Over the past few weeks, issues involving field trip procedures have resurfaced and United Federation of Teachers Chapter Leader Franco Scardino is now alleging that Ms. Jahoda’s new policies involve multiple violations of the Department of Education’s policies.
Most recently, Ms. Jahoda requested that members of The Phoenix fill out trip slips for their Manhattan reading at Barnes & Noble, an open event on the weekend that has never required slips before from THHS principals. Sources claim that Ms. Jahoda’s justification to require slips was that the presence of an administrator causes an open event to be the equivalent of a school event, which would require trip slips, otherwise known as parent consent forms. Despite this, Ms. Jahoda attended the Robotics Team’s pancake fundraiser at Applebee’s in January without permission slip forms being filled out.
Following issues with the collection of trip forms for the Muslim Student Association and The Phoenix, Mr. Scardino questioned why forms were not requested for the Robotics’ fundraiser, for which tickets cost $10.
He said, “Any school related activity—trip or fundraiser—requires the principal’s approval. This is clearly stated in the Chancellor’s regulations that govern trips and collection of funds from students. If the school is sponsoring an event—whether it be at Applebee’s or Barnes and Noble—parents must be properly notified and the principal must provide the proper authorization.”
Regarding the Robotics’ fundraiser and The Phoenix reading at Barnes & Noble, Co-Editor-in-Chief Aaron Fernando said, “They’re both fundraisers, organized in an outside venue, they both had administrators show up to the event and they’re both on weekends….It’s interesting that the STEM gets by fine, but the humanities…has to jump through all these hoops to get things done.”
According to one administrative source, there are two ways in which a principal can approve an event like The Phoenix’s reading or the Robotics fundraiser. One is through a trip slip and the other is through an authorization form for a fundraiser. In looking into whether or not Ms. Jahoda authorized funds to be collected for the robotics breakfast, this administrative source provided evidence that Ms. Jahoda has not authorized the collection of any funds throughout this entire year.
According to the source, Ms. Jahoda has not signed off on the forms for the authorization of funds. Instead, an assistant principal is asked to sign the forms on her behalf. The designated administrator signs to the side of the document and the place for the principal’s signature remains blank. Previously, former principal Anthony Barbetta would sign off on such forms.
Chancellor’s regulations state the following in regards to collecting funds from students: “No teacher or parent shall make any collections of money from students unless authorized in writing by the principal in conformance with the rules and regulations of the Department of Education.”
A DOE Standard operating procedure manual states about funds, “The principal is ultimately responsible for the collection, distribution, and accounting of all general school fund money [and] must approve, maintain, and submit an Authorization to Collect General School Funds.”
This issue regarding the authorization of funds was brought to the attention of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for Schools (SCI) and it has been forwarded to the Office of Special Investigations.
Though The Classic sought comment from DOE Press Secretary Will Mantell regarding the status of the investigation, he did not respond to us via email.
In light of this, Mr. Scardino emailed the faculty, advising them not to collect funds from students, stating, “The form for the collection of funds that is required must be signed by the principal before teachers can collect funds. If you collect funds and deposit them into the school account without written approval, you are in violation of the DOE rule regarding this matter and I believe vulnerable to charges and an investigation. I have asked for clarification from Mrs. Jahoda regarding this matter, but she has not responded.”
Previously, Ms. Jahoda and her strict following of DOE regulations had been a topic of contention. Mr. Scardino expressed issues with new procedural changes to trips in November, stating that Ms. Jahoda should codify things and that “If there are things that are out of compliance, work with the team to put things in compliance.” One key topic of debate has been rules about how trips are approved by the principal.
Earlier in the year at a UFT Executive Board meeting, Ms, Jahoda said, “I cannot validate a trip or approve it until the packet is complete. That’s non-negotiable.”
A Frequently Asked Questions page related to the Chancellor’s regulations, however, states that a packet (or trip plan) can be submitted for final approval only after a trip proposal is approved by the principal. It states that the plan should be submitted after “the principal determines that the trip should be approved.”
The FAQ also states the following: “All school trips [that involve payments] must be approved in advance by the principal before payment may be made or tickets are purchased. …There will be no exceptions to this rule.”
However, several trip organizers have collected money for trips and paid for expenses prior to them being approved by Ms. Jahoda.
Social Studies teacher Charlene Levi directly brought up this concern to Ms. Jahoda at an Executive Board meeting, stating, “At the end of the day no one wants to pay for a trip if they aren’t sure if they are going on the trip [since they do not receive approval until after payments have been made].”
To this, Ms. Jahoda responded, “You can never have approval in advance,” though regulations state that trips must be approved in advance when payment is involved.
Mr. Scardino claims that he brought it to Ms. Jahoda’s attention that she is not in compliance with DOE regulations in September but has not received a response.
During the student led sit-in held on December 8, Deputy Superintendent Leticia Pineiro commented on the issue of trip procedures, saying, “The principal before was okay with the trip forms not being filled out properly. It was okay with Principal Barbetta. It’s not okay with this principal. There are different types of leaders, right? So, you have a new leader. She wants the paperwork to be done correctly. I actually respect that. When you are employed in the real world, you’re going to realize that you are held accountable.”
Ms. Jahoda did not return requests for comment.