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The Blog That Was A Decade In The Making! Part Seven

26 Oct

October 26, 2011

As I sit down to type this, I find that I lack the ability to put it all together. While this series is not quite over, in many ways this is the penultimate installment. Everything that I have written about before pales before the task before me.

To do this justice, I have to break a cardinal rule and name a real name. Jolanta Rohloff was the Principal of the school whose name I find my fingers refuse to type, yet you are about to read it below. (It will also give away a couple of names from a previous post too.) To begin, I am going to excerpt some news articles covering my time at Horror High. And though I am only posting excerpts, I urge you to click the links and read the entire articles in the name of fairness.

I spent the better part of a decade here.

However, she was far from fair. After the articles I will fill in some blanks, from her threatening to fire the entire staff, to comparing the school to Auschwitz, to peeping in windows, to rifling through teacher’s files to hounding one teacher out of the school simply because she did not like the teacher’s nationality.

Jolanta Rohloff, has managed in well under two years as principal to antagonize a large number of students, teachers and alumni. The ill will, she says, is a result of her efforts to improve a troubled school.

Ms. Rohloff has dismantled the school’s program for gifted students and pushed scores of recent immigrants into English-only classes that they say they cannot understand. She has reduced students’ grades in classes based on their marks on Regents tests, provoking several formal grievances by teachers whose original grades were overruled. She has made a series of provocative statements, including one comparing Lafayette to a Nazi death camp.

The list of complaints goes on to include having a student mural painted over and distributing textbooks two months into the term.

A common theme emerges in all, which is the view by Ms. Rohloff’s many critics that she is an abrasive, autocratic leader, bent on imposing her agenda and intolerant of dissent.

“The morale here is well into negative figures,” said Patrick Compton, a social studies teacher at Lafayette for 21 years.

His colleague, Rick Mangone, chapter leader of the teachers’ union at Lafayette, said, “Teachers are worried about how she’ll react, not how to teach.” He added, “She uses fear tactics.”

TWO HUNDRED students walked out of classes at troubled Lafayette High School yesterday to protest a decision to paint over a colorful mural they created.

Carrying homemade signs demanding the school’s new principal be replaced, students had a litany of complaints, including the reassigning of as many as a dozen teachers to other schools and apparently false rumors that uniforms will be required in the fall.

“We spent a lot of time after school drawing and painting the mural,” said Cynthia Cruz, 16, a junior who worked on the mural for an environmental science class at Lafayette. The principal “just came and threw white paint over it.”

I was in an odd position. She liked me. Why? Because before she ever met me, she mispronounced my name and liked the sound of it. Worse yet, she didn’t know she had mispronounced my name for months. No one would tell her, and I didn’t find out until after the fact. She somehow reversed my first and last names, stuck them together into one word, and thought it was my last name. For example, if my name were Willy Jackson, which it is not, she would have been calling me Jackowilly and believing it to be my last name. But she liked me and that was all it took. It was totally arbitrary but she would talk to me like a person and give me a modicum of respect while she tormented my (at the time) close friend on the staff.

Jolanta Rohloff would sneak like a cartoon cat burglar to Ms. Lake’s rear classroom door and peep into the room for a few minutes. Then she’d go back to her office and write up a “formal” observation. She’d pop in unannounced, yell at her in front of the kids, and badmouth her to the rest of the staff. Sound familiar?

It was a problem to me because I really liked Ms. Lake and thought we were close friends. (We weren’t but that is a hindsight issue.) Someone very much in the know whom I will not even hint at pulled me into an office one day and told me flat out that Jolanta Rohloff didn’t like Ms. Lake (definitely not her real name) simply because Ms. Lake was partly of German decent. You see, Jolanta Rohloff was Polish. That’s it. Because of a grudge going back to World War Two she hounded a good teacher out of the school, a school which desperately needed good teachers.

And it fell to me to break the news. This person would have told Ms. Lake personally but in her position it would be highly inappropriate so it was delegated to me. When Ms. Lake’s morning class ended I was waiting for her and we took a walk outside around the block while I very uncomfortably explained the situation to her and relayed the suggestion from the not-to-be-named person that she should update her resume and find another job while it was still in her hands.

It did not go over well.

But oddly I knew just what she was going through because I was on the opposite side of it many years ago in my first school.

Not to minimize what Ms. Lake went through, but I was miserable again. Not only was the school dying around me, but I just lost someone whom I believed at the time was very special. Now, with the knowledge of how things turned out between us, it shouldn’t have been so bad, but all I knew back then was that I was losing her. I shouldn’t say this and I shouldn’t feel this way about her but I still miss her.

The writing was on the wall from Jolanta’s first day. The school was in trouble but there was always the chance of surviving. We still had hopes, we still might move ahead, but she changed all that. Principal Stevens had been removed and she was brought in with the intention that she would restore order. Of course, that was not the way to save the school, and in the articles above you see what her idea of order was.

At the first staff meeting, this was her idea of a pep talk. These words came within the first 30 seconds of her address to us. Bear in mind, we had never met her before.

“I am guaranteed a job next year. The rest of you are not.”

She followed it up with “just as my father survived Auschwitz, I will survive Lafayette.”

Any way you slice it, she compared the school I loved to a Nazi death camp.

That comment got a lot of play in the press. Thanks to the union rep, of course.

I never did find out how he thought that would help the school.

There is more about her, much more, but I’ll let you read some of it for yourself in the news: 02_parents_hoodwinked_on_principal-1.html;jsessionid=793DF552DF21FCBB7AE7DF2C4481FB20


Part One can be found here,
Part Two is here,
you can find Part Three here,
Part Four is here,
Part Five is here,
and find Part Six here.

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