Tuesday, September 11

At Jamaica, data-driven school staff ignore student needs

Kids and teachers at Jamaica High School were surprised last week to find that the school had a new principal; now, they have a clue as to why Principal Jay Dickler was yanked from the school just days before the beginning of the school year, besides the fact that the school was recently added to the state's list of "persistently dangerous" schools.

Yesterday, the Daily News reported that an assistant principal issued a directive last year ordering school staff not to call 911 "for any reason," which might have contributed to the fact that an ambulance was not called for more than an hour when a Jamaica student suffered a stroke in April. One wonders how much more quickly the student would have gotten medical attention if she or her friends had cell phones, which students cannot smuggle into Jamaica because it has metal detectors.

The situation also adds to persistent questions about whether schools suppress information about violent incidents to improve their statistics. "This is a tragic result of what happens when everything comes down to data," UFT President Randi Weingarten told the Daily News.

Chancellor Klein said the DOE would investigate the situation, although both Dickler and the assistant principal who wrote the memo are no longer at the school. Dickler has been reassigned as the head of a suspension center and the assistant principal is now a teacher at Hillcrest High School, the Daily News reports.

Today, the Daily News notes that a student at a Brooklyn elementary school died in 2003 after suffering an asthma attack; staff members' reluctance to call 911 may have contributed to his death. That child's family filed a lawsuit against the DOE early this year. Shortly afterward, Chancellor Klein sent a memo to principals telling them to call 911 in emergencies. The directive at Jamaica came out after Klein issued his reminder.

As of today, Jay Dickler's name is still on the Jamaica's DOE website. The interim principal, Walter Acham, was most recently the safety administrator for the Queens Integrated Service Center. My suspicion -- and I hope I'm wrong -- is that the DOE sees Acham as a warden to shepherd Jamaica until it is restructured.

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