Teachers give principal a failing grade

By 3 p.m., most of the rain had passed, the sun made an appearance, and the streets were suddenly teeming with people. On with the Taste of Buffalo 2009!

Teachers at Bennett High School in Buffalo have given their new principal a failing grade for leadership. The teachers’ union says Dr. Terry Ross needs to go.

Ross was hired to be the principal of Bennett because he is a specialist in turning around low-performing schools, according to Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown. But teachers at Bennett say he is not showing them respect and is not acting as a leader.

The high school has been in a downward spiral for the last three years, with the graduation rate plummeting to 43 percent despite $4.5 million of turnaround money from the state. Ross has sought to change the direction at Bennett, but about 50 teachers there who filled out a recent survey say his methods have alienated the staff.

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore said, “The morale there is the worst. The survey is the worst that I’ve ever seen. I mean, they give him very poor marks.”

In the survey, Ross was criticized for allegedly “correcting teachers in front of class,” not allowing teachers to attend parent conferences involving the discipline of their child, and not doing enough to promote safety.

“He’s also, from what I’ve heard, reported to me by the teachers: ‘I don’t want to see any suspensions unless there’s blood,'” Rumore said.

Ross was brought in to improve instruction in the classroom and help students improve academically. Those who were initially impressed with him are urging that he be given more time to prove himself.

Buffalo School Board member Jim Sampson said, “We’re just beginning our second half of the school year, and I’m going to reserve judgement until I get to see some of that data.”

But Rumore feels Ross needs to be removed as quickly as possible.

Ross did not return our calls to his office, and a spokeswoman for Superintendent Brown said he would not be made available for an interview.

Late Friday afternoon, Superintendent Brown released the following statement:

Dr. Terry Ross was hired as principal of Bennett High School for the 2013-2014 school year based on his record as a transformational leader and turnaround specialist.

In regard to the anonymous Buffalo Teachers Federation survey that was completed by approximately 40 of the school’s 95 teachers, the district believes that the most productive way to identify and address school needs is for the administration and staff to have open discussion and engage in positive action.

We will review the survey’s results with the administration and the assigned chief of school leadership in the interest of supporting Dr. Ross’ efforts in building student achievement at Bennett High School.

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