Monday, August 03, 2015

The Maspeth Mystery

I get a newsletter from the UFT every week or so called "The Organizer," written by UFT employee Gene Mann. I don't always agree with everything in it, but this week I was very struck by the dueling comments about Maspeth High School and its principal (who scored 10 points lower than average in the staff poll). Gene does a feature called, "The Grapevine" for potential transfers or ATR teachers to give them the lowdown on Queens schools they may visit. 

Maspeth High School had been receiving fairly abysmal reviews on this newsletter for a while. My source tells me, after some sort of staff meeting with the chapter leader and principal, that the tone of the reviews began to change.

I'm fascinated by the assertion that staff stays an extra thirty minutes beyond contractual requirements, and the response asserting they do so voluntarily. Like a whole lot of teachers, I come in early almost every day, and frequently stay late too. However, I don't do that on anyone's schedule but my own. I question the coincidence of an entire staff staying an extra thirty minutes each day. I can't help but note that the commenter defending the practice does not actually deny it.

I also note the assertion that every teacher teaches four periods in a row. That's a blatant violation of Contract, and I fail to see how it helps kids. If there were some compelling reason to change the time schedule, the school could've held an SBO, but I fail to see any evidence of that either.

 It's a little long, but I'm going to simply post all the comments and let you draw your own conclusions.  Feel free to post them in the comments.

Maspeth H.S. Q585 (District 77)

Principal Ranking: 75.6

Vacancies: Physics, English


-The staff, all under 30 and without tenure, lives in fear of its principal, who demands that all stay an extra half-hour Monday-Thursday, beyond contractual requirements.  The staff is so afraid of losing its jobs that it complies without protest or per session (they didn't even know the term). The teachers' lounge is on the third floor but elevator use is prohibited without a doctor's note.  The building is nice and new, just in case that matters to you.

Another view…

The teachers are given 4 classes back to back and because they are in fear of the Principal they do not stand up for their own rights.    I was in that school twice.  The first time they tried to give me 4 classes back to back and when I refused I was told that every teacher is required to do so. There is no UFT representative in the school.

And another…

The tension among the teachers here is palpable.  This is the poster child for a Bloomberg School.  The dirty secret is that their Regents scores are way lower than expected.

And a story…(from Gene)

I received an e-mail from a fellow I remember as a teacher at another school asking me to pull the Maspeth HS posting because this growing school needs to attract new teachers.  I told the writer that I do not write postings and will only accept postings from folks who have worked in a school, either as appointed members or ATRs. 

         Subsequent inquiry led me to the discovery that my correspondent was no longer a teacher in a school, but worked for the network!


        My child attends Maspeth HS and the Principal is a total jerk in my estimation- I have more than 10 years in the system teaching , and have rubbed shoulders with numerous principals.  He is rude, not a friendly man, and definitely not a good communicator.  One teacher there has shared that she actually likes him-shocker!  Let me leave it at this without going into any more details, which could always cause possible backlash in our highly politicized system!


A member of our staff has requested that we address the posting in the Observer about Maspeth High School in Queens.

As a teacher at this school, I can say that all of the comments listed are true. There is a clear division between how some staff is treated versus others, which would lead to the conflicting experiences you may be receiving in your e-mail. The average staff age is very young and new to teaching ( *These are traits valued by administration, who regularly overlook qualified and experienced candidates in favor of young, inexpensive, and inexperienced professionals willing to overwork themselves. The students are great and so are many of the amenities but caution should be taken if expecting fair staff treatment or aboveboard practices.

·      The Daily News reported that Maspeth has the least experienced staff in the city (“…Maspeth High School in Queens - where a staggering 88% were on the job for under three years.” March 17, 2015) Of the 69 teachers in the school, only 8 are tenured.  24 are in their first year, 18 in their second, 22 in their third, 4 in their fourth, 2 in their eight, 2 in their 10th, and 1 in their 14th.

·      The average experience is 2.78 years.  For comparison purposes, the other schools which I have visited most frequently this year:

·      John Adams (Q480) 12 years

·      John Bowne (Q425) 11.7

·      Queens Gateway (Q680) 12

·      William Cullen Bryant (Q445) 12.9

·      August Martin (Q400) 12.8

·      Queens HS of Teaching (Q566) 11.1

·      Townsend Harris 14.5

And another…

Maspeth is a second home for teachers and students. Teachers have created such a positive attitude for students and choose to give up their free time just to further help out the students. The principal gives us clear directives and goals to hit that are very attainable and every teacher should strive to achieve those goals. It is a wonderful school that I will be sending my children to.

And another…

I am writing in hopes that you retract the false accusations made about not only Maspeth High School but about Principal Abdul-Mutakabbir. I am currently a teacher at Maspeth High School. The review that I read does not accurately depict my school and I am offended by the remarks stated by others. Speaking as a current member at Maspeth HS, I believe the administration, including Principal Abdul, and teachers have made Maspeth H.S. one of the best high schools in Queens. The hard work and determination is seen throughout Maspeth, which has allowed every student to have an opportunity for success.

One of the values that we stress is, "Student's First." Principal Abdul has never turned a teacher down for anything that would benefit the student's well-being. He stresses the importance of putting the student's first and that has been instilled in every teacher's mindset. The accusations made in regards to staff members being fearful is not true. Principal Abdul is always open to communicate and encourages his teachers to approach him with any ideas or concerns that they might have. We have established an excellent culture inside and outside of the building and that can be illustrated by the hard work of the students and the staff.

The idea of teaching being a 8-3 job is incorrect. Every teacher who has worked in a school setting understands that the job is not over when the last bell rings. The idea that Maspeth teachers are forced to stay after school hours is not true. These actions taken by the teachers are choices that we have all made on our own. The reason is because we strive to provide the students with the best possible learning environment. As an educator, my number one goal is to allow my students the best opportunity for success. This idea transcends with every educator at Maspeth H.S. We will continue to provide our students with the highest level of education inside and outside of the classroom and we hope that we can make a difference in the lives of every student who currently attends Maspeth H.S. and in the future to come. 

Warmest Regards,

Justin Lacoff

History Teacher at Maspeth H.S. 


There are teachers here who have gotten tenure because they deserve it. So, the statement saying that no one has tenure is a lie. I know that I personally do not live in fear of the principal because he is very supportive to new programs and activities and is always willing to listen to your ideas and to help implement them in any way that he can. I know other people feel the same way as well. For the person who said we don't know what the term "per session" means - we certainly DO know what it means and if a person is running a club, coaching a sport, or doing anything else that the principal asks them to do, they get compensated for it. Obviously, he cannot just throw money to everyone who stays a minute after 2:35pm but he does give it when it is deserved and required. There are some teachers who complain and are disgruntled but that is because they are lazy and are here for a paycheck, not for the students. Those teachers are the ones who bring the negativity into the school and they allow that negativity to give us a bad reputation. Some of the things said on here are ridiculous. I have NEVER been asked to do more than 3 classes in a row and how are our regents scores lower than expected when we are in the top 3 for highest scores in our district? These things have been written by people who are clearly miserable and/or misinformed. Maspeth High School does not deserve this reputation because it is a place that fosters growth and learning in students. It is a place where students feel welcome and cared about. It is a place where teachers are supported and encouraged to be creative. I can honestly say that the only bad thing about this school is those few negative teachers who want to bring the rest of us down because of their misery. The opinion of those disgruntled teachers should not outweigh the opinion of the majority of teachers who love Maspeth and enjoy spending their time at work, doing what teachers should be doing - caring about the students.


It was recently brought to my attention that false and upsetting information has been posted, through your facilitation, in The Organizer.  As a teacher at Maspeth High School, I would like the opportunity to set the record straight about our school and community.

I'd like to start by addressing some of the comments that were recklessly posted.  First of all, yes the staff here is on the "younger" side of the spectrum.  However instead of being ageist, people should understand that this school gives new teachers the opportunity to grow as professionals.  Our age does not equate to inexperience; it makes us motivated, energetic, and enthusiastic individuals who have the drive to work hard and do everything possible for the benefit of our students.  Does that make other teachers in other schools angry because we do not leave at 2:35 as they would like to?  Of course.  But that speaks to the nature of other schools compared to ours.  At 2:35 when 8th period ends, this building is still bustling with students and staff who are engaged in clubs, sports, extra enrichment programs, tutoring, and much more.  We WANT to be here and it shows based on the number of students who flood the halls well into the evening.

I'd like to next address the comments about our administration being unapproachable.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Teachers who feel that way are disgruntled and bitter about their own personal problems and set backs within the DOE.  The majority of teachers however, have beneficial relationships with administration.  They offer support and advice when solicited and are happy to help in ANY way when it comes to student needs and success.

Lastly, I'd like to clarify things for the public by explaining what it is REALLY like at Maspeth High School.  Students are enrolled in programs that suit their needs, allow them to explore their interests, and help them become college ready.  Teachers work tirelessly to help students  meet success by going above and beyond.  They treat everyone student as their own.  Parents are actively involved in the school through our flourishing Parent-Teacher Association.  And administrators are constantly providing feedback and resources to help teachers take-on leadership roles in the building.  The proof is in the pudding... if Maspeth High School was not operating effectively, why would parents be knocking at the doors to get their children into this school?  If I was able to send my future child here, I wouldn't hesitate.

Please share this when discussing Maspeth High School.


As a Special Education and Social Studies teacher at Maspeth High School I felt I had to respond after reading the reviews you recently posted about our school. It would be offensive to let false, negative comments posted by anonymous writers diminish the extremely hard work put in by our students, staff and parents alike. I will not sit by and let the opinions of clearly disgruntled individuals represent how the entire staff feels.

First off, I can honestly say I am excited to go to work everyday. I know for a fact that most colleagues I work closely with feel the same way. This excitement is driven by our amazing students, equally amazing co workers, and our supportive administration. I have worked in many schools and have never been a part of more dedicated and passionate staff. The central idea of putting students first that is preached by our principal can be seen everywhere.

I believe that anyone who complains about the Maspeth High School experience whether it be faculty, parent, or student is doing so because they simply don't know how good they have it. If something will benefit the students, the answer from our principle will always be yes. This can be shown via a coach bus to Albany for the basketball state finals or a simple pizza party to celebrate a club's accomplishments. The false accusations of our principal instilling fear into teachers to stay after school is laughable. Teachers stay after because they truly care about their students' success and students stay after because they know their teachers concern is genuine. A good look in the mirror is necessary if your classroom is consistently void of students after school and you feel awkward leaving the building while other staff continue to work with the future of our generation.

I hope these statements make it clear that the previously posted comments about working at Maspeth are false. Maspeth High Schoool is doing right by the students and that is why we are all in this field after all,



We teachers are not cowering in fear, and subsequently are not being forced by fear to work those long hours and apparently teach four classes in a row (again, untrue). Maspeth, and especially Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir, respects teachers' voices and is always very clear with our rights. The school is extremely transparent about its expectations for the teachers. Are the expectations high? Yes, I personally would say so. But are they exploitative like how the publication implies? Absolutely not. The teachers at our school are young, but that explains why so many of us do go above and beyond in our time spent at work--we are motivated and healthily encouraged because of our supportive administration's high, respectful expectations and optimistic belief in us.

There are many more objections I can make, such as the one regarding Regents scores, but I think the numbers speak for themselves. For instance, the English department has a 99% pass rate and an 86% mastery rate for the year. And that is not just due to our amazing students and hardworking teachers--it's due to the support and encouragement from our administration, and especially from Principal Abdul. He is an extremely effective principal who is greatly respected and recognized for his skills and leadership by most, if not all, the faculty and staff.

And more!

Maspeth defenders don't seem to understand that the Grapevine is composed of the observations of ATR's. The Grapevine is not about disgruntled students or lazy teachers. It is about the fly on the wall with years of experience at understanding the unwritten rules which are part of a school's culture. Not only does a typical ATR have more experience with education, supervisors, and children than the typical teacher, but he has had an opportunity to visit many schools and in doing so has gained perspective. As an outsider, the ATR makes judgements on schools based on how the schools treat outsiders as well. The personal experiences of individual teachers may be colored by the attitude of the principal towards them; the ATR considers how the least favored as well as the most favored teachers are treated. Looking at how the least are treated is an indicator of how everyone could be treated. Personally, I found the negatives were borne out by my own experiences at the school. I sense that the children are enabled in their behavior (by the principal as much as any other) and have been led to believe that they are developed and well-prepared, but then again that charge could be applied to most schools. Maspeth is like Stepford and I advise all to stay away from the Koolaid.


I have read the comments from a few teachers about Maspeth High School and the ATRs.  Well, that is a lot of bulls*** because I was given assignments which had 4 periods back to back.  When I questioned I was told that teachers work 4 periods back to back.
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