Saturday, March 02, 2019

The Ben and Juan Show--Episode 1 "Too Little Too Late at Forest Hills"

Superintendent Juan Mendez and principal Ben Sherman toured the school yesterday in an elaborate apology project. Evidently, they've been reading the mounting bad press. There is going to be even more, I hear.

They seem to have noted that the Forest Hills High School Parent Association has joined UFT in asking for the principal's removal. I can only guess by walking around the school and saying a few words of contrition they think that the school community will simply forget the last year and a half of failure and frustration.

It's always a good idea to admit when you make mistakes. Sitting on them and letting them build and expand rarely helps the situation. Nonetheless, the apology tour comes months and months after the alienation began. I'm betting the community doesn't buy it. Here's what Sherman said, in a letter to staff:

"I know you have been reading a lot about me recently.  I recognize there are many concerns.  I am against students using drugs, vaping, or smoking in our school.  I am against students loitering in the hallways, staircases, or other places.  I am not a perfect person.  I have many faults, just ask my wife.  I apologize for statements which have offended you, including saying 'because I am the Principal.'   I need to listen better to you.  If I have given anyone the impression that I am soft on crime or that I am permissive about drug use I apologize. 

It sounds good, on the surface. But is it a genuine revelation, or simply something you say out of expedience after the NY Post writes a few articles about you, and Jimmy Fallon makes you the target of a late-night joke? Call me cynical, but I think anyone with a modicum of self-awareness would have noticed there was a problem way sooner.

The unspoken request is that Forest Hills move back to square one, and that the community trust someone who has done absolutely nothing to earn trust. Norm Scott always says, "Watch what they do, not what they say," and that's apt here. While the principal, likely as not at the urging of the superintendent who placed him, has put out a few words, his actions say he doesn't care a whit about the school community.

To me, that's not a strong calling card for someone to lead a school. After a consistent pattern of abuse, of looking the other way, of refusing to own responsibility, a few words are less than persuasive.

As a teacher, if I ran my class the way Ben Sherman seems to have run his school, I'd almost certainly be up on charges for incompetence. It's funny how, here in Fun City, principals can just say, "I'm sorry," and have every expectation of plodding on in their gross ineptitude. Funnier still is, given the Leadership Academy, it's likely the city trained Ben Sherman to behave this way.

If the mayor and chancellor are serious about going in a different direction than that of Michael Bloomberg, they need to take decisive action. "Oopzie," simply does not quality.
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