New York City Department of Education members are effectively extorting Dominican teachers, forcing them to pay inordinate living costs over threats of being deported. Now, a middle school teacher has warned the teachers to keep their complaints to themselves or they will be removed from the program at once.
The bilingual educators who were brought from the Dominican Republic to work for the DOE said that it was Rosse Mary Savery, a teacher at MS 80 in the Bronx under Principal Emmanuel Polanco, who issued this latest threat. According to the New York Post, Savery “warned them not to tell a soul about having to fork over a monthly $1,350 to $1,450 each for a single room in apartments where they share a kitchen and bathroom with colleagues.”
“She told us that we cannot talk about the rent to anybody. That was the main thing that she said: ‘Don’t talk to anybody. Don’t tell anybody how much you’re paying,’” a teacher quoted Savery.
As the Post reports, currently, 19 teachers are being boarded in the Bronx in rooming houses run by the Association of Dominican American Supervisors and Administrators – a group of DOE principals and other employees.
ADASA placed 11 teachers in a duplex it leases on Baychester Avenue, and three in a Marion Avenue co-op that city records show is owned by Juana Polanco-Abreu, Polanco’s mother. According to the Post, Polanco-Abreu died several years ago, and city officials could not account for why she was still listed as the property’s owner.
Polanco and his wife, Sterling Báez, who is also a school teacher in the Bronx, receive $1350 to $1400 from each tenant every month. “I pay my rent to Polanco’s wife,” one of the renters said.
Others pay ADASA their housing fees directly. Five teachers are housed in half of a duplex paying from $1350 to $1450 per month for an individual room, and a shared kitchen and bathroom. They pay using Zelle, a banking app, directly to ADASA treasurer and DOE administrator Daniel Calcaño.
After these teachers’ requests for receipts of their rent payments went unanswered they sent an email formalizing their complaints, and asking for a meeting with Calcaño, Savery, and Polanco in order to discuss their living costs.
In response, a teacher said that Savery called the email a “threat” that could jeopardize their US visas, and the opportunity to bring their families to New York.
“If you don’t want to get in trouble with your family coming here, you have to write back in that email and say you wouldn’t be part of the meeting,” Savery said, according to a teacher.
As the scandal has quickly become a black eye for the DOE, Department officials removed Polanco, who is vice president of ADASA, from his principal post in the Bronx’s MS 80. Last week, however, the president of ADASA, Soccoro Diaz, was suddenly ousted by three members of its executive board – Calcaño, Polanco, and Jay Fernandez.
The move was thought to be retaliation of Diaz’s opposition of the program’s corruption, and the exploitation of their recruited teachers. Diaz connected two of the teachers with authorities after hearing their complaints about being forced to live in ADASA housing and their exorbitant rents. “I have invested a lot in this organization and I loved the original mission statement established by the organization,” Diaz said in a letter obtained by the Post.
Unfortunately for these teachers, it seems that ADASA and its influence may have a stranglehold on the situation until the authorities can get involved.
In late October, one teacher told Savery that she was going to seek less expensive living arrangements outside of ADASA housing. Soon thereafter, the teacher received a letter from the Cordell Hull Foundation for International Education, a New York based group that sponsors visas for educators, informing her that her visa had been cancelled. She had two days to make arrangements to leave the country.
After consulting with lawyers, they confirmed that Cordell Hull didn’t have the authority to cancel her visa, but that didn’t stop her from losing her job.
“The principal, without investigating, talked to her and said ‘You have to leave the school because Savery told me having you here is illegal,’” a friend of the teacher said.
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