John Dewey High School’s principal was dismissed suddenly last Thursday morning, as the city continued preparations to “close” the school in compliance with a federally prescribed reform program known as “turnaround.”
It was not immediately known whether the removal of Principal Barry Fried was related to the Turnaround program – which the city’s Department of Education has proposed for Dewey and 32 other schools classified as struggling, writes Gotham Schools.
From Gotham Schools:
But Fried’s departure happened abruptly, suggesting that the city might have had more immediate concerns. Department of Education officials did not respond to requests for details about Fried’s departure today.
At a faculty meeting this afternoon, Kathleen Elvin was introduced as the school’s interim acting principal. Elvin was the founding principal of a successful small high school, Williamsburg Prep, and most recently trained teachers assigned to schools undergoing less aggressive overhaul strategies. She is likely to help engineer staffing and programming changes at the school through the turnaround process.
The change, according to people familiar with the school, was sorely needed — but comes after too long with sub par leadership.
“Principal Fried sits in his office all day and can’t control the students,” City Councilman Domenic Recchia, a 1977 Dewey graduate, said at a Community Board 13 meeting earlier this year, as reported by Brooklyn Daily. “This principal should have been gone years ago. The school could prosper but it needs new leadership.”
Dewey was founded in 1969 as one of a new generation of progressive high schools, such as E.R. Murrow in Midwood, which followed a model of increased student freedom and responsibility meant to resemble life on a college campus.
During Fried’s time as principal, Dewey received mediocre scores on DOE progress reports and saw an increase in violence.
After a lock down occurred in 2008, when a student was seen with a gun in a classroom, the open campus was closed, with students no longer allowed to leave during the day.
Leo Casey, the UFT vice president in charge of high schools, told Gotham Schools that, while Fried was a poor leader, the city was making matters worse by removing him in the middle of the year.
”There were longstanding issues concerning his ability to lead the school, but despite acknowledging that, the DOE did nothing to find a replacement,” Casey said. “Now, they are doing it in the middle of the term, which is disruptive, because it suits their organizational purposes to do so.”
Teachers and students at the school have been passionately protesting the turnaround plan by holding weekly rallies outside the school.