Baldwin High School principal to step down

Caterina Lafergola, once criticized, was loved by many


Caterina Lafergola, whose 2016 appointment as principal of Baldwin High School was criticized by many in the community, will step down at the end of the month, a district spokeswoman said.

Lafergola, who could not be reached for comment, had two years left on her contract.

Dr. Shari Camhi, superintendent of the Baldwin Union Free School District, said in an emailed statement, “The Baldwin Board of Education accepted the resignation of Caterina Lafergola as High School Principal, effective June 30, 2018, at the Board’s June 13 meeting. The district will appoint an interim principal for the 2018-2019 school year and begin a search for the permanent position.”

Kimberly Leibrock Cascio, who has children at Baldwin High and is the vice president of health and safety for the Parent Teacher Association, praised Lafergola’s work. “Some parents weren’t happy when they hired her because of negative press that was in the [New York] Post,” Cascio told the Herald. “She has most definitely proven herself in the past two years. She has made our school better and has accomplished good things. She enforced rules that we’ve had for years that were neglected by the previous principal.”

In September 2016, Lafergola — who previously served as principal of Automotive High School in Brooklyn — reportedly pulled aside dozens of teenage girls at Baldwin High School for dress code violations and told one student that her skirt was “distracting to male staff members,” according to the Post.

Other Baldwin parents posted messages on Facebook pages, expressing disappointment with the principal’s sudden resignation and applauding her for her work there.

In a recent letter to Camhi, Cascio said, “Ms. Lafergola is most definitely all about our Baldwin children. They are her priority. She is just what that school needed.”

The Baldwin Board of Education’s choice to hire Lafergola two years ago was met with much opposition and a petition with more than 1,500 signatures. Shani Bruno, the parent who started the petition and was among Lafergola’s main detractors, could not be reached for comment by press time.

She said in a published report last Friday, “It’s unfortunate that the district is in a position again now, two years later after all of the community reservations about the appointment. To me this calls into question the judgment of the superintendent and the Board of Education that empowers her to make such a poor choice in a building leader for our community’s high school.”

Joel Press, the Baldwin Board of Education president, did not return a call requesting comment by press time Monday afternoon.

Many who spoke out against Lafergola, who earned $167,416 as principal of Baldwin High, said she lacked leadership abilities, pointing to her rocky tenure at AHS as evidence — a 2014-15 New York City Department of Education survey found that 58 percent of students, teachers and parents at the school believed it had effective leadership.

The New York City school was part of a multimillion-dollar program aimed at turning around failing institutions. Under the program, called Renewal Schools, Automotive High School’s graduation rate reached 72 percent by the end of the 2016-17 school year, 12 points better than its goal for that year.

The Baldwin school board unanimously approved hiring Lafergola in June 2016, after the former principal announced her retirement.

Lafergola also faced controversy during her time at Baldwin. In February 2017, she came under fire for naming students who had been suspended in a staff newsletter, a violation of student privacy laws.