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South Philly principal had troubles in NJ

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 10, 2009 09:50 PM

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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Comments (16)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 11, 2009 8:07 am

Wow - I was at the same meeting as Mr. Gallard and we heard totally different things. I heard a student testify that after begging to be allowed to stay in the school because students were afraid to go home, the principal forced the students to leave, walked them to a corner where gangs of students were waiting to beat them up and then turned around and returned to the school abandoning the children who subsequently were beaten and hospitalized. Can the District be so out of touch that they can't even hear the heartwrenching testimony of students? No wonder the students keep saying adults let them down. Even public testimony is twisted...

Submitted by Fernando Gallard (not verified) on December 11, 2009 5:26 pm

I am writing to correct the record regarding my statement about the actions taken by Principal Brown. My comments were that "Principal Brown escorted students down Broad Street and that she visited the students at the hospital." Those are absolute true facts. Unfortunately the blog entry did not correctly capture my statement.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 11, 2009 7:21 pm


To think that in OUR country...people are being beaten up on the basis of their ethnic origin...

A disgrace...

Submitted by alan kaman (not verified) on December 11, 2009 9:48 pm

Ackerman called racism the elephant in the room. Many consider her to be a racist. I find it hard to believe she has chosen to not personally meet with the children at a location of their choosing. Perhaps instead of only recruiting African American Teachers and administrators we should recruit a multi-cultural staff to teach a multi-cultural city.
Would the Notebook kindly publish the percentage of administrators hired by race under Dr. Ackerman's tenure? Perhaps this may refute the claims of those who persist Dr. Ackerman is riding that elephant.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 11, 2009 11:10 pm

Ackerman was fired when she was a principal in Missouri because she was foolish enough to tell a newspaper out there she had a "black agenda". That was her excuse for cutting the gifted program (which was mainly filled with white kids) and spend that money on low performing schools that were filled with mainly black kids. This is on the internet in the San Francisco Weekly.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 11, 2009 11:24 pm

What is it about the school district of Philadelphia that makes it a crap magnet for lousy principals that can't hold a job elsewhere?

Submitted by nikki123 on December 12, 2009 7:55 am

I don't think it's fair to cast blame on LaGreta Brown for this situation based on events from her past. However, it is perfectly appropriate to examine her tenure at S. Philly High and judge her for that. I am troubled that staff exhibited such a poor attitude for so long toward complaints of harrassment and violence. That says a lot about the leadership at the school unfortunately. It appears as though the feds will get involved in this situation which is also unfortunate, but is necessary. It's just amazing that in this day and age we are still unable to respond in an effective manner to racism in our schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 12, 2009 12:55 pm

I wonder if Nikki has an agenda...

Submitted by Kevin Hall (not verified) on December 15, 2009 11:20 am

I believe LaGreta Brown and other educators perform a service valuable beyond measure and deserve the benefit of any doubt. With children as out of control as they are, kudos is deserved by all who enter into the field. Blaming the school principal for the criminal acts of students is absolutely ridiculous. Instead, blame the parents who should have taught the beaters better values. Blame the teachers who had much more direct contact with the students and much more opportunity to intervene. But especially, blame the criminals themselves because, despite their youthful age, parents, teachers, and certainly principals have no power whatsoever to stop the students who are determined to commit criminal acts.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 15, 2009 6:01 pm

Three guesses who Kevin Hall wants to use for a job recommendation? Blame teachers! Ok, if they stood around and did nothing while kids were being attacked then they deserve part of the blame. However, the chances are they are been reporting this type of things for some time to deaf ears, especially when the bullies are black and so is the administration. The principal sets the tone in the school and obviously Brown wasn't taking care of business. "principals have no power . . . to stop students who are determined to commit criminal acts". Yeah right! Anyone who thinks that way should never be put in a position of authority. Judging from LaGreta's NJ tenure she seems to have alot of trouble carrying out her duties. Typical of the lack of background checks that Philly does for it's administration. Maybe you ought to rent Stand By Me and see how a principal who is not afraid of earning his or her paycheck really runs a public school. Invite LaGreta over to watch it too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 2, 2010 12:25 pm

By all means rent Stand By Me or even spin the records, but I meant to write Lean One Me with Morgan Freeman as the principal.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 16, 2009 6:28 am

"parents, teachers, and certainly principals have no power whatsoever to stop the students who are determined to commit criminal acts."

And so, why did you say to blame the parents and teachers just about 30 seconds before you said they have no control over anything?

Please read your own comment before posting it. Thank you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 15, 2009 12:40 pm

I assume Kevin Hall wants a Christmas bonus and raise this year...

Yes, blame the teachers...that is the official policy of the district...

LaGreta is doing a fine job...she did wonders in Atlantic City...that is why they brought her to clean up...clean up...South Philly...

In fact, I think IBM could use her services...or better, General Motors...let's have LaGreta Brown manage General Motors...

What a whiz she is...bring her to the National Press Club and have her share with us the magic that she imported to South Philly to bring that fine learning institution around...she is this century's Marva Collins...

Give me a break...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 17, 2009 7:55 pm

She had harassment charges against her. She got a "no confidence" vote from the district in AC...Why do we just bury stuff we don't like? Again, Philly is a pit and this is the stuff that makes it stay a pit.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 11, 2010 11:17 pm

I know Ms. Brown all too well. She graduated from West Chester University.


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