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Students Protest To Support Their Teacher's Tenure

More than 50 Mamaroneck High School students staged a protest outside the superintendent’s office during lunch on Friday, April 30 in another attempt to secure tenure for their English teacher, Jennifer Rosenzweig.  They were joined by camera crews and reporters from regional and local media outlets, called in by an adult supporter of their efforts.

The students  learned before spring break that their teacher had not been recommended for tenure by the principal, Dr. Mark Orfinger, who is retiring at the end of the school year. The teacher could still be recommended for tenure by the superintendent, Dr. Paul Fried, who is also leaving the district in July. Students and parents have lobbied him in private meetings and at the last public session of the Mamaroneck School Board.

On Friday, the students sent a somewhat louder message. Carrying posters and using a megaphone and siren, the students chanted outside Dr. Fried’s office window.

“What do you want? — Tenure!” they shouted.  “Who do we want it for? — Mrs. Rosenzweig!”

Students also yelled: “Administration you are wrong,” and “Great teachers make great students.”

MHS students protested in favor of granting tenure to English teacher Jennifer Rosenzweig. Photos by Eloise Schieferdecker. Click for larger view.

“It was amazing,” said Rebecca Paganini, an MHS senior and organizer of the protest. “Dr. Fried refused to come out. But we walked back in with signs – but kept it quiet,” she said, since Dr. Fried was being interviewed.

Dr. Fried has not commented about Ms. Rosenzweig herself – the administration and board does not discuss personnel decisions, except to explain tenure or other procedures and policies.

Nevertheless, the students are hopeful that they are having an effect.

“I definitely do feel it had an impact – it shook up the administration,” said Rebecca. “I think they see us in a different light – more of a force.”

Students have been communicating and organizing on a Facebook page entitled  Support Ms. Rosenzweig. The page explains that the teacher would not be allowed to return next year if she does not receive tenure.

After the rally, the teacher posted her appreciation. “No words–my friends–to express what this all means to me,” she wrote. “You are an amazing group of kids and I feel so blessed to know you all–now–it’s a beautiful day–off the computer and get outside (and leave your phones at home!)”

“The students were so articulate, so passionate about their cause to save Ms. Rosenzweig’s job, that I felt I wanted to help them get visibility for their cause,” said Eleanor Sherman, who learned about the planned protest by monitoring the Facebook page and alerted a number of media outlets.

Whether she survives the tenure battle or not, Ms. Rosenzweig “has made a huge impact on her students’ lives,” said Ms. Sherman.

The students will continue to advocate for their teacher at the May 4 board study session. After that, there are only a few days left to influence Dr. Fried’s decision: tenure announcements will be made at the May 11 board meeting.

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7 comments to Students Protest To Support Their Teacher’s Tenure

  • Eleanor

    Why would Mark Orfinger and Paul Fried risk ending their educational career with MHS and have a hostile reception from the MHS Graduation Class of 2010? I am hoping that they listen and respect Mrs. Rosenzweig’s supporters by granting her tenure. They could opt to allow the next Superintendent to make that decision if they wish to. They would be very foolish not to be receptive to student pleas. This story will follow their professional careers.

  • Sushi Says

    I highly doubt they would go back on their decision on this teacher’s tenure while they are exiting the door. That would actually make them look like bigger fools than people here already appear to think they are….

    If anyone, it will be the new incoming administration who could reverse it and not come off as looking like flip/floppers among other things.

    In all my years in Mam’k public schools, I never heard anyone complain about the administration – certainly not like they do about the outgoing team here. I am a bit shocked to be honest. Mostly because I can’t believe how much tensions have built up against them. It’s very unusual for this community.

  • Roger

    It seems pretty lame for MHS students to be protesting in support of granting a teacher’s tenure, particularly during the week marking the 40th anniversary of the Kent State shootings when MHS students protested bigger issues. I recall an MHS student body who protested life and death issues (Viet Nam, Cambodia invasion, etc.), not employment disputes.

    Hey kids: Get real and protest against a war, social injustice or something with deeper implications. Maybe if there were a military “draft” again and you risked being shipped off to Afghanistan or Iraq you would be a little more inclined to get involved in important causes not petty employment disputes…


    an MHS alumnus

  • Eleanor

    Roger, this is a protest against “injustice, harrassment, and apparently a teacher who wasn’t in their control.” I give these kids all the credit in the world for standing up to “justice and fairness,” like we did in the 1960′s.

    People decide where they want to take a stand. I suspect you may be in my age range. Let’s not sound like “in my day…we walked miles to get to school, and etc., etc.” That’s what our parents did.

    Sushi, just because the administration is lame, doesn’t mean they can’t change and be enlightened. I don’t think a new administration can reverse the decision about Mrs. R. once it is done.

    • Anon E Mous

      Whether one agrees with the views of the protesters or not, their protests gives credence to their education.

      Thus if the First Amendment means anything in this field, it must allow protests even against the moral code that the standard of the day sets for the community. In other words, literature should not be suppressed merely because it offends the moral code of the censor.’ – William O. Douglas

  • John Smith MHS student

    Rodger up there is basically right.

    Trust me. there were no future valedictorians at the protest

    Protest should always be a last resort: if you were the board, would you rather cave into bumptious kids or a collection of polite letters from all the supporters. Don’t even try to tell me that protest did anything other than feed attention hungry teenagers and make the board certain that they will not compromise their fortitude as a decision making body by caving into this silly attempt.

  • Fear Not

    John Smith, hardly sounds like a MHS student, and clearly will never make Valedictorian. He sounds more like a bitter old man who perhaps works for the Board of Ed in some capacity and is trying to intimidate.

    Ms. Rozenzweig submitted her resignation, and is showing the students how to react as a woman with style. She is leaving on her own terms, in her own time, and in her own way.