An embattled elementary school principal was appointed to a new school at Monday’s New Haven Public Schools Board of Education meeting, despite calls for discipline against her by teachers.
Yolanda Jones-Generette was only principal at Lincoln-Bassett Elementary School for nine months, but in her time at the helm, she drew sharp criticism from staff members, who accused her of creating a “hostile work environment.”
In a Fox CT investigation in February, some said that student on teacher violence was rampant, yet not addressed by the administration.
“Children kicking adults, staff members. Scratching them,” said teacher Alex Oji.
The trouble only continued from there when the state added Lincoln Bassett to the Governor’s Commission — a list of failing schools — citing kids’ behavior, teacher attendance and student safety as concerns after fights took place.
Change came on Monday night, but it wasn’t what staffers expected or what many wanted: Jones-Generette was appointed principal of the Barnard Magnet School.
“They don’t want to admit there was a problem with the administration. They’d rather just move it and start over and just wash their hands clean of it,” said former Barnard staff member Vincent Muli.
Jones-Generette declined to answer any questions after the meeting, saying she had to attend a family engagement.
The Commissioner’s Network audit report supported the need for broad transformational change at Lincoln Bassett, more than just a change in leadership, which the audit did not specifically call for.
Nevertheless, Jones-Generette was appointed to a different school Monday, outlined in a letter sent to staff at Lincoln Bassett.
Superintendent Garth Harries did not attend the Monday evening meeting at which Jones-Generette gave a brief speech, but he did email the following statement to Fox CT News:
“Yolanda Jones-Generette did an admirable job leading Lincoln-Bassett during an extremely difficult transition year. That said, I feel her skills and strengths are best matched for Barnard School, where, as an assistant principal, she helped to guide the early stages of school improvement. I am confident she will be successful in continuing the positive momentum at Barnard. A state audit of Lincoln Bassett as part of the Commissioner’s Network application showed an urgent need for improved classroom instruction and better handling of behavioral problems. Part of the transformation process includes a commitment by all staff to new expectations rules, more rigorous instruction and better overall climate to support learning, as well as broader redesign of the team that teaches and serves students.”
After Jones-Generette spoke Monday night, Fox CT approached her to get her response to teachers’ allegations.
Berman: “We just wanted to ask you one question – there were some troubles at Lincoln Bassett…”
Generette: “I have a family engagement engagement that I have to attend.”
Berman: “Can we walk with you to the car?”
Generette: “Not really! (laughin)”
Jones-Generette then slowly walked out of the board room, but not before stopping to hug at least eight different people, including a television reporter from another television station.
Meanwhile, some who worked with Jones-Generette continue to question her reassignment.
“I was shocked they gave her a standing ovation and all this because… she was the problem and she made it such a hostile work environment for all of the staff,” says Muli.
Regarding Jones-Generette, the auditors wrote:
“Comments made by district leaders, teachers, students, and parents confirmed the principal’s dedication and drive to improve the school. The principal clearly has the support of the district, particularly her supervisor who visits the school frequently.”
The audit went on to describe “a divide” between administration and staff:
“There is also some evidence that the professional rapport between the administration and some teachers has become strained. Some teachers expressed the opinion that they feel less empowered as they are being told what to do about everything from handling discipline, to instructional approaches, to the goals specified for their evaluation. If not managed carefully, this divide and tension could impede the school’s short- and long-term progress… While there is a positive rapport among the faculty as professional friends, the focus groups and survey revealed a sentiment that there is an approximate 50/50 divide among the faculty in their support for the school leadership’s effort to quickly make changes at Lincoln-Bassett.“