A year ago, Richmond Hill High School was in a state of educational purgatory. Attempts by the city Department of Education to shut down the school and reopen it under a new name with a new administration had failed, with a court backing a teachers’ union lawsuit killing the plan.
The school reopened last September under its original name, but with a new principal, and parents and students entered the halls of another school year hoping for the best.
A year later, a number of parents at the school say they were seeing brighter days ahead, which is why they’re confused and angry about the DOE’s alleged plans to remove the new principal, Wayne Anderson, from his post only two weeks before his second school year starts.
“We are very happy with Mr. Anderson,” said Theresa Echevarria, president of the school’s Parent Teacher Association. “He has opened up a line of communication between parents and students and he has attended all the PTA meetings.”
Echevarria said Anderson has been much more responsive to concerns from parents and students, and she is confident that his work would improve the school if given the chance.
“Every school is going to have their ups and downs,” she said. “But Mr. Anderson really pushes the kids. He’s having the kids strive for stuff. He wants to see that they want to succeed.”
The DOE did not respond to multiple inquiries seeking to confirm its plans to fire Anderson as of press time, but at least one staff member at the school confirmed that the department is looking to terminate Anderson as principal before school opens in two weeks. The DOE did not propose closing the school again this year after its 2012 plans failed.
Vishnu Mahadeo, a member of the school’s leadership team and president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Corporation, said the school has made clear progress in the past year.
“Mr. Anderson has stopped the downward slide the school had experienced,” Mahadeo, who has two children in the school, said.
He added that under Anderson, the school has moved to a more streamlined program, from three daily schedules to one, and has made efforts to reach out to the community.
“Community involvement is very important and Mr. Anderson understands that,” Mahadeo said. “This school is very important and vital to our community.”
Parents also fear RHHS will lose the annex that opened at site of the former site of St. Benedict Joseph Labre Catholic School on 117th Street, to relieve overcrowding at the school, forcing students back into trailers in the school’s yard.
News of Anderson’s potential dismissal moved fast through the school community and was met with disapproval.
“I’m not surprised,” said one teacher at the school who asked not to be identified, and but said she was left “jaded” by her experiences at Richmond Hill. “They must be afraid the school will actually succeed.”
Echevarria said she shares the jaded opinion that the DOE is purposely torpedoing the school.
“My view as a parent is that they want to close the school down, so they want the kids to fail, to give them a reason to,” she said, adding that she has called for other parents at the school to make their views known by calling the DOE.