Wednesday, November 2, 2011

P.S. 24 principal forced to replace uncertified special ed teacher

Here's another story from this week's Riverdale Review.

By Miawling Lam 

The principal at P.S. 24 has been forced to replace an uncertified teacher assigned to a class with special education students.

Sources at the NYC Department of Education confirmed Anne Mokris lacked the certification required by the state for teachers of high-needs kids.

Principal Donna Connelly will replace Mokris on Monday, Nov. 7, with a certified special education teacher.

The sudden about-face came after the Riverdale Review last week contacted authorities and began to raise questions surrounding Mokris’ credentials.

She was one of two teachers in charge of the second-grade Collaborative Team Teaching inclusion class at the school.

Mokris was initially hired as a substitute last year and filled in for another teacher on maternity leave. She was then promoted to a full-time role in September and has since been teaching without the mandatory credentials.

Jump below for the full story.
The Review learned that Mokris was on track for certification, but a class cancellation caused by Hurricane Irene prevented her from completing the certification requirements in time for the current school year.

Officials, who were given eight working days to furnish a comment, did not take the necessary action until November 1.

The illegal appointment came to light on Oct. 18 after the Riverdale Review received a tip from a source at the school.

A person at P.S 24, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said Mokris’ hiring flouted the law and that children’s education was being jeopardized.

When told of the latest developments, the source welcomed Mokris’ dismissal and said she hoped Tweed officials would correct Connelly's approach.

“She’s playing too many games that aren’t always going to work,” the person said.

“They think they’re above the law, and they try to get away with as much as they can. But hopefully they put her in her place.” The whistleblower also said Mokris’ appointment raised a potential conflict of interest because two of her children are currently enrolled at the school.

A search of the New York State Department of Education’s TEACH certification system confirms Mokris does not currently hold a teaching certificate, with her entry showing “no data found.”

However, New York State Education Department spokeswoman Jane Briggs said Mokris was in the process of attaining her qualifications.

“We have an application in the works for a person of that name, but at this point, she hasn’t been issued certification,” she said in an email.

Briggs did not disclose which certificate Mokris was working toward, the date that she commenced studying for the qualification or an expected completion date.

According to state law, CTT classes must include a special education teacher and a general education teacher.

In New York City, the special education teacher must be certified and licensed and appointed in special education. Similarly, the general education teacher must be certified and licensed and appointed under a general education or content-area license.

The class’s second CTT teacher, Jeanine Boulanger, is fully qualified to teach general education students.

As of press time, calls to the school, its UFT chapter leader and the Bronx District 10 UFT representative were not returned.

Intriguingly, a search of the staff directory on P.S. 24’s website shows Mokris is simply referred to as “Ms. Anne,” while her fellow teachers are mentioned by their last names.

As of Tuesday, “Ms. Anne” was still listed as a teacher of the CTT class.

The saga is the latest in a series of controversial decisions made by Connelly, the most recent of which was her insistence on leaving the school’s assistant principal position unfilled for two years.

Critics had long suggested that Connelly kept the leadership position open so her close friend, Manuele Verdi, could complete the required coursework and fill the vacancy. Verdi was eventually formally appointed to the position in September upon acquiring his certificate.

The Council of Supervisors and Administrators last year raised objections to Connelly’s manipulation of the system and called for a fully qualified assistant principal to be appointed, but Connelly stood her ground and left the post unfilled.

Two years ago, the Spuyten Duyvil school had as many as two assistant principals.


  1. Who cares whether she was certified; was she a good teacher?

  2. Yeah, to hell with state laws requiring certification of special ed teachers and building leaders--requirements put in place to protect our most vulnerable students!