Councilman: P.S. 106 isn’t as bad as Post says

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Donovan Richards. (William Alatriste/NYC Council)
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Far Rockaway's councilman Donovan Richards says his discussions with parents and teachers at P.S. 106 led him to believe the school is functioning relatively well and not in the terrible condition reported by the New York Post.

Richards, who praised schools chancellor Carmen Fariña's response to the allegations in the story, said the school's woes can largely be traced back to the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed an early childhood education annex and much of the school's materials, including textbooks and new technology, including new computers, bought before the storm.

"Based on the conversations I've had, in my opinion some of the [Post report] was fabricated," Richards said. "I tried to engage as many parents as I could yesterday and most parents said they were happy about the direction the school is going in. There were some parents who felt that the principal did not deal with them in the most appropriate manner," he said, but added that most complaints were about principal Marcella Sills' demeanor, rather than her work.

Citing information from "whistleblowers," the Post reports that students at P.S. 106 "have gotten no math or reading and writing books for the rigorous Common Core curriculum," and "no gym or art classes. Instead, they watch movies every day."

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Also: "About 40 kindergartners have no room in the three-story brick building. They sit all day in dilapidated trailers that reek of 'animal urine,' a parent said …"

And the principal, sources told the Post, "is a frequent no-show."

Sue Edelman, the Post reporter who wrote about the school, told Capital she had multiple sources for all her reporting, and added the Department of Education and Fariña did not dispute individual claims in her story.

"Yes, Sandy wrecked an annex ... and it was never repaired, as we noted," said Edelman. "This does not explain why the school has no Common Core curriculum, no nurse’s office, and shows movies instead of gym and art."

And for the record, the Post did not invent the idea that P.S. 106 has had serious problems; the school has been the subject of other stories in the Daily News and The Wave dating back at least four years, when an unnamed family sued the Department of Education, charging that the principal and staff of P.S. 106 did nothing to help a student at the school who was allegedly abused.

The girl was reportedly attacked and sexually abused by a fellow student, but when the girl's parents went to the principal about the issue, no police charges were filed.

The suit was filed in early 2009, but the family's lawyer, Adam Thompson, told Capital that the case is still pending because the school and D.O.E. have failed to produce documents necessary for discovery and have not produced a witness for the trial.

Richards said Fariña and other members of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration were quick to respond to the Post article — even at 7:30 on Sunday morning.

Fariña, who sent deputy chancellor Dorita Gibson to the school on Monday morning, said later that 106 needed "organizational improvement," but that "classrooms are orderly, teachers are dedicated, and students are learning."  

Richards said the school, like many other institutions and houses in Far Rockaway, is still waiting for reimbursement from FEMA.

Richards sent a letter, co-signed by other penninsula elected officials, to the School Construction Authority Tuesday asking that P.S. 106 be expanded to include space for younger grades. He insisted that the annex is too damaged to be rebuilt.