Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz strongly criticized the principal of P.S. 7 in Kingsbridge for opening the school during the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for professional development sessions for teachers.
“I am shocked and appalled that teachers would be asked to come to the school for professional development during the High Holy Days when this training could have been held on an already scheduled professional development day, such as Election Day,” stated Dinowitz.
Teachers at the school were notified last Wednesday by principal Renee Cloutier of training in the use of “Smartboards” – electronic blackboards – on September 30th and October 9th from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
After complaints were made to the United Federation of Teachers, Cloutier assured teachers, presumably Jewish teachers, that a special “alternate” date would be scheduled for them.
“It is insulting and patronizing that teachers are told they could chose an ‘alternate’ date,” noted Dinowitz. “We know that teachers will feel pressured to come in on the original dates despite their religious considerations, and that those who don’t would fear retribution.”
Participation in professional development training can be used as a pre-requisite for obtaining certain hourly per-session jobs valued by teachers for extra income. Throwing roadblocks such as scheduling these sessions during Jewish Holidays or act as a disincentive for black teachers who might want to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, might be considered to be a discriminatory practice.
Cloutier, with but three years experience in the classroom herself, is a graduate of Chancellor Klein’s Leadership Academy, criticized for training “instant principals.” She was given control of the school two years ago, when she was only 28 years old, an event that sparked a questioning article in The New York Times.
In the past year, the school slipped from a grade of “A” to a “C,” according to the Department of Education.