Monday, August 20

Principal fired after possibly flawed investigation fights back

When Joyce Saly, the principal of PS 58 in Brooklyn, was fired in the spring of 2006 after an investigation concluded that she had allowed students to see state test questions in advance, parents protested the decision. One parent wrote to Insideschools, "Ms. Saly is an outstanding educator. ... Why would she have risk ruining her reputation by giving the students a 'sneak peak' at the exam? She was obviously railroaded through petty politics."

Now it turns out that this parent might have been on the right track, according to a piece in this week's Village Voice. Saly says old test questions were sent home, but whether it was because of a miscommunication or a desire to give PS 58 kids an unfair advantage, the fault lies with her former assistant principal, Patricia Peterson, she says. And Saly says she has evidence that shows Peterson was given preferential treatment when she left PS 58 to become Region 8's gifted and talented coordinator, a position for which she lacked proper certification and, it seems, never even applied. So while Peterson had allies in the DOE making sure she was protected from blame at PS 58, Saly lost her job, she told the Voice.

This situation obviously involves complexities that few besides Saly and Peterson themselves can grasp. Whether or not Saly is exonerated this month, as she told the Voice she believes she will be, the case points out both the pressures school administrators face and the fallibility of investigations (like the one at the Cobble Hill School of American Studies, PS 58's neighbor, that resulted in the removal of the principal and was recently revealed to have been hopelessly bungled). I also wonder why Saly had to do all of this detective work on her own when it seems the documents she says she has found should have turned up during the original investigation.

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