Dispute over role of SLT leads to some members feeling “demeaned”

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Recently, there was an emergency School Leadership Team (SLT) meeting called in order to address budget concerns as the budget allocations for the school had not been finalized despite a nearing deadline. At this meeting, some members of the SLT felt “demeaned” and as if Interim Acting Principal Rosemarie Jahoda was “dismissive” towards the SLT body by suggesting that the work of the team is “consultative” rather than collaborative.

During discussion of the budget Ms Jahoda stated,  “This team serves as a consultative team [and] we do not come to a consensus here.” She went on to address the team’s input on applying for grant money by saying, “All of this discussion about Reso A [grant money]: it’s fine. We can talk about it. But if you were to go strictly by what the function of this team is, it is just to discuss budgetary concerns as they relate to specific CEP [Comprehensive Educational Plans] goals.”

This led to an extended discussion about the definition of the SLT’s role in the school.

Multiple members of the team felt as though the principal minimized their role and reduced them to advisors rather than team members.

Regarding the extended debate over the role of the SLT, Susan Karlic, PTA co-president and co-chair of the SLT, felt Ms Jahoda was condescending: “It seemed that she felt her words are more important than others.  It was if to say that there’s no need to express our thoughts and ideas to the team as she should be the one speaking for the duration of the meeting.”

At one point in the meeting Ms. Karlic appeared to grow angry at Ms Jahoda’s behavior. Of this moment, Ms. Karlic said, “ In particular, I didn’t appreciate when I was at one point speaking directly to her, [and] she rolled her eyes and turned her head towards her mentor and dismissed anything else I was saying. That’s not the way to ‘listen’ to the members of the SLT.”

Parent Karen Lin, a member of the team, cited the chancellor’s regulation A655 to preface her opinion, remarking, “So while I agree with what you’re saying [that the SLT’s function relates to the school’s CEP goals], Ms. Jahoda… I believe you have a very narrow view of what the SLT’s role is [and] that is inconsistent with what the chancellor’s regulation states.”

United Federation of Teachers Chapter Leader Franco Scardino urged that, “the advisement and consultation that comes out of this committee should be more than just a mere consideration on the principal’s part.” He cited a 2015 NY Appellate Court decision in response to a lawsuit over SLTs in NYC schools.

The decision explains that an SLT does relate primarily to CEP goals and emphasizes the collaborative nature of the teams. It states, “In fulfilling this role [of creating goals] the SLT acts in conjunction with, and not subordinate to, the school’s principal. If it is fulfilling its statutory role, a school’s SLT is not a mere advisor to the principal.”

After the meeting, school aide and District 37 union representative, Paul Sforza said, “I’ve been on the SLT for 10 years, which has been run by three different principals. Until this time, I have never felt so disrespected and so demeaned as I did by the present interim acting principal and by the comments she made to the whole SLT.”

Previously, Ms. Jahoda stepped down as the chair of the SLT and was replaced by Student Union President Senior Alex Chen and Parent Teacher Association Co-President Susan Karlic through consensus.

Alex remarked, “I think Ms. Jahoda’s comments marginalized the SLT. Yes, we are not experts in finances, but one of our main roles is helping to oversee how the budget aligns with the CEP. The fact that she called us consultative gives the impression that her opinions and her decisions on how to budget… are higher than ours. We really deserve more of a say. We’re not solely just consultative.”

Current members of the SLT, who showed previous dissatisfaction with Ms. Jahoda’s leadership as a chair member, are satisfied with the current chairs.

Mr. Sforza said, “I find that the former running of the SLT was unproductive until the new chairpeople have taken it over. It’s much more productive now much more orderly.”  He added that perhaps the meetings could be made even more efficient “if the principal had an open mind and was willing to work more in conjunction with the SLT members.”

Mr. Scardino was critical of Ms. Jahoda’s leadership at the SLT meetings, saying, “Ms. Jahoda’s inability to lead the SLT as a whole and provide leadership on budgetary matters, should disqualify her as a candidate for permanent principal.”

Ms. Jahoda was unavailable for comment after the meeting. In recent days, Ms. Jahoda has told mainstream media that “While I am frustrated by these inaccurate allegations, I remain 100% focused on helping students and parents at THHS, and on moving the community forward.”