Law & Courts

Key N.Y.C. School Official Forced to Resign

By Jeff Archer — March 17, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Diana Lam, the nationally known administrator at the forefront of the New York City schools’ overhaul of instruction, resigned last week amid accusations that she had helped her husband gain employment in the 1.1 million-student system. The uproar also claimed the job of the system’s top lawyer.

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein asked for Ms. Lam’s resignation March 8, after talking with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and reading an investigative report on the matter. The report concluded that Ms. Lam had assisted her husband in getting an administrator’s post and had failed to follow procedures for avoiding conflicts of interest in hiring.

“I’m sorry this event occurred,” Mr. Klein said at a press conference. “My decision with respect to Ms. Lam was based on the fact I thought she would no longer be effective in the job.”

Ms. Lam, who held the title of deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, defended her actions in written statements. She maintained that her husband’s employment had been “given a green light” by other top officials in the system.

Her ouster is a major blow to the administration of the country’s largest school system. Mr. Klein, whom Mr. Bloomberg picked as chancellor after the mayor gained control of the system two years ago, chose Ms. Lam to help lead a thorough revision of the system’s curricula and governance.

Most of those changes have stirred sharp debate. In particular, reading-instruction strategies adopted with Ms. Lam’s support have been attacked by many teachers in the city, some experts, and advisors to the Bush administration. (“N.Y.C. Hangs Tough Over Maverick Curriculum,” Oct. 15, 2003.)

Her tenure in New York was not the first time Ms. Lam had become a lightning rod for criticism. She has won ample fans and detractors for her assertive leadership style during her career as a superintendent of schools in Chelsea, Mass.; Dubuque, Iowa; Providence, R.I.; and San Antonio.

No Changes of Course

In New York, press queries prompted the school system’s special commissioner of investigation to look into the hiring last summer of Ms. Lam’s husband, Peter Plattes, as a regional instructional specialist—a position in Ms. Lam’s division.

The resulting report said Ms. Lam did not obtain approval for the hiring from the city’s conflicts-of- interest board. It also describes efforts seen by some as attempts to facilitate her husband’s selection for the job. One administrator is quoted in the report as saying Ms. Lam once asked her to take some of Mr. Plattes’ papers to the human-resources department, adding “these are my husband’s.”

Ms. Lam last week denied seeking special treatment for her husband, who is an educator. In her statements, she noted that Mr. Plattes never drew a paycheck, as he quickly withdrew from the position when Mr. Klein expressed concern about his employment in July. Mr. Plattes subsequently sought a teaching position at a Bronx high school, but similarly withdrew before starting the job.

Ms. Lam also said she had alerted the system’s chief counsel, Chad Vignola, of Mr. Plattes’ interest in working for the district. According to the investigative report, Mr. Vignola initially had told the press that Mr. Plattes was a volunteer, because he had not been paid.

Chancellor Klein defended Mr. Vignola last week, but the lawyer announced his resignation on March 10, two days after Ms. Lam stepped down.

Mr. Klein, who said he would stay the course Ms. Lam started, appointed Carmen Fariña, one of the city’s regional superintendents, to fill her post.

“Obviously, when you’re talking about perhaps the most major set of school reforms in the country, this is not about any individual,” Mr. Klein said.


Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind
Student Achievement K-12 Essentials Forum Tutoring Done Right: How to Get the Highest Impact for Learning Recovery
Join us as we highlight and discuss the evidence base for tutoring, best practices, and different ways to provide it at scale.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Supreme Court Asks for Biden Administration's Views on Legal Status of Charter Schools
Stemming from a suit over a North Carolina school's dress code, the issue is whether "public" charter schools act with government authority.
3 min read
Thunder storm sky over the United States Supreme Court building in Washington DC.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Law & Courts West Virginia Law Barring Transgender Girls From School Sports Upheld by Federal Judge
The decision is a turnabout for the judge, who cast doubt on the law in 2021 and issued an order allowing a transgender girl to compete.
4 min read
Judge gavel on law books with statue of justice and court government background. concept of law, justice, legal.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Law & Courts A Teacher Argued His MAGA Hat Was Protected Speech. Here's What a Federal Appeals Court Said
Did a principal violate a teacher's rights when she told him not to bring his Donald Trump-inspired hat to a racial-sensitivity training?
4 min read
Image of a gavel
Law & Courts School District Policy Basing Restroom Access on 'Biological Sex' Upheld by Appeals Court
The sharply divided appellate court rules against transgender student Drew Adams and possibly tees up a major fight in the Supreme Court.
5 min read
Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Dec. 5, 2019.
Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside a federal courthouse in Atlanta in 2019. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled against him on Dec. 30.
Ron Harris/AP