Bilingual teachers brought from the Dominican Republic to work in New York City public schools have been treated like indentured servants by educators acting as their slumlords, The Post has learned.
Bronx principal Emmanuel Polanco and a group of fellow Department of Education administrators have put nearly a dozen teachers recruited from the DR in an apparently illegal boarding house in The Bronx — and charge the instructors $1,450 each month for the privilege, multiple sources say.
Polanco and his associates threaten to say “adios” to anyone who doesn’t go along, several teachers told The Post.
“If you leave, you might get in trouble,” teacher Rafael De Paula, 39, said the recruits were warned. “You can leave, but if you go, you go back to the Dominican Republic.”
Several teachers who balked at the terms or insisted on finding their own housing — including one who wanted to live with his brother in NYC – were terminated and sent packing, their colleagues said. Others fear they may lose their J-1 visas, which allow foreigners to work or study in the US if they disobey.
“It’s a big embarrassment,” said a DOE insider informed of the lucrative scheme. “It also has the potential to damage the relationship between New York City and the DR if they don’t do right by these teachers.”
Since most of the newcomers lost their jobs in the DR when they joined the DOE program, they can’t afford to be expelled because they support families left behind.
“Right now, if I went back to the Dominican Republic, the only thing that I would find there, other than my family, is financial problems,” said Neylin Puello, 31, who teaches aviation at JHS 80 along with other recruits — where Polanco is their boss.
Under city rules, a financial relationship between a superior and subordinate, including the leasing of property, is prohibited.
Polanco, 39, was quietly ousted from the Norwood middle school and “reassigned pending resolution of a personal matter,” District 10 Superintendent Maribel Torres-Hulla said in a Nov. 2 email to families.
The Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools said it is “aware of, and looking into,” the matter.
The rentals are run by Polanco and a group of DOE administrators, the Association of Dominican-American Supervisors and Administrators, known as ADASA NY.
Polanco, described by the teachers as their main contact, is the past president and current first vice president. Treasurer Daniel Calcaño, a DOE administrator in the Bronx, collects the payments, they said.
“There is no organization in our public schools that means more to me than ADASA,” Chancellor David Banks gushed at a September 15 press conference announcing the recruitment of 25 teachers to help with the influx of Spanish-speaking migrants. Echoing Mayor Adams’ mantra, he added, “ADASA gets stuff done.”
But a Post investigation found ADASA could be stuffing its pockets.
Ying Qing Li of Fox River Grove, Ill., bought the duplex in July for $810,000 as an investment, she said. Her agent, Elsa Ni, said the house was leased to ADASA, which pays $6,900 a month for both units. Ni understood the building would house teachers from the DR but said she had no idea how many would move in.
ADASA charges 10 teachers $1,450 a month, and one $1,300, each for single rooms, the teachers said. The $15,800 in rent collected would net a monthly profit of $8,900. Another Bronx building run by ADASA houses eight teachers, and a third is rented by three teachers, sources said.
Puello said he is charged $1,300 a month, not $1,450 like the others because his room is the smallest, furnished only with a full-sized bed, a dresser, and a wall-mounted TV.
Four male teachers occupy the third floor of the building, sharing a kitchen and full bathroom. Seven female teachers rent rooms on the first floor and second floors. They also share a kitchen and bathroom, the tenants said.
Each rented room has door locks, they said. Housing lawyers and the city Department of Buildings said that would constitute a single-room occupancy, or SRO, which is illegal in NYC — and possibly dangerous in an emergency — unless previously approved. The building has no record of preexisting SRO units, said DOB spokesman Andrew Rudansky, adding that officials would inspect the premises and possibly issue a vacate order.
The Dominican teachers said they get roughly $1,800 after taxes and other deductions in twice-monthly DOE paychecks. They are paid as substitutes — roughly $199.27 per day — pending NY state certification. Long-term subs may earn slightly more and get some sick or vacation days.
Several teachers who spoke to the Post fumed at the rental cost. “We know we can get it cheaper somewhere else,” Puello said. “I have to support myself and my family at home. I’m working for rent.”
The teachers were first assured they could bring their families, but “at the last minute,” were told to come alone for the first year or so. Puello said. Missing his five-year-old daughter’s birthday this month “was the hardest thing ever.”
DOE officials did not respond to a request for comment. Socorro Diaz, the director of English-language instruction in the Bronx and ADASA president, also did not reply.
A spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s office said the “charitable organization” has failed to register or file the required financial records. The agency wrote to ADASA last week, asking it to comply.
Polanco refused to speak with a reporter.
Craig DiFolco, a spokesman for the principals’ union, CSA, had no comment on the rentals, but said of Polanco, “Our union will vigorously enforce his due process rights as well as defend him against any false or unsubstantiated allegations.”