Sheldon Dempster, Principal
J.H.S. 220 John J. Pershing
Location: 4812 9th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11220
Mr. Dempster rules the school using retaliatory practices. He makes general statements in staff meetings that intimidate staff members. He would make teachers feel like they betrayed him by prioritizing their health and safety.
I am formerly a teacher at I.S. 220. I’m leaving after 6 years of experiencing my colleagues and myself receiving emotional abuse from our principal. It was a very difficult decision I had to make because my mental health is at stake, and I’m sad to leave such a wonderful group of colleagues and students. Unfortunately, I am one of many teachers leaving Pershing this year.
Our principal is openly disrespectful to staff that aren’t part of the staff he hired. He does not greet anyone who doesn’t fall in line with his “leadership”. He has occulted per session opportunities from the full staff. He has prevented staff from having access to everyone’s schedules to prevent everyone from being aware of how he gives preferential schedules to favored teachers. Oftentimes, those teachers who receive preferential treatment, don’t teach or are excused from class to “speak to the principal”, preventing students from instruction. At the beginning of every school, he says he doesn’t understand why people leave. Yet, at the end of every school year, since 3 years ago, has implored people to leave if they don’t like how things are, in a very nasty tone. So many fantastic teachers have left our school because of his narcissism, nepotism, inflexibility and unprofessionalism.
I fear for the future of Pershing. The constant turnover of teachers causes instability with the students. Teachers who are loved and passionate about their jobs get pushed away. Please help I.S. 220.
He favors some and ignores others. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to see a principal walk by and ignore certain teachers and then hug others? He has created nothing but a toxic, unhealthy environment. When will help arrive?
In the 5 years he had not afforded new mothers a lactation room (violation of a state law). He interferes with UFT business. He tells new teachers how he will take care of them and that they don’t need the chapter leader. He doesn’t respond to teacher’s emails. Seems like he makes up his own hours (is he in the building?). Spends excessive money on teacher’s desks, paint, stickers for doors, tv’s for the hallway, a fish tank in the main office, and area rugs with the school logo on them. He intimates and bullies staff members and constantly tells us to “leave”! He has 6 AP’s but excesses teachers. He sits in his office watching the cameras to “catch” teachers. He calls last minute staff meeting that go beyond the school day and yells at us if we call him on it. There is no communication, the children know things before the teachers do. If you don’t think he’s the greatest, you we suffer the consequences.
Does not want imput from effective,experienced educators instead dictates policies stating “ non- negotiable”.Plays “favorites”,creates an uncomfortable and threatening environment.Disrespectful and arrogant approach often resulting in foolish decisions which negatively impacts our entire school community.
Mr. Dempster uses retaliation and doesn’t even try to hide it. It is very apparent. He uses it against school aides, teachers, and secretaries. In the case of his APs, yes he uses it there too but not to all of them. He has 6 APs. He hired 4 of them as teachers from his previous school and scoring site. Yes student enrollment decreased and teachers were excessed, but he hired his 6th AP in June 2021 during a pandemic. Not to change topics but, why are all 6 APs women???
If the DOE wants us to teach social emotional learning for our students’ well-being, maybe it should apply to us too. The principal needs a PD on SEL practices. As teachers we should be able to report to work and not be afraid of what will happen to us today. We want to know that if we talk to someone that he doesn’t like and he sees it on camera (he is always watching from his office – great use of time) that we won’t get our classroom changed or program changed or denied per session opportunities.
We can go on and on about Mr. Dempster, but the real problem is that he can do whatever he wants without repercussions thanks to the District 20 Central Office.
Where are you Superintended David Pretto?????
Here is a figure for the Superintendent
Thus far 23 teachers have open market transferred to other DOE schools under Mr. Dempster’s principalship. This 23 does not include teachers who moved out of state or left the profession or retirement. They are teaching at other schools in the DOE. Out of these 23 transfers NINE went to other schools in District 20!
Superintendent Pretto – wherever you are….Look at this data! You are this man’s supervisor!
Interpret, draw an inference or you could do what superintendents are supposed to do when they see this and conduct EXIT INTERVIEWS!
Help us by holding him accountable please.
Mr. Dempster does not possess the qualities it takes to be a school building leader. Mr. Dempster is extremely toxic, hostile, and retaliatory. Mr. Dempster has created a hostile working environment of fear. He encourages the mean girls to inform him of information from the staff and UFT meetings. He mocks and makes fun of staff members during consultation meeting minutes in which he says that both he and Superintendent David Pretto laugh at the letters that staff members send to him when they voice their valid concerns regarding the inequity, injustices, and lack of safety of the building. He claims he is “for the children” but often at times can be seen ignoring students when they want to say hello to him. He makes the majority of staff members feel uncomfortable by hugging and greeting some, and ignoring and looking the other way at others. Many staff members fear retaliation from administration because it has happened to them in the past. It is an extremely uncomfortable and toxic working environment. During consultation meetings, these issues are brought up to the administration and he simply responds by saying, “Next question.” Why is it okay for the leader of the building to not respond to valid concerns of the staff? Mr. Dempster hand selects staff members to receive per session when there is no posting. How is this equitable? He often states during staff meetings that if he is not our “cup of tea”, then we should go find another school to work at. What ever happened to professionalism? In fact, the day of the Sunset Park subway shooting which caused our school to enter into a lockdown, he said at the end of the day during a staff meeting that there are 1,800 NYC DOE schools and we should go pick a different one. Is this legal? How is the leader of the building allowed to say this to the staff members on a day when many of us were worried about our students, colleagues, friends, and family members? The way he addressed the school yesterday with a lack of empathy made many people even more anxious than they already were. How is this attitude going to help move the students in the direction they need to succeed? When is something going to be done about this?
A previous comment mentioned 23 teachers leaving in open market. The number is definitely greater. In addition, many teachers’ decisions to retire, move out of state, or seek alternate employment situations were made based on the aggressive, confrontational, and intimidating behavior of this principal. These teachers would still be doing a great job at IS 220 if not for the failure of Sheldon Dempster.
I have to say that my perspective and experience with our Principal has been not just professional but full of desire to grow and exceed as a teacher. This past year we participated in a parent literacy where I was able share in the excitement with over 200 parents. He had games, free books for all students who came including small siblings that showed up with their parents. There was food but most importantly the raffles were tickets to Broadway shows for families. Mr. Dempster took his time to celebrate teacher appreciation the entire week, giving us all a free prep. Another benefit of having him as a principal is the ability at anytime to ask for supplies, paper, ink for printers and basically anything we need. I think one of the most memorable time for me this year, was when he decided the Arista and Archon was not inclusive enough and had a ceremony for all the Special Ed students, where the turn out of parents was amazing. As a teacher I am in the business of students. Mr. Dempster always celebrates students and teachers. This is evident when you see the screens around the hallways full of images of students and teachers engaged in a school community that promotes love for learning, inclusion, championships, family events and so much more. I am a proud member of this school that with his leadership has successfully allowed for student growth in every subject. Excited to see what this upcoming year brings.
“He makes the majority of staff members feel uncomfortable by hugging and greeting some, and ignoring and looking the other way at others.” This statement accurately describes Mr. Dempster’s behavior towards the female teachers at I.S. 220. This behavior is something that countless teachers have complained about. He knows that hugging female teachers makes the staff uncomfortable, yet he continues to do it. What year is this? Since when is it okay for a boss to constantly put their arm around female employees? And if you are like me and squirm out of it, well, you are ignored or treated as less important. None of the other males in the building act like this. It is 2022, and modern feminist culture has made it clear that we don’t want to be harassed at work. We are not friends or family. DON’T TOUCH US.
Update… They keep leaving
24 teachers have open market transferred to other DOE schools under Mr. Dempster’s principalship. Out of these 24 transfers TEN went to other schools in District 20.
Perhaps he could learn an thing or two from the other principals in the district… but that would require him to self reflect and and improve himself so not happening unless he is held accountable by the higher ups.
Mr. Dempster is an excellent leader and I know this because I’m a former student of his from Seth Low junior high from 2005. I also worked along side him when I was a Subsitute teacher in 2015 at Seth Low when he was an Assistant Principal there. Additionally, one of my cousins is a teacher at his school right now and has nothing but excellent things to say about him as an administrator. As I’m reading the comments below, I am disgusted at the things his staff members are saying about him because these are not true. Perhaps these staff members are not “Effective classroom teachers” and are just pointing fingers because they don’t like change with a new administration. As for myself, I’m a High School English/ Special Education teacher on Staten Island and if I were to ever transfer schools tomorrow I would transfer to John Pershing to work along side Mr. Dempster in a heart beat.
He is openly disrespectful to staff that aren’t part of the staff he hired. He does not greet anyone who doesn’t fall in line with his “leadership”. He has occulted per session opportunities from the full staff. He has occulted staff from having access to everyone’s schedules to prevent everyone from being aware of how he gives preferential schedules to favored teachers. Oftentimes, those teachers who receive preferential treatment, don’t teach or are excused from class to “speak to the principal” preventing students from instruction. At the beginning of every school, he says he doesn’t under why people leave. Yet, at the end of every school year, since 3 years ago, has implored people to leave if they don’t like how things are, in a very nasty tone. So many fantastic teachers have left our school because of his narcissism, nepotism, inflexibility and unprofessionalism.
To the former student commenting, you should apply to Pershing. Mr Dempster loves hiring his friends and friends of his friends. Then he treats them well while ignoring those he did not hire.
Sheldon Dempster should not be running a school building. To be fair, he barely does. He shows up whenever he wants. Is usually in his office with his door shut. Don’t even bother emailing him, he most likely will not answer. He is so insecure and it shows. He boasts about all the great things that he does or “his” people do to cover up the fact that he doesn’t really have much to do with any of the things he is proud of. He loves to brag about the sports teams that he started, but probably has shown up to 5 games in 5 years. He rarely shows up for games at Pershing. Him and his little harem of followers act like middle schoolers. Constantly planning how they are going to target someone that isn’t on his side. Collectively ignoring people that Dempster has decided aren’t worth their time. He spends money on flashy things like fish tanks in the main office and stickers for the floors and doors, while excessing teachers. How about excess one of the 6 APs? Declining enrollment and you need MORE APs? Problem with that is he’d have to excess his friends and he can’t do that. The environment is toxic. Most of the staff has to walk on eggshells not to upset the moody principal or you’ll end up next on his hit list.
I want to address this comment: “this past year, we participated in a parent-literacy where I was able to share in the excitement with over 200 parents…”
I am not sure this comment is actually written by a teacher in the building or someone from the admin team because propaganda from their team would not be surprising in any way.
The things listed are the basic expectations of a NYC public school principal. These are things that are expected of all principals, and they are not special to I.S. 220. And 1 free prep is not our worth; I spent countless preps working with students.
Regarding supplies: how long did we have to go without paper this year? “Supplies, paper, ink for printers” are things all schools supply, yet I spent a ton of money out of my own pocket last year for educational items.
As for the oppressive and unprofessional behavior Mr. Dempster has with his teachers, I can go on about Mr. Dempster inappropriate touching, surveilling, and retaliation behavior, but I think other teachers have made these points already.
These are not isolated opinions. Teachers have voiced their complaints to Mr. Dempster at UFT consultation meetings—of which the notes are emailed to teachers—-and he is on the record dismissing them.
There are monthly consultation notes sent through the year that represent our concerns for ourselves and our students. Read them. Mr. Dempster’s reaction is often unprofessional and unproductive. He reacts like everything is a personal attack on him instead of showing concern for his students and staff.
When asked “is there anything you would do differently in regards to how you spoke to or treated the staff this year?” Mr. Dempster responded: “send the person to her to ask her for a meeting to talk directly. Seems like this person wants to psychoanalyze me and we can have a meeting one on one.”
Curiously, when teachers voice their legitimate concerns about the staff feeling disrespected, violated, coerced, or intimidating, Mr. Dempster and his administrators dismiss these concerns as “personal,” or pretend to “not understand the question.” Clearly, enough people feel this way and bring it up in a public forum that this issue is important to teachers and collective in nature as it creates a hostile work environment where teachers do not feel safe or work efficiently. This is not the response of a leader that claims to support social and emotional principles. How can Mr. Dempster care about the students if he cannot get this foundational thing right?
In May 2022, when teachers said Mr. Dempster and his administrators were overusing disciplinary meetings, the administrators claimed to “not understand the question.” Clearly, teachers are worried about their livelihoods, and Mr. Dempster and his administrators are cavalier about using disciplinary hearings for everything just to get rid of teachers.” The school is run like a mob. How can this create a supportive learning environment? How can you profess to care about the children when Mr. Dempster and his staff operate like the mob to get rid of teachers during a NATIONAL TEACHER SHORTAGE?
Issues of Mr. Dempster intimidating the staff was repeatedly brought up at meetings, such as including teacher’s names on what should be anonymous surveys in May 2022, presumably so we would feel less inclined to report our genuine concerns.
Mr. Dempster violates the privacy of UFT meetings by having people report back to him on the meetings (June 2022), again, which undermines the trust and safety teachers need to feel in order to discuss our concerns and report violations freely. Mr. Dempster dismissed concerns about scolding the staff in May 2020.
When asked about all of the interruptive announcements that are made through the day and explained the loss of crucial instructional time because of these interruptions, Mr. Dempster responded: “Sounds personal, not contractual. They should enroll in an administrative program, they would probably do well.” The cascade of unnecessary announcements throughout the day was a constant complaint among so many teachers I can’t understand why he would answer so childishly. Obviously we are worried about the students because of the constant interruptions. The announcements affected my student’s concentration abilities. What should we do when these announcements cut into valuable instruction in math and ELA?
Mr. Dempster’s dismissiveness of teachers and his use of coercion, intimidation, hostile and inappropriate behavior creates an environment where students and educators will languish. How can children thrive when the culture here is so authoritarian? Again, these are not isolated concerns.
Many teachers have repeatedly brought this up in public forums and have been constantly dismissed. It is absolutely demoralizing and disrespectful. I don’t care about free paper if the price is a hostile and unprofessional work environment.
Mr. Dempster should not be entrusted with a school to oversee. When he comes to work, he sits in his office and watches the cameras, trying to catch teachers. When he’s not in, he watches the cameras at home. If he’s not watching the cameras, he’s creating power point presentations for staff meetings where he cuts and copies from different sites including the UFT. Staff meetings are a drone of nonsense.
I rarely see him interact with the students. He has been in my classroom a myriad of times yet does not acknowledge the students; a complaint I often hear from other teachers as well.
Mr. Dempster has created a very toxic environment that scares many teachers. Employees should not be afraid of their work environment.