Less than a week after a father’s arrest scandalized P.S. 193, another educator threatened to call police on a parent — this time for videotaping a meeting with two city councilmen.
More than 200 people, including children, packed the elementary school’s auditorium Tuesday night for a meeting with City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who had also invited Councilman Chaim Deutsch. Parents voiced a range of opinions — with some standing behind the school’s embattled principal, Tami Flynn, and others calling for Flynn to be removed — after a father was arrested last week for confronting a teacher about his son soiling himself at school.
However, the discussion was frequently interrupted by a rowdy group in the back of the theater, who identified themselves as a “mix of staff” from the school.
When one mother, who had been videotaping the meeting, turned in her seat during an outburst, a staff member called for police guarding the auditorium to arrest the parent if she did not turn over her phone so the video could be erased.
“I want you to take her phone and erase that video she took of us,” the staff member shouted. “I want you to do that for me or I’m going to call the police.”
The statement is made at about the 3:18 mark in the video provided to Sheepshead Bites by Stacia Gregorio, the parent threatened with arrest.
Parents’ Association co-President Jennifer Brown identified the woman as Nina Dicioccio, a paraprofessional working with third graders at the school. A DOE spokesperson confirmed that a woman with that name works in a third grade class at P.S. 193.
Dicioccio’s tantrum, and several other disruptions from people in her group, stained what was an otherwise constructive dialogue among parents — some of whom called for the school’s community to come together and find a way to move forward. Simmering tensions between parents and the principal exploded last Wednesday when Vinny Nemorin, the Parents’ Association treasurer, was arrested for demanding his 7-year-old son not be denied using the bathroom. We were told the child had repeatedly soiled himself at school.
Brown, the Parents’ Association co-president, said Dicioccio’s threat spoke volumes about the toxic environment created by Principal Flynn — who came to the school three years ago.
“This is the culture in the school created under Flynn: We call the cops before we mediate,” she said.
Gregorio, the mother targeted for arrest, agreed that Flynn must go.
“The school is divided,” she explained. “I understand the educator’s point of view. They feel that if we’re attacking Flynn we’re also attacking them. But for an educator to yell at someone that they are going to get them arrested shows you have no respect for me as a parent at this school.”
Flareups between the group of educators and some of the parents became so fierce, Councilman Williams had to step in and comfort the children in the room.
“We love you and you have done nothing wrong,” Williams told the elementary schoolers after asking them to stand up so the audience could see children were at the meeting.
After Dicioccio and some her colleagues retreated from the auditorium during another shouting match, we found her near the school’s front entrance venting more frustration.
“This is disgusting,” she said. “They send their kids in with ringworm, half-clothed, and [Flynn] is so good to them.”
Dicioccio declined to identify herself or speak to us about the meeting.
Deutsch and Williams went down to the entryway to speak with the educators who stormed out of the auditorium. Two people in group, who identified themselves as staff members at the school, showed the councilmen a YouTube video of the confrontation that led to Nemorin’s arrest. They claimed it justified the use of law enforcement.
The video, published on this site, shows an irate Nemorin demanding that his son be allowed to use the bathroom and shouting: “You’re constantly getting him soiled everyday. You’re soiling him.”
Williams reacted to the video by saying: “From what I saw in that video, it didn’t rise to the level of an arrest needing to be made.”
Williams explained he came to the meeting, at the invitation of the Parents’ Association, in order to get feedback about discord at the school. When he asked for a show of hands from parents who are not satisfied with Flynn’s leadership, a majority of those in the room raised their hands. Parents who spoke at the meeting said Flynn had created an unwelcoming environment that preceded Nemorin’s arrest. They claimed it was difficult to meet with the administration, the school had done a poor job of communicating with parents, and those who spoke out were intimidated and bullied.
“The toxicity is so bad, there is no way to co-exist,” said Fritz Vilton, who has a third-grade daughter at P.S. 193. “You saw the reaction of some of the staff. It sounded like a threat to me. And that’s why it makes no sense to keep Principal Flynn here.”
However, criticism of Flynn and the school was not unanimous. Several parents defended her and pushed back against calls to have Flynn removed.
“When [Principal Flynn] is standing here in the morning, all the children run to her. The children love her,” said Angela Calle, who has three kids at the school. “And every time I have a question, she’s there to answer me. She’s very helpful.”
Williams said he plans to bring parents’ feedback to the Department of Education, which is investigating last week’s incident.
“Obviously, there’s an atmosphere here where I don’t know how conducive it is to a healthy learning environment,” he said. “I think, in general, that this incident should have been resolved in the school. Anytime, police are involved, your tools are limited. So my hope is that would be a measure of last resort. Not first resort.”