School Leadership Team
December 20th, 2006
Stuyvesant students, parents and teachers voiced their concern over Principal Stanley Teitel’s three-part safety proposal (see sidebar) at the latest School Leadership Team (SLT) meeting on December 5. While some community members suggested that these measures could compromise students’ privacy, others argued that these polices are necessary for student safety.
The SLT decided that an official vote on the issue will take place at the next meeting, scheduled for sometime in January. The vote would have no direct impact on Teitel’s plan, however. The SLT is an advisory board with no power to enforce their decisions.
Teitel said that all the details of the locker system, the first part of the plan, haven’t been decided yet because he is still unsure whether he will get the votes necessary to implement the policies. Each part of the plan will be voted on separately.
Teitel offered several reasons for securing the lockers, the first reason being safety. The administration, he said, does not know which students occupy which lockers.
“We’re a pretty open campus,” he said. “To be honest, you could bring whatever you want into the building. In fact, if you have a locker, it gives you a place to store it for as long as you like. That worries me.”
“Things happen that cause me to be concerned. I can’t make public things that happen to individual students, but when I add all of these things up, it makes me nervous,” he said.
Under the current system, some students have several lockers, while other students share with their classmates. The administration believes that the proposed plan will eliminate this situation.
“I think that as far as the lockers go, the current system, which is very haphazard and really kind of a free-for-all, does pose some real dangers and isn’t very fair to anyone,” Assistant Principal English Eric Grossman said at the meeting. “It’s just squatter’s rights really and I think that a lot of kids lose out on that. I’m all for trying to create a better system.”
According to Teitel, another reason for securing the lockers would be the prevention of theft, as the new system provides each student with a heavy-duty, four-number-combination Master Lock.
Freshman Vice President Casey Griffin, like many members of the Student Union (SU), Stuyvesant’s student government, is opposed to the proposed policy because the administration will have the combination to every student’s locker. “With this plan, they [the administration] could go and open [your] locker and go through [it],” she said. “We wouldn’t know. That’s a little bit scary.”
Teitel also defended his call for increased use of ID scanners. “I think it would be a good idea if I know whether or not you are in the building,” he said.
This proposal, along with a fine for forgetting one’s ID card, was to be implemented last year. Following protests by students, the administration and the SU agreed that the scanners would only be used in the mornings, and a fine would not be imposed on students who forgot their identification.
At the beginning of this year, however, the administration established a $1 fine for students who forgot their ID card.
According to SU President George Zisiadis, the student body is “not opposed to the idea of the scanners” because they assist in taking attendance. “We are opposed to unnecessary imposition of these scanners when there is no clear justification and no new justification has been brought in from last year,” he said.
Zisiadis questioned how the scanners would be able to help the school in case of an emergency. “If you do know that students are out of the building in case of an incident, what are you going to do with that knowledge? How is that going to ultimately help the safety of the students?” he said.
Griffin said that the SU is anxious about the implementation of the scanners because “[Teitel] is breaking a promise to us and he doesn’t have any real justification for putting these up.”
She believes, however, that scanning in and out is not a major nuisance. “We have to show our IDs to get in and out anyway,” she said. “It doesn’t stop us from doing things that are allowed. The only thing it really stops us from doing is breaking the rules.”
According to her, Teitel’s plan is not well thought out, which is why it needs serious reconsideration. “Since [Teitel] isn’t sure if he’s doing it, he’s not sure if he’s just going to keep them out for lunch or through the end of the day, and even past the end of the day,” Griffin said.
Co-President of the Parents Association (PA) Sumiko Takeda Nakazato said, “The PA [is] opposed to the scanners in general. We live in a very difficult time, but we don’t feel that the students’ rights should be taken away.”
Teitel’s last proposed measure was an institutional faculty ID system. “I don’t care whether you wear it on the neck or around the belt,” Teitel said. “It doesn’t matter to me. I have to sit down and ask the faculty what their preference is.”
Grossman said, “I see it as a minor sacrifice to make. Students carry identification. I don’t know whether it increases security or not but certainly if we are going to ask students to make some concession, I’m more than happy to make one myself.”
Not all faculty members were as accepting of the proposal, however.
“The faculty is not that large. We know all the security guards and they know all of us. You see people, even if you don’t know them by name, in the elevator,” Librarian Chris Asch said at the meeting. “Although there is a lot of flux in the system, and you get a new turnover each year, I don’t think it takes very long before you do recognize people’s faces and so forth. I don’t think it’s necessary.”
The different constituencies of the SLT had varying opinions on Teitel’s three safety proposals.
Zisiadis and the other SU representatives present, including junior and SU Vice President Vanessa Charubhumi, senior and SU Chief Financial Officer Ellen Lehman, senior and SLT representative Samantha Reiser, Freshmen President Valeriya Tsitron and Griffin were opposed to Teitel’s proposed policies.
At the SU Executive Council meeting on November 29, the SU voted as a whole to oppose Teitel’s proposed safety measures. All members of the SU were invited to attend the meeting.
“As a body, the SU was generally opposed to the measures because of the way [Teitel] brought them to us,” Griffin said. “He kind of just announced them to us at the last SLT meeting, where there were parents and people who weren’t related to it.”
While the PA is opposed to implementation of the scanners, it believes that the issue of controlling lockers should be worked out between the administration and the students. They have no determined stance on the teacher ID proposal.
After the meeting, the PA’s Health and Safety Committee, a committee of the PA meant to address issues concerning the safety of Stuyvesant students, met privately with Teitel to discuss an email from a concerned parent.
The parent wrote that his daughter had put a coat in her locker, locked the locker, went to class and upon her return to the locker, found the coat missing. The parent was concerned because the child went home in the cold without proper clothing.
Teitel said, “I went to Health and Safety and I spoke with them, and I said, ‘This is exactly what I’m talking about.’ I asked them to support my proposal that we use my method of locking all the lockers.”
The Health and Safety committee said that they would first have consult with the PA executive board, who had decided to refrain from taking a side in the locker debate.
The PA executive board decided to officially abstain from voting on all the proposals after the SLT meeting “having seen the concern and passion of the students,” said Nakazato.
“This is a wonderful exercise for the students to exercise their rights and their voices,” she said. “We hope that [Teitel] has the wisdom of both an adult and an experienced administrator to work with the students.”
Zisiadis said in an interview that the SU is working to come up with a solution. “We voiced our concerns at the SLT meeting and we are trying to work with the administration to come up with a policy that is mutually beneficial,” he said. “It is very hard for us to want to come up with a compromise when the administration already broke their previous compromise.”
He also mentioned that the SU met with Teitel the day before the SLT meeting so that SU would be able to “voice our concerns to him privately, [and] so both sides can understand each other.”
According to Griffin, at the meeting, the SU did not argue with Teitel about whether or not his policies will be implemented. “We were talking about how we were unhappy how he presented [the proposals] to us,” she said.
The faculty members present at the SLT meeting had differing opinions regarding the scanners.
“I see positive things. I don’t see anything negative about it,” Assistant Principal Technology Edward Wong said in an interview. “If you look at it [as a] big picture, it does make sense, but if you look at it in a very small context, how people judge you and things like that, of course you would feel funny.”
Grossman, however, cautioned that the enactment of Teitel’s proposal would have to be planned carefully. He said that “the administration can’t be insensitive to every other constituency’s views. What exactly is going to be accomplished needs to be very well articulated.”
“Safety isn’t just the administration’s issue and it should be something that everyone within the school cares about and works for and perhaps even is willing to sacrifice a little bit for,” he said.