Dewey principal found guilty of grade-fixing

July 9, 2015 Editorial Staff
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The verdict is in.

The Department of Education will fire John Dewey High School Principal Kathleen Elvin on the tail of a yearlong investigation into grade-fixing, announced Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña on Wednesday, July 8.

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“The results of the investigation are disturbing and show there was a failure to follow the DOE’s protocol during the 2013-2014 school year,” said Fariña in a statement. “We have begun the process to have Ms. Elvin’s employment terminated.”

The principal, 69, awarded bogus credits to students and botched Regents exams during the 2013-14 school year in an effort to inflate graduation rates at the struggling school, city officials found in an investigation concluded June 30.

While the investigation did not find evidence that teachers at the Gravesend school were pressured to pass students, it did find that Elvin allowed at-risk students to make up credits in classes where they were taught more than one subject at once – a course called Project Graduation – and, in other instances, students simply completed packets of work without any instruction at all.

The report found that “no instruction was provided during these courses, and that no instruction was possible because of the vast variety of subject areas covered.”

Staffers like Wade Goria, a social studies teacher at the school for nearly 20 years, are relieved to see Elvin pack up her desk. They are just as hopeful that her assistant principals – two of whom are also facing disciplinary charges – will get the boot as well.

“The teachers who are involved with exposing what Kathleen Elvin was doing, in perspective, were very pleased with what happened,” he said. “We’re not pleased with the fact that this took more than a year to take place.”

And teachers, Goria said, want more done. Contending that Elvin’s offenses exceeded grade inflation, he alleged that, “There are [other] assistant principals who behaved abominably in this, writing false observations and unbelievable lies about faculty performance.

“A vital aspect of Elvin’s policy was first removing the senior staff, the people who were veterans who were smart, who understood what she was doing,” Goria asserted. “Then, once she did that, she’d be left with untenured people who readily submit to her flawed and scandalous behavior. It was all about her improving graduation rates so she would get financial reward. We were just to be pushed aside and a lot of lives were destroyed in the process.

“We had some wonderfully talented teachers, the best that the DOE has to offer,” Goria went on. “Their crime was being more than 50 years old.”

Fariña said that Elvin – who has worked in city schools since 1983 and was hired as Dewey principal by the Bloomberg administration amidst backlash in 2012 – will soon be removed from the DOE’s payroll. She earned close to $150,000.

Her hiring and the prior ouster of long-standing principal Barry Fried came as an unwelcome surprise to staff and students who, at the time, were in the midst of protesting the DOE’s plans to close and reopen as a new school as part of a “turnaround model.”

According to the DOE, the new principal at Dewey will be Connie Hamilton, a Master principal as part of the agency’s Ambassador program. She is the current principal of Kingsborough Early College School.

“The Department of Education, they did the right thing yesterday,” said Goria, “but they need to go further.”

John Dewey High School is located at 50 Avenue X.

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