Bronx High School of Science principal apologizes to Daily News reporter over ‘fight club’ threats

The Bronx High School of Science principal apologized Thursday for the outrageous harassment of a Daily News reporter by students at the prestigious hall of learning. The threats of violence, insults and racial slurs unleashed during a two-day tsunami of abuse from her pupils were “not representative of the respectful and inclusive environment we promote,” Principal Jean Donahue wrote in an email. “I can assure you that I’m personally looking into it and along with my staff and the (Department of Education), we are ... going to hold those involved accountable.” Donahue, a Bronx Science grad who took over at the school in September 2013, is already under DOE scrutiny over the story by The News that sparked the vile outpouring from students: A “Fight Club” pitting kids in bare-knuckle brawls was operating at the high school. Students at the school lost their minds after The News exposed the videotaped fights among the brainiac brawlers — with the headline “Put Up Your Dorks!” Some of the students involved in the scandal were summoned Thursday to meet with Bronx Science staff and guidance counselors, education officials said. The DOE’s head of safety was also called to the Bronx school and met with staff and the NYPD to figure out the best way to handle the threats made by students against a News reporter. Some of the “Fight Club” members have been disciplined, a DOE spokesperson said Thursday. The fist fights, videotaped and aired via a secret Facebook page, continued for two school years. “Safety always comes first, and we take this matter very seriously,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said. “We continue to investigate the incidents and will insure appropriate action is taken.” A mom who pulled her son out of Bronx Science because he was bullied said that she told three school Continue Reading

Best NYC high schools 2015: Bronx High School of Science

When Jean Donahue was a student at the Bronx High School of Science in the 1970s, computer science was just an elective. “I can remember this giant IBM computer that took up half the room, and the punch cards,” said Donahue, now in her third year leading one of the highest-ranked schools in the nation. Times have changed, and the school has modernized its focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM. The school doesn’t stop at simply teaching students about STEM fields. Through hackathons, advanced programming and engineering classes, and a summer design lab where students can patent their inventions, students are tasked to create. “For the 21st century, it’s not enough to just master a set of skills, we have to foster creativity, foster innovation,” Donahue said. With district funds and alumni donations, the school renovated several classrooms into new computer science, engineering and robotics labs ready to use this year. Laser cutters and 3-D printers are housed in the engineering lab, band saws and drill presses in the robotics lab. “The moment I walked in, I was like, ‘Wow’ — our space was transformed into a state-of-the-art facility,” said senior Jenny Li. Along with revitalizing some facilities, Donahue has worked to move the school past a 2013 hazing scandal during the tenure of the previous principal, Valerie Reidy. “That incident was really still very untypical of what happens,” Donahue said. “It’s a very unfortunate incident, but we have addressed that in terms of our supervision of students and our ‘Respect for All’ program.” Donahue said it’s a priority to create a supportive environment for incoming students to succeed when they’re among thousands of others at the Bedford Park campus. Continue Reading

Bronx High School of Science Unveils New Holocaust Museum  on Friday, 70th anniversary of Warsaw ghetto uprising

EXCLUSIVE The Bronx High School of Science on Friday will unveil what may be the most extensive collection of Holocaust artifacts at a U.S. public school. The school’s Holocaust Museum and Study Center will open its doors on the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The museum is part memorial and part classroom, and was designed as “a living testament to man’s inhumanity to man,” according to museum officials. The Daily News got an exclusive preview of the archive. “Being here opens my eyes,” said Nadeela Persaud, 17, a senior from Pelham Bay who researched some of the relics as part of her Holocaust Leadership class. “Having this museum here, we have a chance to see all the artifacts we have been talking about.” Some 900 items are housed at the 1,000 square foot space, including Nazi helmets and propaganda posters. One poster screams: “Germans Defend Yourselves! Don’t Buy From Jews!” There are Hitler Youth stamp books, yellow stars of David that Jewish people were forced to wear, and even a used Zyklon B gas canister, which Nazis used to poison Jewish people and others they deemed undesirable. The museum cost $1 million to construct and was paid for by donations - many from the school’s alumni, according to principal Valerie Reidy. She said the museum would be used as part of the school’s curriculum to build students’ character and help link history to current events. “We teach a lot of things other than content,” she said. “We want to make sure our students become leaders who stand up and say, ‘No. I’m not going to let this happen.’” Stuart Elenko, who taught at the school from 1964 to 1993, started the collection as a way to teach students tolerance, Jill Veyler, the museum’s curator, said. “This really began with a very personal, conscious-raising Continue Reading

Just keep on ringing that Nobel at Bronx High School of Science

So what’s in the H 2 O up at the Bronx High School of Science? Last week, Dr. Robert Lefkowitz of Bronx Science Class of 1959 became the eighth alumnus to win a Nobel Prize since 1972. That’s an average of one Nobel every five years, as many Nobels in science as all of Australia and more than Norway. All from one pile of pale municipal bricks housing 3,000 city kids on 205th St. in the Bronx. I burned a couple of gallons of C 8 H 18 — that’s isooctane, or gasoline for the ill-informed like me — to drive up there from Queens to find out what makes this school so special. Listen to the kids I spoke with — all but one from Queens, most first-generation children of immigrants, who call their school the Queens High School of Science in the Bronx. You might be reading the first interviews with future Nobel winners. “I chose Science after asking people who’d graduated from here who all said the teachers were great,” says Vinesh Vora, 16, from Bellerose. “It has a lot of clubs, lots of extracurricular activities, but what I love most is that besides math and the sciences, it also focuses on the humanities, social studies, English, psychology, U.S. government. A student here has so many options and can go into so many different fields.” Vinesh is doing a project similar to the chemistry research that won Lefkowitz his Nobel. “I’m working on cell signaling like Dr. Lefkowitz,” he says. “We’re using different plant hormone signalings to see the effects on how the plants’ roots grow.” Principal Valerie Reidy added, “He’s looking at receptors in plant roots the way Dr. Lefkowitz looked at receptors in cell memories in animal cells.” Right. Just like most of us never, ever will. And that’s what makes these kids so special, and the school that prepares them for the rest of this science-fiction century unique in this city. Continue Reading

Former Bronx High School of Science teacher Peter Lamphere gets ‘unsatisfactory’ rating reversed in Supreme Court

Embattled faculty members at Bronx High School of Science are rejoicing after a state judge ruled to erase an unsatisfactory rating from a former teacher’s record. In a decision last Wednesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman granted a petition to overturn a “U”-rating for Peter Lamphere, which he received from principal Valerie Reidy during the 2008-09 school year. The former union chapter leader appealed it first to the Department of Education, and then to the court, in July. “It’s a big relief to finally see some judicial review of the DOE’s actions,” said Lamphere, who now teaches at a high school in Queens. “It provides some measure of scrutiny of the DOE’s blank check that they've given to Reidy.” Lamphere was among 20 out of 22 math teachers who filed a special complaint in 2008 against assistant principal Rosemarie Jahoda, alleging repeated harassment. They also charged that Reidy wrongly denied them tenure and gave arbitrary “U” ratings. An independent investigator found that the teachers were being harassed. Lamphere, a tenured teacher, decided to leave Bronx Science after receiving two “U” ratings from Reidy, the first in the 2007-08 school year and then again in the 2008-2009 school year. “It was understood at Bronx Science that Reidy used ‘U’ ratings and denials of tenure for nonpedagogical reasons,” said Mark Kagan, a social studies teacher who left the school this year. Lamphere said he is still awaiting another judge’s decision for his first negative evaluation. Last week’s ruling will likely grant Lamphere the wages he did not get when he received the poor rating. Reidy did not return repeated requests for comment. “We are disappointed in the decision and are weighing our legal options,” said DOE spokeswoman Barbara Morgan. Lamphere said the ruling should Continue Reading

‘Hurt Locker’ Oscar winner Mark Boal schooled at Bronx High School of Science

Turns out the Oscars were especially memorable this year for the Bronx High School of Science. Alumnus Mark Boal ('91) took home two Oscars - one for Best Original Screenplay and one for Best Picture (he was one of the movie's four producers). "I just think it's wonderful," Joanne Strauss, who was Boal's precalculus teacher, said Tuesday. Boal now joins the ranks of other illustrious alumni wordsmiths, including E.L. Doctorow, William Safire and Richard Price. While at Bronx Science, Boal excelled in various subjects - including English - and was an avid cyclist and a talented debater. Boal is still regarded as a great debater at the school. During his senior year, he ranked among the top 10 in the country. "I've heard lots of Mark Boal stories. He was very, very good," said Jon Cruz, who now heads the high school's speech and debate team. "The moment he won the Oscar, I sent out a mass e-mail to the entire debate team." Even after nearly 20 years and with thousands of debaters having passed through the program, Boal is still ranked among the top 50 in the school's history. "He has an incredible mind and is an incredible thinker," Cruz said. "He's certainly a role model for our kids." Boal loved to challenge himself academically, said Principal Valerie Reidy. "He was very interested in learning for learning's sake," said Reidy after reviewing his records. "He wanted to be taught how to learn, not just accrue credits." Even then, she noted, he was very much interested in world politics, war, mismanagement in government and troop deployments. "We tell our students that while not all of them will go on to be research scientists, they need to learn how to think, analyze and criticize," Reidy said. "And that's what he has done, and obviously, quite successfully." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Bronx High School of Science teachers rallying at Mayor Bloomberg’s place vs. administrator

They're taking their gripes straight to the top. About three dozen teachers and supporters from Bronx High School of Science plan to rally outside Mayor Bloomberg's upper East Side home on Thursday in hopes Hizzoner will intervene in the ongoing strife in the school's math department. "We feel we need to bring this to his attention," said United Federation of Teacher's Chapter Leader Peter Lamphere. Two years ago, 20 of the 22 teachers in the math department filed a complaint against Assistant Principal Rosemarie Jahoda alleging repeated harassment. In April, an independent fact-finder found that Jahoda called one teacher "disgusting," addressed others in a "demeaning" manner and drove others to tears. The fact-finder made several nonbinding recommendations, including transferring Jahoda and the teacher's union chapter leader, as well as retracting all disciplinary measures against math teachers over the past two years. But the Department of Education rejected the findings. Schools Chancellor Klein has taken no action, and Principal Valerie Reidy said the issue has been adjudicated enough. "They've pretty much exhausted all their recourses within the system," she said, "so they're taking it to the streets, and they're free to do so." Reidy noted that 12 of the 20 teachers who lodged complaints have either retired or left, with 13 new math teachers hired. "I certainly want to make it a pleasant work environment. But when we set rules and policy, the first question we ask is 'Is it good for the students?' Sometimes, we don't always agree," she said. Rally organizers said continued "inaction" would increase tension and threaten the learning environment for students. "The mayor can intervene and require the chancellor to take action, to look at the issues and take some steps to resolve the situation," Lamphere said. He added that teacher morale will continue to decline. Reidy however maintained the ongoing row has not affected the school's Continue Reading

Hard work earns Bronx High School of Science borough’s best graduation rate

It's one of the highest-ranking schools in the city, so it's no surprise the Bronx High School of Science had the best graduation rate in the borough.Still, it's not a distinction school officials take lightly. "We take our mission very seriously," said Principal Valerie Reidy Tuesday. "We're a college preparatory school, so we impress on our students the need to graduate and realize their dreams." With a 98.3% graduation rate, Bronx Science leads in the Bronx after city officials announced on Monday the greatest percentage of city high school graduates in 22 years. Officials boasted a 56.4% graduation rate for June 2008, up 3.6% from the previous year, according to Education Department statistics. Bronx Science is known nationwide for producing Nobel prize-winning scientists and other notable graduates. In continuing that tradition, Reidy credited teachers who "break their backs" to make sure students are learning. "While we're focused on our teaching, we also ask, 'Was it learned?' It all pays out in the end when we see the graduation and college acceptance rates." At the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, school officials can boast a 94.3% graduation rate. "Our graduation rate is a testament to the hard work of our talented teachers, our talented students and our parents, who care tremendously about the progress their children make," said Principal Alessandro Weiss. The school partners with Lehman College, which gives students a taste of college life, and with the nonprofit Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which sponsors school trips to study American history. "It takes all the links in the educational chain to result in this level of success," said Weiss. At the other end of the scale were schools with the borough's highest dropout rates: Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School in the South Bronx (35.3%); Bronx High School for Law and Community Service in Belmont (31.6%), and Jane Addams High School for Academic Continue Reading

New administrator blamed for faculty revolt at Bronx High School of Science

A faculty revolt over working conditions is rocking the storied Bronx High School of Science, causing teachers to leave the elite public school. Math teachers in particular blame a new administrator - Assistant Principal Rosemarie Jahoda - for verbal abuse, claiming they are admonished in front of students and have had their jobs threatened. The percentage of teachers who had stayed at the school for more than two years had dropped to 66% in 2007 from 80% the year before. "The worst she's done is that we've lost faculty," said a tenured teacher, who like all of the teachers interviewed asked that their names not be used for fear of retaliation. "It's gone beyond just being an unpleasant place to work." Six teachers who were in the math department in 2007 when Jahoda arrived will have left by the end of the month. Five cite Jahoda as the main reason. After 20 of the 22 math faculty signed a harassment complaint last May, teachers say they were punished. Four out of five signers received unsatisfactory evaluations for the first time, teachers said. Jahoda did not want to comment. Principal Valerie Reidy dismissed the complaints as unsubstantiated "griping." "The chancellor has asked us to be very strenuous in our evaluation of teaching," Reidy said. "We have very, very high standards. We evaluate and hold teachers accountable." Teachers say Reidy cut two faculty members from the math department this year and cut its budget by 4% when the school's budget rose by 6%. Reidy says she was properly reallocating resources and that she has enhanced the department's course offerings. The teachers' union representative for Bronx high schools says the atmosphere in the math department is worse than ever. "I have never seen an entire department so unified in their complaint against a specific supervisor," said Lynne Wynderbaum. "Any time you force good teachers to leave, the students are being hurt." Join the Continue Reading

Teacher at Bronx High School of Science arrested on producing child porn, luring teen ‘jocks’ to send nude pictures: feds

A teacher at the prestigious Bronx High School of Science used pictures of one of his students and thousands of dollars in gift cards to lure teen “jocks” into sending him nude pictures, according to court papers. Jon Cruz, 32, tricked his victims by posing as a teen, using Facebook photos of one of his former debate students, a federal criminal complaint said. The FBI found 40 nude pictures of underage boys on Cruz’s home computer when they searched his E. 9th Street apartment Friday morning, the criminal complaint said. The feds said they’d been investigating a person who’d been paying underage kids to send him “nude and lascivious photographs” over the internet since December, when one of the victims’ parents found the teen had been getting paid large amounts of money from a stranger. That teen, who lives in New Mexico, said the perv had gotten in touch with him through an app called KIK, and sent him $900 in Visa and American Express cards for pictures of his face, feet and a “thumb’s up selfie.” Using a phony name and his former student’s picture, Cruz told the 15-year-old he made money from “building robotics” and “was a nerd who ‘had a thing for jocks,’” the complaint said. After weeks of prodding, Cruz convinced him to send nude pictures for $450, the complaint said. He sent the teen $500 — and asked him for the “names of other boys who would chat.” Cruz, who’d taught at the top-rated school since 2006, allegedly pulled a picture of one of his former students who was a Facebook friend to chat with his victims. The former student graduated from Bronx Science last spring, the complaint said. The former student was apparently completely unaware of what Cruz was doing — preying on teens around the country, the complaint said. He used the same tactics on another New Mexico teen, sending him $800 Continue Reading