Until very recently Linda Hill, principal of Dreyfus Intermediate School on Staten Island , was known, when at all, as the chief tormentor of teacher Francesco Portelos, whose career and reputation she tried and failed to destroy, even if she did cause the man an enormous amount of hardship. Portelos’ offense was to point out to the powers that be that Hill was ripping off the public by claiming to be doing two jobs at the same time in different places: an impossibility. For his courage, Portelos was rubber roomed, investigated endlessly by the Office of Special Investigation (OSI), eventually vindicated but nonetheless, crazily, fined $10, 000.
He has also been proven right. The same OSI that hounded Portelos has confirmed that Hill was doing precisely what Portelos said she was doing.
Not that it matters at all in the strange universe of the Department of Education, made all the more strange, and strangely corrupt, during the reign of Michael R. Bloomberg. Indeed, during the darkness of the Bloomberg years, in which experienced principals were given buyouts and newly minted Leadership Academy replacements were urged to think of themselves as CEO’s, their primary function was apparently to hound, demoralize and degrade teachers as much as possible.
Think of a corporate mini version of Mao’s Great Leap Forward which produced the Great Chinese Famine. Bloomberg’s maneuver, in turn, created a different kind of famine but a famine nonetheless. As a bonus, principals who proved incompetent, insane, sadistic or criminal were not fired but merely shifted to another school or warehoused at Tweed where they continued to collect their significant salaries. I know. I had one who managed to fill all four of those categories and the last I heard she’s still collecting Disgraced Former Principal Dole. As with the mafia or the IRA or the Ivy League, once you were admitted into the club it was very, very hard to be tossed out.
The New York Post, which shamelessly cheerleaded for all things Bloomberg during his twelve nightmare years as absolute ruler of New York City schools, has attempted to somehow link Hill’s criminal behavior with current Chancellor Carmen Farina’s tenure; this despite the fact that Hill’s $55, 000 worth of thievery was done under the watch of Bloomberg’s trio of preposterous non-educator Chancellors of Education, Joel Klein, Cathy Black and Dennis Walcott.
That said, OSI’s confirmation of Hill’s criminality merits an immediate and appropriate response from Farina, namely Hill’s firing (at the very least) and (as much as I know it will never happen) a public apology to Portelos for the hell he’s been put through.
Failure to do so will not merely make a mockery of justice but it will make a mockery of Farina, and billboard what every Leadership Academy scandal reiterates: the ghost of Mike Bloomberg is still very much present.
This is an opportunity. I hope, for the good of all, that Farina uses it and uses it well. But, sadly, I am not holding my breath.