Turtleboy Investigates

Over Half Of Vernon Hill Elementary School Teachers Left This Year Because Of Their Ruthless Principal

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“Other than at a funeral, hospital or other event relating to death, I had never seen so many adults in tears than I did this past year at Vernon Hill. I don’t know how else to describe her than the cruelest, most vindictive person I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with in my life. She verbally harassed teachers in the hallways and classrooms in front of teachers, parents and students. She talks poorly about staff to other staff, even about the assistant principal. At a meeting the assistant called Carenza on the intercom for a question, and afterwards Carenza rolled her eyes and said to the staff at a meeting “she can’t do anything!!!”

For this blog we interviewed many teachers at Vernon Hill Elementary School. We tried to interview the principal for this school in order to provide a balanced article, but our offer was never responded to. The reason we are talking about this school is because we got our hands on some alarming data. At this school in grades K-6 there were 19 classroom teachers. Ten of them left after this most recent school year. Two ESL teachers left, one music teacher, and one psychologist. Prior to Carenza, typical turnover rate in any year was approximately one or two teachers a year who would retire or move to another school district.

For the past year we’ve been exposing the blatant incompetence of Melinda Boone and Lisa Dyer in regards to their poor handling of the violence at North High School. But the North High story is merely a mircocosm of what is wrong with schools all across America. And the biggest problem by far are administrators who won’t let their teachers teach. Because all too often administrators are more concerned with manipulating data at the expense of teachers and students, so they can please people like Melinda Boone – for the charts of course.

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One of these schools we’ve been hearing a ton about was Vernon Hill Elementary School. As you know, most of the news that comes out of Vernon Hill isn’t good news. An impromptu fistfight occurred during dismissal between two jilted lovers in April. It’s a rough part of town. So a lot of the kids who are going to Vernon Hill aren’t going home to two parent families who read to them and help them with their homework. Over 46% of students are Latino, many of which are only exposed to English during school hours. Over 81% are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The student to teacher ratio at the school is significantly higher than the state average as well.

It’s also been labeled a “Level 3” school. Because the fuckheads that run education reform in this country think that broadly labeling schools on a scale from 1-5 is something that makes sense. Level 1 is what you want. Level 2 is alright. Level 3 is a problem. Level 4 is a nightmare. Level 5 is when the government finally comes in and pretends to fix the school. Here’s the list of WPS elementary schools:

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That right there is the most meaningless list that has ever existed. But principals are OBSESSED with getting to that Level 1 ranking, because thanks to the BRILLIANCE of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” scheme, principals and teachers can lose their jobs if they remain in the lower rankings. And the only way to get to the top is to implement dumbass things in schools that don’t work. Vernon Hill is currently leading the way in dumbassery.

New sheriff in town 

Irene Logan was the principal at Vernon Hill for years. She was generally well liked by the faculty we spoke with. Sure, sometimes not everyone saw eye to eye with her, but that happens in any workplace. The vast majority of teachers agreed she was fair and good at her job before she retired going into the 2014 school year.

Maureen Power was the Vice Principal at Vernon Hill for 16 years. She knew the school well and had the respect of the faculty, and most assumed she would be promoted to principal. However, when she was passed over she left Vernon Hill and is currently the principal at Jacob Hiatt Magnet.

The principal’s job was instead given to a woman in her mid 30’s named Carenza Jackson. Ms. Jackson began teaching math at Chandler Elementary School in 2002. After teaching there for 8 years Obama became President and him and Arne Duncan put Chandler El – the poorest school in the city, serving the neediest demographic – on the naughty list. Level 4. So in 2010 as part of the new plan to fix things up, she was appointed Vice Principal. Here is what the school district said about her going into that year, as part of their “redesign plan”:

“She began teaching Mathematics in the Worcester Public Schools in 2002. Shortly thereafter, she was appointed as Mathematics Department Chair. This leadership role provided Ms. Jackson with the opportunity to build collaborative teams, identify school-wide instructional practices and construct an aligned, standards-based, math curriculum. As an instructional leader, Ms. Jackson is committed to training teachers to use data to identify individual student needs and differentiate instruction in content, product, and process.”

Ya see all that? It’s just a bunch of bullshit buzzwords that mean absolutely nothing. Collaborative teams? Differentiated instruction? That whole paragraph could be summed up as follows: “Ms. Jackson made up her own way to teach math, kissed ass, and became a leader. Then she made up a bunch of charts and told more experienced teachers how to do their jobs.” In other words, she was EXACTLY what Melinda Boone and her hack friends were looking for in an administrator.

After four years there she was moved over to Vernon Hill and became principal. Her assistant Patti Murphy-Brown, who every teacher we spoke with thought was equally unqualified, was transferred to Vernon Hill from City View. After a horrid and unsuccessful year at Vernon Hill Melinda Boone and her fantastic friends did what they do with all incompetent administrators – gave her a six figure job on Irving Street.

Now a new principal in a new school would probably want to make sure she gained the respect of the faculty. After all, they’ve been there for a long time. They’re invested in the school. They know the students. They know what works and what doesn’t.

But instead of building relationships with the faculty she started fucking with them. The first thing she did in August of 2014 was move everyone’s classroom. A teacher’s classroom is their temple. They spend years putting it together and have it just like they want it. Every teacher in the school was forced to move all of their desks, tables, chairs, books, etc, in the middle of August in a non-air conditioned building. The janitors were equally psyched to have this added to their tasks I’m sure!! Of course Carenza was nowhere to be found and didn’t offer anyone help. Why would she though? She’s protected by Dr. Boone. She can do no wrong.

Math Program

As a former math teacher, math was her primary focus as principal. But it had to be taught HER way. She brought the math binder that she believed was the only way to get kids to learn how to add, subtract, and multiply, with her from Chandler El. She told teachers who were masters of their craft for over 20 years that they’d have to change everything, because of her golden binder of learning.

The problem with this is that the WPS just invested millions of dollars in a program called “Go Math.” Very creative name. Go Math is a product of Houghton-Mifflin, a multi million dollar textbook company with powerful lobbyists. Each workbook alone cost the district $18. But despite the fact that there was a clear directive to use them, she refused to do so. Because the only acceptable way to teach math was with her magical binder. AKA the taxpayers wasted a shitload of money on a program that a rogue principal refused to use. In the real world this is known as “insubordination.”

As a result of this failure to adhere to policy, most of the standards in math were not taught. Every teacher we spoke with agreed that they were a joke, and kids couldn’t possibly learn what they needed to from them.


Because there was so much focus on math, ELA was decreased. And stuff like social studies was basically non-existent. But who needs social studies anyway? Why teach kids about how their government works? Then they might want to become involved and realize that their government is run by a bunch of crooks feeding from the public trough.

ELA is also an MCAS tested subject, and since Obama and Arne Duncan think teachers and principals should be judged based on the test scores of their students, there’s a lot of pressure to do well. Now keep in mind, 46% of Vernon Hill students are Latino and don’t speak English at home. So obviously then the teachers at VH should have magical powers to get them all to read and write proficiently.

The problem is that Ms. Jackson likes English taught her own way, and this involve no writing. Ya got that? NO WRITING. In English class. But hey, when you have a magical golden binder that’s been blessed by a bunch of overpaid hacks, you can do no wrong. When the practice tests (yes those are a thing that your kids do during the limited time they are in school) were administered, Ms. Jackson lambasted teachers for the low test scores at faculty meetings. MCAS was all that was discussed in faculty meetings.

So what did they do instead? They turned Vernon Hill into Test Prep U. Starting in October teachers were specifically instructed to teach students how to strategize on multiple choice questions. Because mathematically if you can help kids find ways to eliminate choices, you increase their odds of accidentally picking the right answer. This is how schools work in 2015.

Failure to provide services to students

VH brought in a “coach” for the teachers named Kristine Hersey. Despite having limited experience in elementary school, she was tasked with giving advice to experienced teachers on how to do their job. Because that makes TONS of sense.

The WPS use SSP’s to identify kids who need special ed plans and services, but because of her inexperience the majority of requests were never heard. One teacher we spoke with provided a series of weekly emails over several months, requesting services for a student. The emails were never returned. The student ended up being socially promoted (because students can’t be held back in elementary school), without being able to read, and without any services that will be given to them next year. Awesome!!

When teachers have “tenure” there is a myth that they can’t be fired. We’ll see later that this is bullshit. But when you’re not tenured (less than 3 years experience) you can be let go for pretty much anything. One of these non-tenured teachers was widely loved by students, parents, and teachers.

But the problem is that she was too dedicated to her job. Logically this was a problem for Carenza Jackson. A student with a disability in her classroom was not getting services that were required in her IEP (individual education plan), which is highly illegal and could set the school district up for a lawsuit.

This particular student was supposed to have a a certain amount of weekly hours set aside for special ed support. However, special ed assistants were often given “different” tasks that we will read about later on, which prevent them from meeting the needs of the students.

At an IEP meeting with the parents, the teacher and principal were asked point blank if the services were being provided. The teacher was in a dilemma – tell the truth and risk the wrath of her vindictive boss, or lie and earn her favor. She chose to be honest and told the parents, who were very upset with Ms. Jackson. Logically at the end of the school year Carenza Jackson was rehired (edited) and the teacher was laid off. Despite being in the building for 180 days, Ms. Jackson never once observed this teacher’s class.

False allegations against teachers who crossed Carenza Jackson

Ten days into the school year an experienced teacher, who was resistant to the idiocy from Carenza Jackson, had a 51a filed against her by Jackson. A 51a is a serious allegation of child abuse that can irreperably damage a teacher’s reputation. The Department of Education thoroughly looked into while the teacher was on leave – costing the district thousands of dollars in substitute teacher costs.  The 51a was eventually ruled not credible and the teacher was vindicated. No apology was ever offered.

Vindictive evaluations

Anyone who ever questioned Ms. Jackson’s brilliance was given an evaluation of “needs improvement.” When this happens a teacher is put on a plan. It is basically a step a principal can use against teachers they don’t like to ensure their termination. The next time someone tells you that it’s impossible to fire a teacher, you should laugh in their face. In November the district will release their numbers on what percent of teachers at what school received what evaluation. The VH numbers should be fun. Usually the area they were marked down on was “professional culture.” Because in Carenza Jackson’s mind, it’s unprofessional to question the infinite wisdom of a first year, inexperienced principal.

Gas leak

On Feburary 26 many teachers in the school smelt a strong odor of gas in the building. Despite several teachers bringing it up with her she said it was nothing. After many hours the smell became overwhelming and she realized she needed to do something. But instead of communicating with staff and preparing for an evacuation like a normal person would, she pulled a fire alarm. Keep in mind, it was really cold, none of the children were able to get coats, and there was a million feet of snow.


The gas leak day was never mentioned again until the final week of school, when teachers at Vernon Hill were forced to work Friday, June 26, a blatant contractual violation. The day was not approved by central administration. Under the CBA, this would’ve had to have been negotiated with the union.

Contractual violations

According to one of the teachers we spoke with, “There were a lot of things we were evaluated on that we could not control, like test scores and out of school involvement. If we had some low functioning students in our classrooms it would be our fault they didn’t get high scores, yet she would offer zero support. She marked teachers down on their evaluations if they didn’t attend all outside of school activities. Outside activities were not part of our contracts.”

Yea, ya see in the real world, you get paid when you work. And contracts mean something. But when you’re a young principal on a power trip, legally bargained contracts can be ignored because you have a magical golden binder. According to another teacher:

“Our long PD hours were created by her and we had to sign off on them to approve them. I didn’t approve Initially because the contract says that they can’t make us work 12 hour days. She called me into her office and asked me why I didn’t approve. I ended up giving in. Two others didn’t sign off because of family obligations and she made their lives at work absolute hell.”

Juking the stats

Schools are now required to have “accountability plans,” in which they set a bunch of arbitrary percentages they will achieve in everything from test scores to attendance. The problem with this is that if you don’t hit your benchmarks, you’re fucked. And Carenza Jackson wasn’t gonna get fucked. Here is one of those goals from Vernon Hill’s accountability plan:

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“Student results indicator” means that this is how the school will be judged. If students aren’t getting into trouble, then the school is doing a good job. Ya got that? If a kid acts up or is inappropriate, it’s the school’s fault. Not the kid, not his family. The school. Because that makes tons of sense.

And what do you think schools do when their leaders decide that success can only be reached by not suspending or disciplining children? They start letting kids run wild. Here is what one of the teacher’s we interviewed told us:

“Being in the Vernon Hill neighborhood, we had a lot of disciplinary issues. Two years ago I had two severe students in my class. Anytime I called for administration when the behaviors got dangerous, they were there in a heart beat and would thank me for doing a good job putting up with it. Last year, I again had two students with similar behavioral concerns. When I called for administrative support, Carenza came but would literally yell at me in front of my students for not having control of my classroom.”

Another stat that teachers at Vernon Hill were responsible for were attendance rates for their students:

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 10.42.25 PM


So how do you improve something you have no control over? You just make it up of course. The general consensus amongst teacher we spoke with, was that in AT LEAST 90 days, Carenza Jackson came onto the intercom and told teachers not to mark students tardy if they weren’t in school yet. Additionally, suspended students were marked as “absent” because of pressure up top to reduce suspension rates. According to one teacher we spoke with,  “she is obsessed with data and is hell bent to prove to Boone and company that she “fixed” Vernon Hill.”

Unprofessional behavior

Carenza Jackson’s Facebook cover photo is this:

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That seems like a perfectly normal thing for a principal to put on her publicly viewable Facebook page. I’m sure the parents of Vernon Hill students are glad to know their principal isn’t gonna judge them because she’s a little fucked up herself. Speaking of fucked up, Carenza likes to have a good time and broadcast it to the world:

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Not that I care what a principal does in her free time. But at the end of the day, how are teachers and parents supposed to take you seriously when this is how you promote yourself on social media? Welcome to the 21st century.

Here’s some more unprofessional behavior:

  • Most schools have two or more teachers administering MCAS. Caranza changed it to 1. Many teachers believe this was intentionally done because their students were not prepared for the written parts of tests, and expected ELA scores to drop. Some believe she may have ordered wrong answers to be altered, and if the school is questioned, it can be blamed on the lone classroom teacher in the room. This is speculation, but the change in protocal alarmed many teachers we spoke with.
  • Carenza brought her 2 year old niece with her to school over 50 times this year and put her in a preschool room. Sometimes she used students as babysitters. Cheaper than daycare. This is probably one of the biggest legal liabilities you will ever see.
  • She also put parent “volunteers” in the office and had them sort through student cumulative records and special education documents which are confidential. But, breaking the law is fine. Like when she had a teacher drive students in her car to a field trip because the bus was too full.
  • Special education aides and tutors get hired and placed in her school to, you know, help needy students. Instead, Carenza used some of these staff to spend everyday picking up her slack, putting out her fires, or making daily Dunkins or Subway runs for her. These two staff members never sat and helped or tutored a student. They did her everyday bitch work.
  • “As staff we were reminded constantly about what time we MUST be in the building by every morning. When did Carenza show up everyday? Oh about 30 minutes after the arrival of her students with coffee in hand.”
  • On the first week of school Carenza came in my room for something and then said “can I give you a little advice? Do your own thing and don’t stick with your team (the 3 other teachers in my grade level) because they’re fucking crazy!!”
  • “How about a conversation I overheard with her & a group of 5th/6th gr. students. They were in trouble because they had found some kind of “smoking materials” at recess & didn’t turn them in. She told the kids they would get herpes if they put their mouth on it. She spoke directly to one girl & told her that when she got a boyfriend she would have to tell him she had herpes.”
  • I overheard a conversation she had with a student in which she said that she knew there were teachers there that “didn’t listen,” because they didn’t listen to her & Mrs. Murphy-Brown either. That she had to yell at us to get us to listen. We felt very undermined and unsupported as a result of conversations like this.

Obviously we recognize that we only heard one side of the story here. But where there’s smoke there is fire. And we are sick and tired of watching our school and city turn to shit because the establishment is more concerned with their stupid fucking charts than they are with improving the quality of life for Worcester residents. We’re sick of seeing shitty administrators keep their jobs while quality educators are forced to flee. Because ultimately it’s the kids that end up losing.

We’re interested in writing more stories about this, so if you’re interested send us an email or Facebook message. We want to hear from teachers primarily. Turtleboy can be your therapy. We are the voice that you have been denied for fear of losing your job. Tell Turtleboy how you’ve been wronged and we will let the public know about it.

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28 Comment(s)
  • Lydia Gladding
    April 15, 2016 at 10:42 am

    I have a nephew in first grade that goes there. He was supposed to be in the pick up line. When he wasn’t I went into the office and had to wait for her to finish a personal conversation right in front of me for 10 minutes even though a teacher told her a 6 year old was missing. He was found after half an hour. I went back to the school to let her know but she had left for the day.

  • Mary Tambling
    August 22, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Lincoln st needs a piece written on it. I personally had to take my daughter out of that school because she was being bullied by6 children in her class.they kept threatening to kill her and her family,and she acted out a little.so she became the “problem” child. And I told them for months,and nothing was done except give my child a behavioral chart. Just before thanksgiving I had to go and yell at the principal to get an investigation.then we left. I will homeschool my children before I ever let them go back to Lincoln st.school!!!!!!

  • RuthAnn Manozzi
    August 16, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I have custody of three grandchildren. Two of whom went all the way through Gates Lane. When we moved about a mile up the road the middle child finished sixth grade at Gates Lane and the third one finished third grade. Last day of school we were told that he had been transferred to Canterbury School. It was his home school now. He was miserable. Never had problems with him before but here it was constant. He was bullied, had his back pack stolen, (know who did it) but according to the school it happened AFTER school so they were not responsible. It was a constant battle. So what happened at the end of this year his report card said he is going into 5th grade at Goddard school. So my advice don’t point out what is wrong your kids will suffer. Oh and by the way two weeks before we got the notice that he was no longer welcome at Gates Lane, I had brought a facebook video into Mrs. Swenson, the principal of a couple of girl who were bullying others. Mrs.S kept saying how these girls would never be bullies. She even blamed the kids who were being bullied for lying. So the video was downloaded and brought into school for Mrs. S and the school psychologist. Two weeks later gone. At least at Gates Lane they learned not only math, reading and spelling. But had science and social studies. At Cantebury it is just reading and math. No more no less.

  • CFT
    August 10, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Worcester needs more principals like retired Dr. Bratiotis from Burncoat Middle School. She was tough as nails, respected all her faculty and staff and put up with absolutely no funny business. She was in her school constantly working overtime to ensure her school was on track. Nothing got by this woman. She was qualified and did her job! I guess anyone can be a principal in Worcester now.

    • Kbella
      August 14, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      Yep. TBS should look into the principal at Norback. Just sayin’.

    • August 25, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      Is this a joke – Bratiotis was the worst principal I ever worked for in my 32 years in the WPS. Respected – more like hated.” Working overtime” – because she didn’t have a life outside of school.

  • Just one layer on the onion
    August 9, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Does anyone even know how often the superintendent visits schools and observes classrooms in Worcester?

  • Just one layer on the onion
    August 9, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Excellent job turtleboy. The problem is Melinda Boone not only doesn’t hire principals, she has absolutely nothing to do with them. She probably couldn’t pick them out of a line up. She has very little dealings or direct communication (aside from one way emails from her office) with school committee members either, which for some reason is acceptable?

  • Common Sense Isn't So Common
    August 8, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    She’s definitely HOT, and with all the other heinous shit that going on on the city I’ll take her anyday!!!

  • Nanny
    August 8, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Posterchild for the definition of “twat.”

    • Ad-rock
      August 8, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      Based on what? Hearsay and libel?

      • Just one layer on the onion
        August 9, 2015 at 7:57 am

        She is a public employee, with employees in her building as the source of this blog post (they are all turtleboy, as we are all turtleboy). Libel charge isn’t happening, but imagine school district funds being expended on pursuing that?

        Opens the door to a wealth of information for Turtleboy staff to expose to the public. I note that the principal hasn’t changed her facebook page. What a role model she is to young minds (who thankfully now are fully aware of the dangers of getting herpes from smoking materials).

  • August 8, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Wow! What a terrible assessment of the state of this school {or schools} in Worcester……

  • COB
    August 8, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Man, I would love to tongue-punch that chick’s fart box! 😀

  • Beth
    August 8, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    i think the number ratings for the schools are a little dated

  • RJ
    August 8, 2015 at 11:58 am

    At first I was worried that TB and Old Balls were hanging out together in a bar, but if you look closely, you can see that the picture is a fake.

  • Terry Smith
    August 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

    I knew this was going to be some how Obama’s fault !

  • John Smith
    August 8, 2015 at 9:46 am

    There are very good reasons why the Broad Academy for School Administrators is unaccredited.

  • lol
    August 8, 2015 at 9:17 am

    She evil, but so hot tho….my dick so confused right now.

  • Rosa Moreno
    August 8, 2015 at 9:17 am

    My kids go to VH and let me tell you… she had the poor kids wait outside in the cold winter until it was time to go in. One time it was 30° and upon policy below 33 they would go inside the gym but when I called to complain her excuse was theat HER CAR said it was 33! So who is right? Her car or the weather channel? The PTO quit because no matter what we said or did she would overrule is and do whatever she wanted to do anyways. Last year was the worst ever and I am glad that I am moving out of VH district! She is a mean, vindictive, controlling dictator!

    • Mean bitch
      August 13, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      And your ignorant….

      • me
        August 14, 2015 at 9:39 am

        Ok? Based on what? You don’t know me nor my children. You didn’t go through what we did. So go ahead call me ignorant if that makes you feel like a better person but I am a mama bear and I will fight not only for my childrens right and well being but for ALL the children!

  • Timdoggy
    August 8, 2015 at 7:51 am

    I’d hit it

  • James Cavanaugh
    August 8, 2015 at 6:59 am

    I’ve taught in two states and two different countries. From poor, inner city schools (Roxbury, MA.) to oil rich spoiled kids in the Middle-East). I’ve also taught in grades 1-7. Let me tell you, a principal can make or break a school. I’ve seen it many times

  • James Cavanaugh
    August 8, 2015 at 6:57 am

    I’ve taught in two states and two different countries. From poor, inner city schools (Roxbury, MA., to oil rich spoiled kids in the Middle-East). I’ve also taught in grades 1-7. Let me tell you, a principal can make or break a school. I’ve seen it many times

  • Joe Besser
    August 8, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Is this really unique to VH? I am sure you could write a novel exposing the dirty little secrets to be found in all of the public schools in Worcester.

  • Publius
    August 7, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    What a shame, gross incompetence from the top. But the again, Novick, Boone, it rolls down hill. The ole Prov Jr High, not the best of times, …

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