MIDWOOD – It was announced at the school yesterday, and a letter from the principal was posted on the school’s website today announcing retirement of longtime Principal Susan Schaeffer.
“My time at this wonderful school have been the best years of my professional life. My experiences here have shaped my understanding of relationships through the connections between educators and families,” Principal Schaeffer wrote in her farewell letter.
“After 35 years of service for the Department of Education, it is time for me to move on. So after a tremendous amount of reflection, despite my ambivalence, I have decided that it is time for me to retire as Principal of W.A. Cunningham Intermediate School. My retirement will be effective on February 26, 2018.”
It was also announced yesterday at the school, that Ms. Tami Flynn will be succeeding her as Interim Acting Principal.
Ms. Flynn was previously removed as principal following an investigation at P.S. 193, which is located nearby and where she was principal between 2014 and 2016. Tensions at P.S. 193 boiled over in February of 2016, when Principal Flynn had a parent arrested for speaking up about his child not being allowed to use the bathroom.
Parents protested, and by end of March of 2016, DOE had removed a teacher involved in the incident, and by the end of the school year, the principal was removed as well.
Back then we reported that “In the most recent school quality snapshot, P.S. 193 scored lowest in Effective School Leadership. An online petition calling for Flynn’s removal has also received 653 signatures. The school’s enrollment was 882 students during the last school year.” Trust in the school community eroded, instruction suffered, as reflected in the reports, enrollment fell to 866.
Some parents we spoke to who had children at P.S. 193 under Flynn, and who currently attend Cunningham middle school are in complete disbelief about how this could be happening. “That this can happen is beyond frustrating,” one parent told us, asking for anonymity to protect their child. “I can’t believe she is given a bigger school to lead.” Others alleged that Ms. Flynn had powerful allies in the Department and that, despite everything, they were not surprised.
As the news spread among parents in the District, a parent of a 5th grader at P.S. 217, who ranked Cunningham high on the list of preferred schools, was rattled – “I don’t know what to make of this. This is not news you want to get as we await placement results.”
Cunningham is a popular middle school that draws children in grades 6-8 from the District. It enrolls just under 2,000 students, offers a Center For the Intellectually Gifted program, and is a feeder school for James Madison, Midwood and Brooklyn Tech High Schools, according to the middle school guidebook the city publishes annually (p35).
We reached out to the Department of Education this morning for comment. We asked what they would like to tell parents who feel betrayed by the system that removed a principal, following a major controversy, from their kids’ elementary school only to see them installed as the principal at their kids’ middle school. We also asked what Ms. Flynn has been doing since 2016. We’ll update when we hear back.