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South Philly principal had troubles in NJ

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South Philadelphia High School principal LaGreta Brown, who has been notably silent during the recent controversy regarding the safety of Asian students, once received a “no-confidence” vote from her faculty when she was principal of Atlantic City High School.

[EDIT: After a press conference Friday morning, when asked for comment about the controversies around her tenure in Atlantic City, Brown said, "It speaks for itself that all the issues were resolved."}

The New Jersey State attorney general’s office also once tried to strip her of her administrative license after allegations that she had endangered children by ordering the fire alarm system of Atlantic City High School to be dismantled during a trash-can fire. The charges, however, were dismissed by the NJ Department of Education in 2007 after an investigation.

After the “no-confidence” vote, Brown was later transferred to lead an alternative high school. She was then sent to an elementary school in the district.

An article in the Press of Atlantic City on Nov. 4, 2006 said that the “no confidence” vote came after allegations that she "mistreated students and staff."

School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that there will be a press conference with Brown Friday morning at 10:15.

He also pointed out that the allegations against Brown in Atlantic City "were completely investigated and she was exonerated,” and added that no confidence votes “happen to principals all the time.” He said that her job as principal is to manage the crisis from inside, not make public comments. He noted that some students told the School Reform Commission on Wednesday that Brown, who became principal of South Philly in September, had walked them home and personally looked out for their safety.

The Notebook asked Gallard to make Brown available to respond to these reports, all of which are on the public record, and give her side of why her tenure in Atlantic City was so controversial. He said she would not speak until the Friday press conference.

Clearly, there are many reasons why principals get into conflict with their staffs, parents and students -- and with their superintendent -- not all of which are deserved or primarily the principal's fault. The issues and incidents in Brown's past nevertheless raise questions about why she was recruited and considered the right fit for a school that needs to heal wounds and deal sensitively with ethnic and other conflict.

According to reports in the Press, Brown's tenure as a principal in the city had several rough spots. In 2000, shortly after she became the first female principal of Atlantic City High, a warrant was issued when she failed to appear in court for a harassment suit from a former cafeteria worker. In 2002, her contract was renewed to lead the high school by the Board of Education in a 7-3 vote, against the recommendation of the superintendent. That year, the city fire department found 63 fire violations in the building, with two counts of falsifying fire reports "that lead directly back to Brown," according to the Press. And a teacher who accused her of harassment after she denied him a day off to observe Passover resigned after he realized she would not be reprimanded.

Brown was suspended with pay in 2007 from her position at the New York Avenue school for unspecified charges of "insubordination." At that time, at least one parent came to her defense at a school board meeting, saying that she was on the "hit list" of the district's superintendent, Fred Nickles.

Web Editor Erika Owens also contributed to this article.

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Dale Mezzacappa

@dalemezz
Dale is a contributing editor at the Notebook. She has reported on education since 1986, most of that time with The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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