Indian American principal allowed to remain in school, won’t go anywhere

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Logo of Buffalo Public Schools (Courtesy: buffaloschools.org)

About a month ago, many teachers at School 18, a pre-K to grade eight school in Buffalo, New York, wanted their Indian American Principal Aakta Patel, out for allegedly creating an unsafe atmosphere in the school, however, the superintendent has revoked the decision after some have come out in support of Patel, according to a WIVB.com report.

The Buffalo Teacher’s Union had told WIVB.com that “Patel continues to ignore misbehaving students and the union claims that she repeatedly makes inappropriate comments” and The Buffalo News, reported that teachers are accusing Patel of making racially insensitive and cruel statements, adding that she was covering up the “chaos” at the school to make the suspension data look good.

But now some people are defending Patel saying that she has fixed everything in the school after it received a “revolving door of administrators.”

Though one teacher claimed that she once said quote “who do you have to sleep with to get a snow day around here?” while another teacher told WIVB.com that Patel said “families were late because they are on CPT, colored people’s time,” Jacqueline Morris, another teacher at the school told The Buffalo News “to say that our principal is creating a hostile environment for students is absurd. She is focused on changing our building’s mindset, which in turn has ruffled some feathers.”

“She took over a building with rapidly declining test scores and at risk for receivership with stamina, determination and an action plan. She continues to hold us to high standards of rigorous instruction and provides effective feedback. Unfortunately, I believe that there are teachers who have become frustrated with these efforts and heightened expectations and are using this complaint as a way to target our principal,” Jessica Emerson, a staff member told The Buffalo News, noting that she and Patel did have a side conversation in which the principal made a non-aggressive, humorous comment, that she said, was repeated inaccurately by other teachers, who portrayed it unfairly as a derogatory statement about Emerson’s Polish ethnicity.

According to The Buffalo News, Marisela Rodriguez, a clerk at School 18, called Patel “a ‘firm leader’ who is compassionate, fair and supportive.”

“The claim that she is racist has never been a thought in my mind and she treats everyone with equal respect and care,” she told The Buffalo News.

Marisol Antonetti, a parent and volunteer at the school told WIVB.com that she pulled all of her children out of a charter school to attend School 18.

“This principal, she stepped up and she really did a good job with everything and I think kids could get out of hand, but she deals with them really well. I don’t understand how they can make her look as bad as they made her look,” she told WIVB.com.

Phil Rumore, the President of the Buffalo Teacher’s Federation told WIVB.com that the behavior at the school had been going on for the last two years and the teachers were afraid that someone would eventually get hurt because student behavior is out of control, saying “it’s the leader of the building that sets the tone. The stress at the school is becoming unbearable, we have over 25 teachers that were going to apply for a transfer, and that’s a good school,” adding that the union had sent home a survey to teachers, which suggested that most educators do not believe the principal disciplines students appropriately.

Superintendent Kriner Cash though, was thankful to Patel’s supporters saying that now there is “a more ‘balanced picture’ of what is going on at School 18, one of the ‘most complicated, challenging schools in the district,’ and was well before Patel took over as principal.”

“As educators, even when we disagree, we can disagree civilly and with respect. We don’t try to tear the heart out of somebody’s whole professional career,” Cash said, supporting Patel, indicating that she would be staying at School 18.

“Get behind the principal. We have a good action plan in place over there and let’s make it work. If you really, really can’t work it and still don’t like it, put in your transfer papers. I’ll find a place for you. That school is going forward under this principal’s leadership,” he said to teachers.

In a statement to WIVB.com, Buffalo Public Schools wrote:

“When allegations are made against an individual, a thorough investigation with the purpose of identification and resolution is carried out by the District.  In the case you have referenced, the District put together a team last week to work with the staff at School #18.  The team is comprised of the Associate Superintendent of School Leadership assigned to School #18, along with the Associate Superintendent for Student Support Services, the Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, a Buffalo Council of Supervisors & Administrators (BCSA – Administrators Union) representative, and a Principal Coach (a principal currently serving at another school), to work with all parties involved toward resolution.”

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