NYC director’s wife collects cash from Dominican teachers who pay high rent

The wife of a Bronx principal collects rent from teachers recruited from the Dominican Republic and forced to share a cooperative apparently owned by the principal’s mother.

The city’s education ministry announced in September with much fanfare that it had hired 25 bilingual Dominican teachers to work with Spanish-speaking students. But the program is now embroiled in allegations that the foreigners were controlled and intimidated by a group of DOE administrators who profited as their landlords.

In addition to a Bronx duplex housing 11 Dominican teachers from ADASA, the Association of Dominican-American Supervisors and Administrators, three more were placed in a three-bedroom co-op — each was being paid $1,350 to $1,400 a month calculated, plus deposits. teachers said.

Emmanuel Polanco, 39, ADASA’s first vice president and MS 80 director, who was fired this month over an investigation into the program, runs the rental with his wife Sterling Báez, 32, a DOE elementary school teacher in the Bronx.

The couple have keys to the staff rooms and mailbox, the teachers said. They also set rules: “We cannot receive visitors, Mrs. Polanco told us.”

2866 Marion Ave., Bronx, NY for the Sunday edition
The unit is a three bedroom apartment in a cooperative building purchased in 2006.
JC Reis

Teachers’ desperate attempts to save money were rejected: “We wanted to move into the same bedroom [and split the rent], but they said, “No, you can’t. You have to live individually.’”

The three bedroom condo in a 67 unit condo building at 2866 Marion Ave. was purchased in 2006 for $155,000 by Juana Polanco-Abreu, 61, who is listed in the records as the director’s mother.

Polanco-Abreu received a $10,000 loan from the city’s Department of Housing, Conservation and Development as part of a program designed to help low- and middle-income people buy their first homes, agency officials said in response to a request.

One of the Dominican teachers at the Marion Avenue co-op, Rosa Minier, said she had to rent a room there after being told her husband and three children, ages 12, 7 and 5, would not be able to join her in New York could come at least a year.

“I cry every night,” she said of missing her children.

But Minier enjoys teaching at the International School for Liberal Arts: “I love my job.”

The three women share a kitchen, a bathroom and a living room – which last week contained only an old, dismantled fish tank.

The Bronx Principal's wife, Emmanuel Polanco, Sterling Báez, 32, is raising rental funds from some Dominican Republic teachers who have been recruited to work in NYC.
Sterling Báez, a DOE elementary school teacher, helps manage the rental.

“I’m paying my rent to Polanco’s wife,” one said, showing “Esterlin Adasa” a screenshot of a $1,012 payment through a digital banking app with a phone number that records say 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 about her 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 principal, will take over as assistant principal. She didn’t mention Polanco, who was “reassigned” on November 2.

The Dominican teacher program is under investigation by city and federal authorities.

More have surfaced since The Post and CBS first reported complaints of exploitation and intimidation against Dominican teachers last week.

“I have continued to receive allegations even after the investigation was opened,” Bronx State Senator Luis Sepúlveda said on Friday. He did not want to discuss the allegations and said he referred them to the DOE.

ADASA took 11 teachers to a cramped duplex on Baychester Avenue in the Bronx and charged 10 of them $1,450 each and one $1,300 a month, The Post reported. The total proceeds of $15,800 would yield a profit of $8,900 versus the $6,900 ADASA is paying to lease the duplex.

Emmanuel Polanco at his home at 2171 Hughes Avenue in the Bronx on January 13, 2018.
Emmanuel Polanco has been removed as director of MS 80 pending an investigation.
Richard Harnus

Teachers were warned, several said, that if they object to the terms, they could lose their NYC jobs and J-1 visas.

“You can join the other teachers or resign voluntarily,” said Ramon Alexander Suriel, who was told Oct. 14 at an “ultimatum meeting” at MS 80 with Polanco and an MS 80 staffer.

Suriel, 50, who brought his wife and two children, ages 2 and 4, to share the experience in New York, said he was told to send his family back without him.

He quit and returned to the DR — after incurring about $3,500 in expenses because ADASA botched a series of plane tickets to NYC and forced him to pay for a second flight and lodging again.

“I want my money back,” he raged, adding that ADASA didn’t refund his lost money. “Nobody is responsible for this.”

The NYC teachers’ union said it will consider legal aid for Suriel and other Dominican teachers, UFT spokeswoman Alison Gendar said.

Last week, the other Dominican teachers who rented rooms received a letter in defense of Polanco and ADASA from Marianne Mason, executive director of the Cordell Hull Foundation for International Education, a New York-based group that sponsors the visas.

She blamed “culture shock” and “quite a lot of misunderstandings” for the teachers’ complaints.

Teachers pay Polanco's wife rent through a digital banking app.
Teachers pay Polanco’s wife rent through a digital banking app.

She said DOE administrators provided housing to spare teachers the “frustrating and difficult” task of finding their own. While the rent is being calculated, ADASA covers other expenses like utilities, internet and furniture, she said.

“Emmanuel Polanco and the entire ADASA team did all this work to give you, to contribute, not to benefit from you,” Mason wrote.

Mason warned the teachers they had signed a memorandum of understanding with the foundation that “gives us the right to cancel your visa if you do not behave in the spirit of the exchange or as a teacher.”

She denied that ADASA forced teachers to live in the buildings she leased: “You’ve always been given the opportunity to live somewhere else, and you still can.”

Reached by The Post, Mason said of the teachers, “They lie.”

Mason’s letter urges Dominicans “to contact any reporters you have interviewed and correct the facts.” NYC director’s wife collects cash from Dominican teachers who pay high rent


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