Summer is supposed to be a time to unwind, but the first weeks following graduation have been anything but relaxing for parents at one Lower East Side school. They have been mobilizing to protest a decision by the Department of Education (DOE) to remove the principal of Marta Valle High School, which shares a building at 145 Stanton St. with two other schools.
There was no announcement from the DOE to the school community. Instead, parents say, they found out about the dismissal of Jannett Bailey after just two years at Marta Valle from the principal herself.
A Department of Education spokesperson tells The Lo-Down that the decision was made by the superintendent due to Marta Valle’s performance. The superintendent, Marisol Bradbury, made the call in keeping with the Chancellor’s regulations, the spokesperson said. Steven Aragona, a former assistant principal at High School for Media and Communication, is taking over as principal
JoAnn Weimer, secretary of the parent association, wrote a letter to Chancellor Carmen Farina July 2, expressing strong opposition to the move. Her daughter just graduated from Marta Valle. Weimer’s husband is president of the parent association. They are among a group of parents scheduled to meet with DOE officials about the matter tomorrow.
Marta Valle has faced its share of challenges. In February, it made a list from Governor Cuomo’s office of 91 failing schools across the state. Schools are defined as failing if their test scores are in the bottom 5%, they are not showing progress in test performance or have graduation rates below 60% for three years. According to the report, the LES school has been failing for 10 years.
Weimer and other parents led a campaign against the previous principal, Mimi Fortunato, arguing that she had badly mismanaged the high school. After she was reassigned to a senior administrative position at DOE headquarters, Bailey came in and, according to Weimer, began to turn things around. Marta Valle’s graduation rate improved from 36% to 48%. “In my opinion and the opinion of many other parents and students,” Weimer wrote to Farina, “Marta Valle High School is finally on the upswing.” She said students’ regents scores in U.S. History this past June were the highest the school has ever received. “Ms. Bailey has not had enough time to work at fixing all of the wrongs of the past,” Weimer added. “Another leadership change is not what Marta Valle High School needs at this time.”
Weimer mentioned that there is an ongoing battle for limited space in the Stanton Street building. The School for Global Leaders, also located in the facility, is seeking to expand, and Bailey had pushed back against moves she believed would harm her own school. Weimer suggested this issue could have played a role in Bailey’s dismissal as principal.