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Education Advocates to Discuss Troubled JHS 80 Amid Reports

JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL 80 (pictured) is embroiled in controversy following reports the school is grossly mismanaged.
File photo by Adi Talwar

 

Despite a New York Post expose detailing a history of problems at JHS 80, teachers came in defense of its principal, embroiled in controversy.

But teachers, five of whom declined to give names to the Norwood News, spoke highly of Polanco and his ability to turn the school around.

Dayana Nunez, a 14-year veteran of the school, praised Polanco’s administrative performance and the the school’s performance. “They tell a little truth and expand it with a bunch of lies,” said Nunez. “This school has been a transformation. A total transformation. Our classrooms are clean, our hallways are clean.”

Nunez, who teaches a total of 100 students for all her three classes, pointed out to Polanco’s accessibility and upgrades in technology. Among them is equipping the school with laptops, which Nunez said teachers can monitor at any point.

Two teachers, who declined to give their name, said parents mentioned in the Post article were motivated to tell their story out of a “personal vendetta.” Conditions at the school were grossly exaggerated, they said.

A teacher’s aide, Jose Perez, said Polanco is “a great principal.”

Parents also expressed satisfaction with the school. Jose Espinosa, a parent of a student, said conditions have gotten better since 2013.

The news comes amid a story by the Post detailing a history of problems at the school, relying on accounts from parents and teachers. They all put the school’s blame on the Polanco, who has allowed loyal staffers to threaten other teachers while downplaying violent incidents at the school. The report outlined several incidents of violence, including one where Polanco had fought a student, according to one account made by a parent that was published in the article. The New York Police Department says there have been no incidents reported to them.

“I was thinking about sending my daughter to this school next year, but I don’t see that happening right now,” said Mauro Morel, a parent of a seventh grader attending the school.

Telly Martinez, a parent of a seventh grader, said the school’s problems extend to the building. “Something needs to be done,” said Martinez. “The safety of our children is very important to us.”

Sources told the Norwood News that officers from the local 52nd Precinct sat down with administrators on Jan. 8 to determine the safety of the school. The school has attempted to do some damage control by setting up a hastily organized 5 p.m. meeting on Jan. 8 to discuss the allegations made.

Meantime, officials with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the union representing public school teachers, also met with staffers. A UFT rep held an open forum, gauging teachers on how they felt about the news story. In a statement, Richard Mantell, UFT vice president for middle schools, said the union “alerted the Department of Education to a slew of bad decisions by this particular principal.”

“Some changes have been made but the bulk of our complaints are still outstanding. So we will continue to advocate,” said Mantell.

 

For the last few years 6th-to-8th grade school has hit a slump thanks to plummeting math and English test scores, according to documents reviewed by the Norwood News. The 2015-16 School Quality Snapshot report showed 14 percent of students passed the state English exam while 16 percent of students passed the state math exam. These marks fell well below the district and citywide English and math test rates, which showed 24 and 20 percent of the district passed the English and math test while 37 and 32 percent of the city passed the state English and math test.

Polanco has been met with controversy before. In February 2013, Polanco starred in a salacious music video dubbed “El Siki” that raised questions on whether his background makes him fit to be an administrator. Despite backlash, Polanco was allowed to keep his job with the city standing by him for the last few years.

The issue has caught the attention of Councilman Andrew Cohen, representing Norwood. In a statement, Cohen said, “these allegations are troubling and should be taken seriously. I’m reaching out to all parties involved to ensure the safety of students, teachers, and administrators.” A spokesperson for Cohen said the office did not receive any complaints from teachers or parents about conditions at the school.

Cohen’s remarks came a day after the New York City Council pledged to investigate the local middle school that’s been on the state’s Turnaround List for the last few years, qualifying it for some extra funding from the state. The city has placed the school on its Renewal Schools list in 2015, qualifying the school for more money.

In an email to the Norwood News, Polanco called the Post story “disparaging.”

Editor’s Note: The next Community Education Council will meet on Jan. 18 at 3202 Steuben Ave.

Like this story? Leave your comments below.

20 thoughts on “Education Advocates to Discuss Troubled JHS 80 Amid Reports

  1. Manuel

    Ask the parents of all the kids who graduated with 1-5 regents exams last year, what they think of the school. Ask the parents of the kids who didn’t know one word of English when they showed up, but finished the school year at or approaching grade level.. Ask the parents of the last three valedictorians who were all former ELLs.. Ask the parents of our mentors.. ask the parents of our students who learned to build robots and code in one year.. Ask the parents of the children who acted in our first ever (bilingual) theatrical show, “Aladdin.”
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    Shall I go on..
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    Ask the parents of the various kids whose academic achievements earned them the reward of watching Wicked or Lion King on Broadway.. Ask the parents of the students whose academic exploits got them special dinners at Applebee’s and Dave N Busters. Ask the countless parents who were treated to a parent/child Student of the Month Breakfast .. For the past 3 years!
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    Trust me. I can go on..
    But I’m gonna stop right here, because no matter all the good the school does, the city media wants to talk to one or two disgruntled parents/staff, and then drag an entire school community through the mud. But Norwood.. you’re OUR paper. How bout coming by and doing a highlight article. About all of the great things happening in our school community? I’m sure you’ll find there’s a lot more than meets the lies. Eyes. I meant eyes.

    1. Baez

      Ms Nunez you can not say Polanco is a good principal because you are his friend. When he became principal he brought you with him. You know first hand how Polanco used bullying tactics to harass staff. As for Perez, you and Polanco are childhood friends. That is why you were able to bully staff and students. Look at how many former staff members are suing Polanco. There are two schools in the building. Why is PS 280 doing much better? These are the same students from this neighborhood and other parts of the Bronx. You know why, because it’s the leadership. Polanco bragged – “it’s not what you know but who you know.”

      1. MS 80 Teacher

        Baez, it is obvious that you are well misinformed, so let me school you. Ms. Nunez is “a 14-year veteran of the school.” How could Mr. Polanco have brought her in when he became principal? You make no sense. In addition, your allegations that she bullies staff and students couldn’t be farther from the truth. You see, Ms. Nuñez is a child of God, unlike one particular teacher who hides behind a highlighted bible and praises the Lord’s name in vain. But I understand that there are fallen angels everywhere. In regards to PS 280 doing much better, and the kids are from the same neighborhood, yes you are right. Now let me school you some more. PS 280 is a K-8 school. Their teaching practices are implemented in the kindergarten classrooms and follow the students until they graduate in 8th grade. Therefore, there is a consistency within the school. So 280 is totally responsible for their student’s performance. In addition, only 15% of the students at PS 280 are English Language Learners. Meanwhile, in JHS 80, the students begin in 6th grade and over 85% of the students are coming into JHS 80 either far below grade level or below grade level. In addition, 35% of our students are English Language Learners, and that is not taking into account that the percentage of former English Language Learners would bring the percentage points well above 50%.
        Here is some more information for you and the other negligent reporters and disgruntled teachers out there. The students at PS 280 demonstrated a percentage growth of 4% in ELA proficiency from 2016-2017 . Growth is good right, so let’s also look at MS 80’s stats. Between 2016 and 2017 MS 80 students grew 6% in the same area. Yes, the overall percentage points may be less, but it is important to take into account the growth. If the schools merge and 280 now has the students from 80, their scores will be affected, and you will blame the MS 80 administration for that. So why is it that you are looking at the numbers from MS 80 in isolation and not taking into account that they are coming into the 6th grade with low scores and that the administration and the teachers are working together and in turn the students’ level of proficiency is growing? Here is the site for you to do your own research before coming out publicly looking foolish. https://data.nysed.gov/
        I also recommend that you look at the stats of the surrounding schools and their growth. MS 80 is outperforming them too as far as their growth percentages.

  2. New Teacher

    The one-sided on our school and community is disgusting. It is no wonder a rag like the New York Post is the only paper to pick up and run with a “story” like this. It’s no wonder they didn’t interview the teachers and parents who love and care about the children and school. Gossip and scandal sells more papers. Norwood News, do not sell yourself as the Post has done for years. It has sold its respectibility in the process. As our community newspaper do not sell the pride and joy that our children have in their school and community to the first person that want to read trash. Give the school an opportunity and a voice to fight the tawdry and cheap Post reports that are created by people outside of our community that have swarmed in to capitalize on exaggerations and gossip. I work in a clean and safe school with wonderful children and administrators who no, are not perfect, but who are not bullies or gangsters either. They are people who I consider mentors and supporters and who love what they do and children and communities they serve.

    1. Paraprofessional

      @New Teacher. Get the facts before commenting. Ask yourself why the students at JHS 80 are failing and not other schools in the area? You sound like a dedicated teacher. I’m a Para and I left because of Polanco using bullying tactics with his staff. I live in the Norwood area and my children attend PS 280. PS 280 have over 1000 students and the principal is able to make sure he’s present. He very welcoming to the parents and students and I know first hand his staff adore him. All I see is comments about Polanco. What about the students at JHS 80?

    2. Ms. Inserra 4th grade licensed teacher

      Say who you are! If this is all true state your name so we know this isn’t one of his cronies trying to validate his actions! If you are new how much do you know about his leadership in 5 months! No matter how much good one hurt child in November that was dropped on his head and caused to convulse is enough to get him out! He ordered for it to be covered up and for the original write up to be rewrote and made out to be an accident! You are a mandated reporter remember that! New leadership is needed to protect the students and staff! Then you will have truthful things to say but as of now it’s not valid!

      1. Proud Licensed 21st Century Teacher

        Everyone’s experience at MS 80 is different Ms. Inserra. Why come out now with these allegations? Why not follow the proper reporting protocols at the times of the incidents? Is this a personal vendetta, due to your personal desires and intentions which were not fulfilled? How quickly do you forget you were doing student’s “make up” in your classrooms without parental consent? (covering up hickeys on students neck). You are a mandated reporter. Why didn’t this instead of covering it up? Meanwhile bragging about it. Were the parents aware? Why were you doing this incognito without the consent of administration. Yes, you are a licensed teacher and a professional. So, why were you showing up to work provocatively and inappropriately dressed to a middle school. Last “Academic Year 2016-17” MS 80 had approximately 650 students. Do you mean to say that most students are violent and you felt unsafe at all times? but yet did not report it then.

        We live in the 21st century. Learning and pedagogy is quickly changing in this era. It is clear that your education philosophy does not align with that or MS 80, who is preparing its students for the future. The careers that our children are going to be competing for in the next five to ten years require 21st century skills. It is a blessing, that at MS 80 students are being guided and supported to be prepared to compete in a 21st century global market. The administration and counselors have been working with students and parents closely, to ensure that they go to a school that will reinforce their 21st Century skills and academics. How quickly do you forget that MS 80 has the following programs for students in place;“Prep for Prep”, “Specialized High School Preparations”, an Accelerated Program to prepare students to enter High School with up to 5 High School Regents. Were you aware that the “Academic Year 2016-2017” that one 8th grade student graduated from MS 80 with five “High School Regents; and some 8th grade students graduated with four, three, or two “High School Regents” exams. Please research how other schools in the surrounding areas performing.

        You are bringing up allegations and speaking on events that you were not present for. You align yourself with one rotten apple who happens to sit down all day, and does not teach with purpose and intent and brags about her relationship with the kids because she lets them do what they want and then turns around and uses it as evidence against them. A teacher who pretends to teach. Now your integrity and your motives are questioned?

        All the incidents and allegations you are speaking of have been reported. Did you forget that the second incident happened at another school? Did you forget that it was the student of another school who tried to attack the students of MS 80? Do you forget that that school was supposed to guard everyone’s safety. Ask yourself this, are you pointing the finger at MS 80 as a personal vendetta?
        The students were not coached. Students came in questioning the article, as teenagers would. As a result, teachers turned it into a “teachable moment” addressing the week’s standards (see below); What was the author’s purpose? What was the validity of these sources? Do these sources speak for everyone? Students decided to voice their opinions. Why stop students from voicing their opinions? At MS 80 students are taught to be independent learners.

        P.S: Last question; Were you not the teacher who wanted to beat up another teacher because of a love interest?

        CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.6
        Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

        CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.4
        Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.

        http://www.p21.org/our-work/elf

  3. Eva

    The post was spot on when they did that article. The staff are ghetto, rude and bullies. The kids are just as bad running rampant up and down the halls and cafeteria, food and fist fights everyday. Cursing staff out and trying to fight staff…security does absolutely nothing. the school is disgusting with crumbling walls and rusty pipes and pests. This is a horrible school that should have been closed down a long time ago.

    1. Paraprofessional

      I agree. This school was making progress under Principal Lovey. They removed her because she didn’t play by their rules. Under Ms. Lovey administration, she had to deal with gang violence, homelessness in the area (shelter kids) and the DOE. She has helped me get services in place for my son who has special needs.

  4. jose

    people who are saying that its a great school are clearly lieing to themselves and to the public..my child has gone to this school and its one of the worst experiences we have ever had. teachers who are speaking out are brave because they are not afraid of the backlash they are going to receive from low level staff who have high title positions with no title. the principal is a joke. keep speaking out about this school and maybe things will finally get done.

  5. Ms. Inserra 4th grade licensed teacher

    If we really want to help the students we gotta band together and get Palanco out! He is out of control and has no plans for the students to go to a technology high school yet deliveres technology all day not giving any practice with paper and pencil which will be the style of education in the high school most students will go to! We have to help the students before someone gets hurt and before they get put into high school and struggle! He got rid of Aspira just so his staff can make more money when Aspira was helping the students stay safe and was supporting them emotionally! He threw them out the building so he undereducated staff can make per session Money just a dishonor to the students once again!

  6. J. WILLIAMS

    Polanco and his cronies are on massive damage control. They are doing what they always do, which is try to present the public with a fairytale while the real truth is a nightmare for students and staff. I know from listening to certain students that Polancos staffed friends are now promising some of their most troubled students that is they deny these allegations and write letters about how much they like their school, they will get high passing grades and favors, but students and staff who tell the truth and confirm that the school is a hellhole worse than what was mentioned in the article, are hararrassed, threatened, called “rats” and “snitches”, told they will be failed or if they are staff, they are being told that if they confirm the truth, there are loyal students who will falsely “alledge” misconduct by “the rat/snitch” teachers. There are students being encouraged by Palanco and his cronies to call other teachers who are standing behind the allegations, names and to harass these brave teachers and students speaking out against the school. The principal is a gangster bully who has flunkies on staff and naive students who will say how wonderful their school is in exchange for favors and unearned high grades. I’ve been hearing of this hellhole school worsening ever since Polanco took over. Mr. Williams should be principal and the brave teachers who are EXPOSING this terrible school should be rewarded for being dedicated to our children and their safety. Polanco and his cronie staff and teachers should be bought up on charges…btw, people reading this article should know that the police are lying when they say they’ve gotten no reports. They have gotten dozens and they give them no attention and tell parents to call CPS and the State with their concerns. Reports have been made and disregarded which is why the person likely turned to the NY POST for help. A student was bullied and beaten up by the principal, please use your sense and know that it was reported to the POLICE! Another student was picked up and dropped on his head, he began to convulse and a ambiance was called and the child taken to the hospital. Please tell me how that happened without MANDATED REPORTERS not reporting the incident to the police or CPS? The hospital alone is chock full of MANDATED REPORTERS, but these cronies would have the public think they participated in NO COVER UPS? Please, the only uneducated people who would believe that this school isn’t a hellhole are the students who’d rather play on their phones all day than learn how to write a proper letter. Polanco is a thug who should not be allowed near any schools.

    1. anonymous

      J. Williams or should I refer to you as Ms. Inserra. You keep making the same spelling errors. It’s Mr. Polanco not Palanco. We get it. You have a personal vendetta. Let them investigate and let it be. You look desperate. I also see someone called you out on your lack of integrity. Why not respond to that? Also, you say you are doing this for the kids yet you keep bashing them, saying they cannot write. Well, did you stop to re read what you wrote and all the mistakes you have? Meanwhile you are a special education teacher. I wonder how the parents of your fourth graders would feel about that, or how your principal and AP would feel of they saw all the derogatory things you write about students, teachers, staff, and administration. Are they next on your list?
      You go from calling kids “a plague of violent kids” to then saying that these violent kids are naive because they’ll say anything for a better grade. You are joke. Worry about teaching your fourth graders and move on. Your services are no longer needed at MS80.

  7. J. WILLIAMS

    Polanco and his cronies are on massive damage control. They are doing what they always do, which is try to present the public with a fairytale while the real truth is a nightmare for students and staff. I know from listening to certain students that Polancos staffed friends are now promising some of their most troubled students that if they deny these allegations and write letters about how much they like their school, they will get high passing grades and favors, but students and staff who tell the truth and confirm that the school is a hellhole worse than what was mentioned in the article, are hararrassed, threatened, called “rats” and “snitches”, told they will be failed or if they are staff, they are being told that if they confirm the truth, there are loyal students who will falsely “alledge” misconduct by “the rat/snitch” teachers. There are students being encouraged by Palanco and his cronies to call other teachers who are standing behind the allegations, names and to harass these brave teachers and students speaking out against the school. The principal is a gangster bully who has flunkies on staff and naive students who will say how wonderful their school is in exchange for favors and unearned high grades. I’ve been hearing of this hellhole school worsening ever since Polanco took over and the brave teachers who are EXPOSING this terrible school should be rewarded for being dedicated to our children and their safety. Polanco and his cronie staff and teachers should be bought up on charges…btw, people reading this article should know that the police are lying when they say they’ve gotten no reports. They have gotten dozens and they give them no attention and tell parents to call CPS and the State with their concerns. Reports have been made and disregarded which is why the person likely turned to the NY POST for help. A student was bullied and beaten up by the principal, please use your sense and know that it was reported to the POLICE! Another student was picked up and dropped on his head, he began to convulse and a ambulance was called and the child taken to the hospital. Please tell me how that happened without MANDATED REPORTERS not reporting the incident to the police or CPS? The hospital alone is chock full of MANDATED REPORTERS, but these cronies would have the public think they participated in NO COVER UPS? Please, the only uneducated people who would believe that this school isn’t a hellhole are the students who’d rather play on their phones all day than learn how to write a proper letter. Polanco is a thug who should not be allowed near any schools.

  8. Community Member

    Dear Baez,

    You must have been misinformed. Ms. Nunez was never brought by Mr. Polanco’s administration. She has been at the school for 14 years. Mr. Polanco has been there 5. Therefore, she was there when he arrived. I believe you owe her a public apology! and your facts right.

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