Principal Blamed for Aspire’s ill’s

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Now that a Pelham Parkway middle school has officially been deemed one of the city’s most dangerous, many are pointing their fingers at the principal.

Students are officially back in classrooms and with that, the state Department of Education released the newest additions to New York’s “persistently dangerous” list of schools.

Nine of the 19 schools on the list are in New York City, including Aspire Preparatory Middle School on 2441 Wallace Avenue. Many say the school, which is grades six through eight, has troubled the community since it replaced P.S. 135, along with the Bronx Green Middle School and the Pelham Academy of Academics and Community Engagement, only a few years ago.

A local resident and Community Board 11 member that is familiar with the school said the students are getting worse every year. A lot of it, she says, comes from the lack of effort school principal Steven Cobb puts into improving it.

“He really is a highly motivated individual and is an excellent educator, but I do not feel he is qualified to be principal,” she said. “He has terrible social skills and does not know how to properly address the students and their parents. I have heard a lot of bad things, but I hope it’s not true. Now that the school is claimed to be this dangerous, everyone needs to be on their toes.”

According to the city Department of Education, Aspire is one the worst performing schools, with a performance rate better than only 18 percent of the schools in the entire city. The most recent city DOE school progress report gave the school an overall grade of C, with a D in school environment and student performance and a C in student progress.

A former employee of the school believes Cobb is the problem as well. Although he was only with the school for one year, he said his relationship with faculty and students was appalling.

He acknowledged that the school has had its dangerous moments with student fights, but he believes that it is far from being one of the most dangerous schools in the city. The solution, he says, is replacing Cobb.

“There is no doubt in my mind that removing this man as school principal will ultimately benefit the school,” he said. “The way he treats his staff and talks to students sometimes is terrible. I just don’t feel like he (Cobb) is the right leader for the school at this particular time. He is a very intelligent man, but the way he runs the school is only bringing it down.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca was disturbed with the school’s listing. For a community filled with excellent public schools, he said, something has to be done quickly.

As of press time, Cobb had not responded to phone calls for comment.

Updated 5:09 pm, October 21, 2011
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