Teaching conflict?

Pupils and teachers are leaving the Dror school over what they call the principal's mismanagement.

jenin idf jeep 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
jenin idf jeep 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
A grave incident last month at the Dror religious elementary school in Beit Hakerem has shattered its image in the eyes of dozens of parents. Some 20 members of the teaching staff have quit over the past two years, more than 20 pupils have applied for relocation to other schools and 40 additional families have begun the relocation process, they say. According to the parents, this deterioration is due to principal Kochi Cohen's mismanagement of the school. "But all the problems we had until now are nothing compared to what happened during the last week of school before vacation," says one mother, who wished to remain anonymous because her daughter is a pupil at the school. The incident in question is a recent sexual overture by a male pupil toward a female pupil. According to reports in the local Hebrew press, which have been confirmed by Jerusalem Parents Association head Etti Binyamin, the accused, a fifth grader, pulled down the pants and underwear of a girl in his class in the schoolyard, in full view of their classmates and other pupils. The girl's mother told Binyamin and the head of the school's parents association, Doron Hazan, that the principal didn't discuss the incident with her or husband and refused to take any further steps on the matter. According to other parents and Binyamin, this is not the first time this principal has raised objection among the parents. They gave as an example a case where the principal requested NIS 60,000 for the end-of-the-year party, but refused to submit a report detailing the funds' uses. Despite such charges, some 90 parents signed a petition in support of the principal, arguing that she was doing a good job and that she and her staff "are positive pedagogic characters." In response to the charges against Cohen, Binyamin sent an urgent letter at the end of June to the Education Ministry asking that the matter be immediately addressed. According to Binyamin, she has yet to receive a response. "Under no circumstances should we accept that a staff member of the education system be allowed to run a personal campaign at the expense of our children," says Binyamin, who is adamant that the principal resign. "[It is] absolutely the responsibility of Manhi [Jerusalem Education Administration] and the Education Ministry to bring this sad situation to an end - and the sooner the better." Hazan adds: "Manhi head Benzi Nemet admitted in a conversation with me two weeks ago that this principal doesn't deserve to serve as principal in a school, and we will open a procedure of pedagogic dismissal to end her service, but it will not happen this year, only by the end of next year for bureaucratic reasons." According to municipal spokesman Gideon Schmer-ling, "For the past two years there has been tension between [Cohen] and a group of parents at the school, and this is the explanation regarding the list of accusations against her. The firing of principals is in the hands of the Education Ministry."