A Bronx principal’s wife collects rent money from teachers recruited from the Dominican Republic and forced to share a co-op apparently owned by the principal’s mother.
The city’s Department of Education announced to much fanfare in September that it had hired 25 bilingual Dominican teachers to work with Spanish-speaking students. But the program is now embroiled in accusations that the aliens were controlled and intimidated by a group of DOE administrators taking advantage of their landlord.
In addition to a Bronx duplex where 11 Dominican teachers were housed by ADASA, the Association of Dominican-American Supervisors and Administrators, three others were placed in a three-bedroom co-op – each charged $1,350-1,400 $ per month, plus security deposits, the teachers said.
Emmanuel Polanco, 39, ADASA’s first vice president and director of MS 80 – removed from his post this month pending an investigation into the program – runs the rental with his wife, Sterling Báez, 32-year-old DOE elementary school teacher in the Bronx.
The couple hold the keys to the bedrooms and the teachers’ mailbox, the teachers said. They also set rules: “We can’t have visitors, Ms. Polanco told us.”
Teachers’ desperate attempts to save money were rejected: ‘We wanted to move into the same room [and split the rent], but they said “No, you can’t”. You have to live individually.
The three-bedroom apartment in a 67-unit co-op building at 2866 Marion Ave. was purchased for $155,000 in 2006 by 61-year-old Juana Polanco-Abreu, who is listed in the records as the manager’s mother.
Polanco-Abreu received a $10,000 loan from the city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development as part of a program to help low- and middle-income people buy their first homes, said agency officials in response to an investigation.
One of the Dominican teachers at the Marion Avenue cooperative, Rosa Minier, said she had to rent a room there after learning that her husband and three children, ages 12, 7 and 5, could not afford it. join in New York for at least a year.
“I cry every night,” she said of missing her children.
But Minier enjoys teaching at the International School of Liberal Arts: “I love my job.”
The three women share a kitchen, bathroom and living room – which last week only contained an old dismantled aquarium.
“I’m paying my rent to Polanco’s wife,” one said, showing a screenshot of a $1,012 payment on a digital banking app to “Esterlin Adasa” with a phone number which, according to records, belongs to Báez.
Báez, who posts sexy photos of herself on Facebook, is a teacher at PS 595 The Colibrí Community School in the Bronx.
Báez did not respond to an email asking for his role. The city’s Department of Education and Polanco did not respond to requests for comment.
On Friday, District 10 Superintendent Maribel Torres-Hulla sent a letter to the MS 80 community announcing that Kenyatta Williams, an assistant superintendent, will take over as interim superintendent. She did not mention Polanco, who was “reassigned” on November 2.
The Dominican teacher program is currently under investigation by municipal and federal authorities.
Since The Post and CBS first reported complaints of exploitation and intimidation of Dominican teachers last week, more have emerged.
“I continued to receive allegations even after the investigation was opened,” Bronx State Senator Luis Sepúlveda said Friday. He would not discuss the allegations, saying he had referred them to the DOE.
ADASA placed 11 teachers in a cramped two-family house on Baychester Avenue in the Bronx, charging 10 of them $1,450 a month each and one $1,300 a month, The Post reported. The total of $15,800 in revenue collected would yield a profit of $8,900 on the $6,900 paid by ADASA to rent the duplex.
The teachers were warned, according to many, that they could lose their jobs in New York and their J-1 visas if they objected to the terms.
“You can join the other teachers, or you can resign voluntarily,” Ramon Alexander Suriel said during an Oct. 14 “ultimatum meeting” at MS 80 with Polanco and a member of MS 80 staff.
Suriel, 50, who brought his wife and two children, aged 2 and 4, to share the New York experience, said he was told to send his family away without him.
He quit and returned to the Dominican Republic – after incurring some $3,500 in expenses due to ADASA botching a set of plane tickets to New York, forcing him to pay again for a second flight and overnight stays.
“I want my money back,” he fumed, adding that ADASA had not refunded his lost money. “No one is responsible for it.”
The NYC teachers’ union said it would consider legal aid for Suriel and other Dominican teachers, UFT spokeswoman Alison Gendar said.
Last week, other Dominican teachers renting rooms received a letter of defense from Polanco and ADASA from Marianne Mason, executive director of the Cordell Hull Foundation for International Education, a New York-based visa-sponsoring group.
She blamed the teachers’ complaints on “culture shock” and “a number of points of misunderstanding”.
She said DOE administrators provided accommodations to spare teachers the “frustrating and difficult” task of finding their own. While charging rent, ADASA covers other expenses such as utilities, internet and furniture, she said.
“Emmanuel Polanco and the whole ADASA team have done all this work to give, to contribute and not to take advantage of you,” Mason wrote.
Mason warned the teachers that they had signed a memorandum of understanding with the foundation which “gives us the right to cancel your visa if you do not behave in the spirit of exchange or by default as a teacher” .
She denied that ADASA forced teachers to live in the buildings she rented: “You have always been given the option of living elsewhere and you always can.
Reached by The Post, Mason said of the teachers, “They lie.”
Mason’s letter demands that the Dominicans “contact and correct the facts of all journalists who have interviewed you”.
New York Post