Teachers at a New York elementary school are getting their furniture back after they were suddenly ordered to remove all desks and cabinets from their classrooms last week.
Donna Connelly, principal of P.S. 24 Spuyten Duyvil School in Riverdale, had the furniture thrown out because she didn’t want teachers sitting, according to a story first reported in the New York Post.
“It’s the 21st century—you don’t need desks,” Connelly reportedly said.
According to the Post, Connelly had teachers clear out their desks and filing cabinets while classes were in session. Children watched as teachers removed paperwork and medication items from drawers before they pushed the empty furniture into the hallway. Custodians then took the furniture outside of the school and dumped them at the curb.
When asked where teachers should store their supplies, Connelly reportedly snapped, “Figure it out.” So teachers resorted to putting their belongings in bags and boxes in the classroom, according to the Daily Mail. When asked where they should grade papers, Connelly responded, “Use the lunchroom.”
Although it is not entirely clear what prompted Connelly’s no-desks decree, she reportedly has wanted the change for years.
“What I was told personally was that [Ms. Connelly] had wanted to do it for seven years, it was her vision, and she doesn’t want [District 10 Superintendent] Melodie Mashel coming in December and seeing desks anywhere,” one P.S. 24 teacher told The Riverdale Press.
Photographs of the P.S. 24 desks piled up on the street were uploaded to a teacher’s Facebook page, which has since been deleted. The post sparked hundreds of outraged comments criticizing the principal for her behavior, with one teacher commenting: “Thirty years in the system and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
After an uproar from teachers and Post readers, District 10 Superintendent Melodie Mashel ordered the return of the desks and cabinets on Friday—but then the furniture was stored in the basement.
On Monday afternoon, Connelly finally sent a staff-wide email saying, “Please be advised that I will be returning desks to all classrooms,” according to the Post.
A spokesperson for the city Department of Education said the furniture was initially moved out “to facilitate better instruction.”
The idea of removing the front-and-center teacher’s desk from classrooms has become popular in recent years as educators have sought to create nontraditional learning spaces and to circulate more among students. But this is the first we’ve heard of a principal ordering the removal of existing desks—in the middle of a school day, two months into the school year. Not exactly the best way to get buy-in.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.