Teachers at a Buffalo school are pleading with the Buffalo Board of Education to remove their principal for allegedly making inappropriate comments to kids and staff alike, while ignoring student misbehavior that has created an unsafe atmosphere throughout the building.
Teachers from School 18, a Pre-K to 8 school on West Avenue, have taken their complaints directly to the School Board to shine a public light on what's going on inside their school.
The allegations include:
- Racially insensitive and cruel statements made by the principal. Teachers claim she once told staffers that students and families were late to an event because they were on "CPT" or "colored people time," and that she could say that because "I'm brown."
Another time, she referred to a special education student as a "hot mess" and said the child's medication wasn't working.
- Bullying going unaddressed among the students, while those with a pattern of aggressive behavior are being placed in a Pre-K classroom as an alternate location to contain them. There have been two documented cases of students walking out of the building and 25 teachers at the school are seeking transfers because of the climate of the building, said Nicole Nye, a veteran teacher at the school.
"She is covering up the true state of chaos at School 18 in order to make her suspension data look good to district personnel," Nye said. "Something has to be done."
The complaints were directed squarely at Principal Aakta Patel.
While Superintendent Kriner Cash said he wanted to hear about inappropriate or egregious behavior at the schools, he has heard different accounts in this case. He sent a team of administrators to School 18 last week to get to the bottom of the problems and help come up with a corrective action plan.
"What I do know about Ms. Patel is she is deeply concerned and hurt by the allegations and wants to do better for that school and has made a commitment to me that is what she is going to try to do," Cash said.
The three teachers spoke during the public session of the School Board meeting Wednesday and said they were acting as representatives for teachers in the building.
"We have exhausted every other avenue to address the current state of our school," said Sara Pastorius, another teacher at the school. "We have bought our concerns to Ms. Patel as well as to district officials, but have been faced with denial and complete apathy. As a school community, we are asking the Buffalo Board of Education to stand up for what is right when no one else will."
"We have gone to her on countless occasions formally and informally in the last year to express our concerns to try to convince her that we have to change this current climate," said Melinda Lucas, who is also a teacher at School 18. "She's not only ignored us, but retaliated against us for speaking up. Teachers are afraid."
Cash indicated Patel was in the audience to hear the complaints but chose not to publicly respond.
"I want to thank and commend the teachers who came forward from School 18 and talked passionately about what they believe are troubling issues occurring at the school at this time," Cash said.
If the goal of the teachers was to have the principal removed, the superintendent didn't do that Wednesday. He asked the teachers to continue to follow through on the corrective action plan for a few weeks and he will revisit the issue again in January.
"I do hear your comments and recognize with that many people acknowledging those kinds of troubling issues occurring at your school we certainly must remedy them," Cash said. "And I will be making that a priority."