By Davy V.
Until January 30th, Bryant Cromartie, a 15-year Rochester, City School District employee, dedicated himself to helping at-risk youth.
Hired by the RCSD in 1997, Cromartie began as an ISS (In School Suspension) teacher at his alma matter, Charlotte Middle School.
In 2000, Cromartie received an Administrator Certificate degree, then went to work as a House Administrator at Edison Tech High School until 2005 when he became Assistant Principal at Franklin High School until 2009.
Cromartie then became Assistant Principal of East High School.
In 2010 he was promoted to a Level 2 Administator.
At East High, Cromartie worked with the 7th and 8th grade foundation academy, making sure students complied with the school uniforms, working with teachers holding cluster meetings twice a week, and developing different programs to help students.
One such program, which Cromartie called the ’7 go 9′ program, included students who had been getting all F’s, and having them attend after school 2-3 hours a day, as well as 4 hours on Saturdays.
In addition, Cromartie also worked with young black males, holding workshops, teaching youth about manhood, their purpose in life, watching movies like Antwan Fisher, discussing issues they were going through, and teaching them how to talk about those issues.
Cromartie made sure that the students connected with the adults, and that they got what they needed.
He helped expose students to classes like computers, business finance, human health, police and fire programs, drawing and music, while at the same time making sure that seniors were on point and on track to graduate.
In many ways, Bryant Cromartie represented what we need more of in our inner city schools, a dedicated and caring educator, passionate about helping at-risk youth.
“I made them hit the books,” said Cromartie, adding “I was trying to do everything to motivate kids so they wouldn’t drop out of school, things were going great,” said Cromartie.
The East High School student went missing on March 24, 2012 after telling her mom that she was going to a mall with her friend.
While Larie’s parents looked everywhere for her, many in the community thought that Rochester Police were dragging their feet in the investigation into her disappearance.
Rochester Police had questioned 20-year old LeVante Lively, a family friend who said he had gone to the mall with Larie but insisted that he had dropped her off near East High School afterwards.
Rochester Police let Lively go.
During the days Larie was missing, emails from the East High teaching community went around expressing their concerns that Rochester Police were not doing enough, and that Chief Sheppard was not responding.
Some emails even mentioned school staff who had tried contacting Chief Sheppard and Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards and never receiving a response.
An East High School teacher wrote a note to staff members via RCSD email.
In the email, the teacher also complained about the RPD dragging their feet with the investigation.
Bryant Cromartie saw the email, and responded with his own:
“Hey I got a better idea. The police chief daughter works in this building. Secondly, he lives down the street from East, maybe we should go to his house and protest our outrage. Or better yet, let’s form a committee and bring this issue to the community. This indifference should not be a surprise, when it comes to children of color our society still value us as 3/5th of a people.”
Cromartie’s email mentioned RPD Chief James Sheppard’s daughter, Stephanie Sheppard, who works as a SSO (School Security Officer) at East High School.
Five days after Larie Butler disappeared, her body was found at the bottom of an abandoned pool, across the street from the home of LeVante Lively’s grandmother.
Lively was charged with her murder.
Larie Butler was a model student at East High school.
Loved by many.
Her death rocked the school, both students and faculty.
But that email that Bryant Cromartie sent out, made Stephanie Sheppard very angry.
In fact, after reading the email criticizing her father, she was furious.
The Chief’s daughter, Stephanie Sheppard is described as a crybaby who has had several emotional outbursts on the job and who has clearly shown to have a hard time following directives.
Case in point:
In one incident Stephanie Sheppard intentionally placed herself out of view of the school’s security cameras so she could text on her cell phone.
When called in to the office of Mr. Smith, East High’s Administrator of Operations, she became angry and asked why she had to be in camera view.
When Mr. Smith explained to her that for safety and security reasons, it is school policy that security officers remain in camera sight, she began crying and stormed out of the office and went to sit in her car.
From her car she called Lori Baldwin, director of security for the RCSD, a position previously held by Chief Sheppard before he was appointed Chief in 2010.
Baldwin called Mr. Smith and the incident was squashed.
In another incident, Stephanie Shepard accused Ms. Quamina, a School Administrator of not assisting her and ‘having her back’ when a fight broke out.
Sheppard went as far as writing a statement about the incident, stating that Quamina allowed one of the students involved in the fight to hit her.
Quamina responded by saying the accusation was not true, explaining that Sheppard was hit while breaking up the fight.
In another incident, Stephanie Sheppard was given permission to go to a school function for her child.
After being gone for several hours, upon returning to school, Sheppard asked for a lunch break.
When she was denied the break and told that she had already taken several hours off work, she threw a temper tantrum, once again storming out of the school, going to her car, and this time calling a union rep. saying that she was being denied lunch.
The union rep. called the school, and was informed of the circumstances of Sheppard having taken several hours off work.
This incident was also squashed, with once again no action whatsoever taken by the District against Sheppard for her conduct.
Incidents like these describe what has pretty much been Stephanie Sheppard’s M.O. at East High School.
Not following orders or policy, followed by emotional outbursts, calling ‘higher-ups’ in order to get her way, and blaming others.
“If she was anybody else she would have been fired,” said Cromartie.
And specifically that, the fact that Stephanie Sheppard is not ‘anyone else’, the fact that she is the Chief’s daughter, is what ultimately led to a great man losing his job.
Here’s what happened.
After reading the email criticizing her father, Stephanie Sheppard notified Chief Sheppard, who became enraged after reading the email himself.
Chief Sheppard then went straight to Rochester School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas for a private one on one conversation.
Meanwhile, back at East High, Bryant Cromartie’s colleagues were excited at learning they had received their tenures with the district.
Cromartie, having no idea what was going on behind the scenes, was also excited as his own tenure due date was right around the corner.
And then this happened:
East High School principal Anibal Soler pulled Cromartie to the side and told him that the RCSD didn’t like the email he sent out, and they had asked him to write Cromartie up.
Soler wanted it to remain ‘in house’, meaning that the write-up wouldn’t go in Cromartie’s file, but the District said no, they insisted that it go in his file.
After a hearing at District offices, Cromartie, accompanied by a union rep., argued that in his 15 years with the RCSD, he had never once received any write up.
Cromartie and the union rep also tried to explain that Larie Butler’s disappearance and death had been very hard on everyone, including himself, and that while perhaps not the best decision, he sent the email out because he wanted to do anything and everything he could to help find Larie.
Cromartie also pointed out that it had been a very tough year, not only with Larie’s death, but his sister had also passed away, and two more East High students had died in a fire.
Alpha Daly-Majors, with the RCSD’s human resources, didn’t care to hear that and simply said “So what? As an administrator he should have known better and had better control of his emotions.”
The matter was settled with a verbal reprimand.
Or so Cromartie thought.
A few days later, principal Soler again approached Cromartie and told him that the District wanted student data from Cromartie.
Cromartie, knowing this is not something the District normally asks before granting tenure, knew something was up, but nonetheless, submitted student data for 8th grade and high school science, for male gender base, data showing how 7th to 8th grade had improved, and he also submitted 7 and 8th grade ELA math test data.
Then, a couple of days later the District questioned Cromartie’s missing work when he had 10 days off after undergoing surgery for a hernia.
The District also questioned Cromartie taking a few days off when his sister passed away.
On January 30th, Cromartie and his union rep. met at East High School, where he was told that Superintendent Bolgen Vargas would not be granting Cromartie tenure.
Then Cromartie heard, “Today will be your last day of work.”
“Why?” asked Cromartie.
“Declining 7th and 8th grade test scores and the email you sent,” the District representative replied.
And just like that, in a City where our youth need more caring adults to help them, a good man’s career is over.
It’s amazing how those, like Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard, in positions of power, misuse that power in order to retaliate against someone for being outspoken.
Amazing how adults, act like children, throw temper tantrums, and use their connections to get back at others who are outspoken.
Not realizing how their actions can change lives.
Not just Bryant Cromartie’s, but the lives of students back at East High.
A support page for Bryant Cromartie has been stated on Facebook and community members are encouraged to come speak out at RCSD offices on February 14th.
Click the link below for more info.
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