News

Investigation Under Way Into Conditions At P.S. 106 In Far Rockaway

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An official investigation has been launched into the conditions at a Queens public school that has been called the worst in New York City.

Principal Marcella Sills is under fire over her leadership at P.S. 106 in Far Rockaway, which was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. More than a year later, the school still doesn’t have enough textbooks for students and other basics.

“They don’t have a gym, cause the gym is located inside of the cafeteria” parent Jenny Molano said. “It’s disgusting. It’s just disgusting.”

Other concerns include Principal Sills’ own attendance — some describe her as constantly tardy.

“I’ve never seen the woman. I’ve seen her from behind once and I couldn’t get to her, I couldn’t get to speak to her,” parent Rose Vasquez said.

As CBS 2’s Sonia Moghe reported, a fresh shipment of books came into the school four days after the city launched two separate investigations into a lack of books and activities.

Students and parents said the school has been dangling gym and art classes the students have been deprived of, but they fear the classes will disappear when the investigators leave.

“I do miss art and gym,” said second-grader Shydae Williams. ”It started, and it stopped, then we started watching movies every day now. It started getting boring.”

CBS 2 saw investigators visit a trailer filled with students behind the school, which lost a building to Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Parents said the new textbooks and classes that reappeared this week are a Band-Aid approach to the problem.

“The past few days, surprisingly, they’ve been giving them a gym class,” said parent Jessica Pastor, “and I feel like it shouldn’t have taken an issue this for them to come up with, you know, a gym class or an art class.”

Pastor was at a heated Parent-Teacher Association meeting Wednesday night, where Sills was a no-show. When approached by CBS 2 Wednesday night, Sills walked backwards to her red BMW sport-utility vehicle while shielding her face from cameras and refusing to answer any questions.

And though parents say Sills typically parks near the front of the school, on Thursday she came in through a back entrance where her vehicle is the only one permitted inside, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.

After school Thursday afternoon, Sills did not respond to questions about why she did not attend the PTA meeting Wednesday night.

“We would appreciate it a little more if we would have been able to see her, if she would have been there to let us know about any hey just that she plans to make, or even if she has any type of defense,” Pastor said.

The mother said parents have not heard from the principal at all since investigators started looking into conditions at the school, and claims that the principal made parents cough up hundreds of dollars to attend a lavish fifth-grade graduation.

“I’m not saying that she’s doing a great job, and I ain’t saying that she’s doing a bad job,” said parent Cleveland Mays. “But it just needs to be changed.”

The Department of Education is looking into the conditions the P.S. 106 and now the Special Commissioner of Investigations for New York City Schools has launched its own probe into the school and its leadership.

The department did not respond to repeated requests for Sills’ attendance record.

The United Federation of Teachers released a statement Thursday, saying members have complained about the school for years.

The UFT is cooperating with the investigation.

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