probe seems poised to continue without Chester in charge at the 4,200-student Bay Ridge school. A source with knowledge of the school said she was planning to retire and that her departure was ‘imminent’. Multiple sources said that Chester was not expected to return tomorrow when classes resume from the Rosh Hashanah holiday break. (more…)
August 1, 2012
A scheme to underpay more than a dozen teachers at a Brooklyn high school has landed the school’s longtime principal under investigation.
The scheme, which investigators have been probing since this spring, could also put Fort Hamilton High School on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay to teachers so desperate for a position that they accepted one with low pay, no benefits, and little security.
The Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations is in the process of investigating Jo Ann Chester, principal of the Bay Ridge school since 1999, a department spokeswoman confirmed. Sources close to the investigation say investigators have been digging into payroll practices at the 4,200-student high school since at least April. The school was already under investigation because of test scores that the city deemed suspicious.
Last week, a grievance from a teacher who had been underpaid was sustained, entitling him to back pay, union officials confirmed.
The scheme allowed Chester to circumvent three-year-old hiring restrictions and blocked the school from being assigned short-term substitutes from the Absent Teacher Reserve, the city’s pool of teachers without permanent positions. It also saved the school hundreds of thousands of dollars. (more…)
February 23, 2012
The Department of Education is cracking down on graduation rate inflation, following an internal audit that uncovered errors and possible evidence of cheating at 60 high schools.
The audits, conducted by the department’s internal auditor, scrutinized data at 60 high schools that had posted unusual or striking results. Of the 9,582 students who graduated from the schools in 2010, the audit found that 292 did not have the exam grades or course credits required under state regulations.
At one school, Landmark High School, 35 students had graduated without earning all of the academic credits required for graduation. At another, Pablo Neruda Academy for Architecture and World Studies, 19 students had gotten credits through “credit recovery” that the school could not prove complied with state requirements. At two schools, Fort Hamilton High School and Hillcrest High School, an examination of Regents exams uncovered problems in the scoring of multiple students’ tests.
Department officials said they had asked Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon to launch inquiries at nine schools based on issues raised during the audits. (Schools where investigations were already underway were excluded from the audit.)
Students who graduated without sufficient credits won’t have their diplomas revoked, officials said. And schools won’t have their graduation rates revised to reflect the audited numbers, either, except potentially where the city found schools had purged students from their rolls without confirming that they had enrolled elsewhere.
Instead, department officials are cracking down on loopholes in city and state regulations about how to graduate students. Among the major policy changes are revisions to Regents exam scoring procedures, new limitations on “credit recovery” options for students who fail courses, and an alteration to the way schools determine whether a student has met graduation requirements.
The changes reflect a new understanding of the degree to which principals had become confused with — or, in some cases, ignorant of — graduation policies. They also reflect an unusual acknowledgment from the Department of Education that its strategies for delivering support to schools and holding them accountable are not always successful. (more…)