flight feared at elite high school
March 5, 2001
over the leadership of Bronx Science High School that prompted the
resignation of acting principal William Stark has eroded staff morale
and may speed up retirement plans among the school's senior teachers.
said nine teachers left in February and up to 30 could be eligible
for retirement this summer.
question in my mind we will have more retirees in June because of
the year we have had here and the treatment of Bill Stark by the
system," said Deborah Stepelman, who has been teaching since 1967
at the prestigious school in Bedford Park. Stepelman said she wasn't
planning on taking advantage of her retirement this summer, but
the "Stark stuff" made her consider leaving "sooner rather than
a 33-year veteran teacher and administrator of Bronx Science, was
the top choice of teachers, parents and alumni to replace Stanley
Blumenstein, who stepped down as principal last spring. But schools
chancellor Harold Levy - Stepelman's former student - and borough
superintendent Norman Wechsler blocked Stark's appointment, reportedly
in hopes of finding a Nobel Laureate for the job.
The rift between
Bronx Science and the Board of Education was exacerbated on Feb.
2 when Stark received notice of his promotion two hours after he
he was told a letter regarding the appointment had been sent to
him "but that it had somehow mysteriously been lost in the mail."
Stark added that when he finally did receive the letter, it was
postmarked Feb. 2, the day of his resignation.
nor Levy returned phone calls.
Wednesday to become principal of Manhasset High School on Long Island.
His replacement, Vincent Galasso, a former principal of Bronx Science,
is heading the school until Levy appoints a new principal.
"It's my job
to see that the school doesn't suffer anymore," said Galasso. "The
first thing to do is to restore calm and get teachers back to thinking
Stark's exit had hurt morale among the faculty, but he wasn't sure
whether it would increase the number of teachers retiring. Many
may have considered leaving anyway, but according to social studies
teacher James Uldrych, Stark's departure "probably did accelerate
certain retirement plans."
and administrators consider Stark's resignation a major loss for
the school, they were relieved that the borough superintendent no
longer supervises the school. After pressure from the school community,
Levy removed Bronx Science from Wechsler's authority two weeks ago.
Instead, the school now answers directly to Deputy Chancellor Judith
executive director of the Bronx Science alumni association, made
no effort to hide her hostility toward Wechsler. "He has enough
problems with all the schools in our district that are failing,"
said Klayman. "Instead, he decided to direct his attention where
it wasn't needed."
But many at
Bronx Science still had reservations about the new structure of
authority. "It sounds good, but I'm not very hopeful of any part
of the bureaucracy of the Board of Education," said Uldrych, who
has worked at Bronx Science for six years. Klayman agreed. "There's
no way to trust them any longer," she said.
concerned Stark's departure left their children in the hands of
demoralized teachers. Hugo Chance of the Tremont section, whose
14-year-old daughter Brittany goes to Bronx Science, worried that
if senior teachers retire in large numbers, the students may get
stuck with a younger, less experienced teaching staff. "When I went
to school," said Chance, "the people that influenced me the most
were the people who had been there the longest."
did not comment on when Bronx Science can expect a new principal
or who is being considered for the job.
At Bronx Science,
parents, teachers and students said that academic honors are less
important for the job than solid leadership skills.
have to be a Nobel Prize winner," said 14-year old Shakira Lyn,
a freshman from Parkchester. "It has to be someone who's caring."