Sean Keaton, the principal of P.S. 20 (a/k/a the Clinton Hill School), is said to be a yeller — “He spent a lot of time yelling a kids in the schoolyard in a very this is a tough city school and I am here to teach you all manners kind of way” — and now he is charged with being a puncher and a kicker, too: he was arrested yesterday for assaulting a teacher during a meeting.
Maybe the press got to him. There have been rumblings about him lately in the Brooklyn Paper, Brownstoner, the Times‘ Fort Greene/Clinton Hill blog, and elsewhere. The Brooklyn Paper suggested there was so much interest from parents in a nearby charter school because of Keaton’s difficult reputation. Posters at insideschools.com called him “authoritarian” and “verbally abusive” (though some posters defended him). Brownstoner ran a poll asking if he should removed; it ran against him, though it only drew 172 votes. The Times blog ran negative remarks on Keaton; commenters went back and forth as to whether the principal was overbearing or just a good disciplinarian — and also whether agitation against him proceeded mainly from newcomers to the neighborhood (“20 was here long before you arrived, it just wasn’t on your radar until it was beneficial for you”). The school received a C in its last DOE report, though those grades are hardly dispositive.
Keaton, in a rambling letter to the Times blog (“On local blogs I am referred to as Mugabe and Hitler… The only thing I have in common with John Mugabe is that we are both men of color. For the record I have never met or spoken to the man”), offered to “meet and listen to the community (preferably large groups).”
But before such a meeting could take place, Keaton had one concerning a special education teacher accused of hitting students. Teacher Robert Segarra was there as the accused teacher’s union rep; Keaton allegedly became angry with him, and expressed this by poking, punching, knocking down, and kicking Segarra. The 38-year-old principal was arrested yesterday and charged with misdemeanor assault.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 22, 2009