Dominican teachers working in city schools were surprised last week when a city Department of Education administrator knocked on their Bronx duplex door at 11 p.m., apparently to round up rent payments, according to sources.
Teachers in the Pilgrim Avenue building identified the city employee as Daniel Calcao, treasurer of ADASA, the Dominican-American Association of Supervisors and Administrators — a well-connected fraternal DOE group that offered to recruit bilingual teachers from Latin America to work with Spanish-speaking students.
Calcao, a former assistant principal working in a Bronx DOE office, had been collecting monthly payments of $1,350 to $1,450 from each of the five Dominican teachers required by ADASA to share the duplex.
When teachers opened the door late on December 2, they discovered Calcao holding his own key to the apartments. The teachers told DOE and union officials in a Dec. 4 meeting that they had blocked his entry and asked him to leave.
“He was trying to open the door. They didn’t let him come in,” said a person who attended the meeting.
Calcao and a spokesman for his union, the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, did not respond to requests for comment.
It wasn’t the only intrusion on Pilgrim Avenue. On Monday, an Asian man who refused to identify himself but claimed to be “in charge of the apartment” entered the shared living room and began knocking on bedroom doors, according to teachers. He, too, was told to leave.
Eleven other teachers were paying Calcao rent for rooms in a duplex on Baychester Avenue.
Another three teachers paid rent to the wife of Emmanuel Polanco, ADASA’s first vice president and principal of MS 80 in the Bronx, who was fired last month after an investigation was launched.
The co-op was purchased in 2006 by Polanco’s mother, who died several years ago but is still listed as the owner in city records.
Sterling Báez, Polanco’s wife, collected rent from the three teachers. Báez issued an ultimatum to the teachers a week ago: pay the rent for this month by December 6 or leave.
“It was an ultimatum,” an insider said. The teachers wanted to move, saying Polanco and his wife barred visitors and controlled their mailbox.
At the meeting, DOE representatives told the teachers to cut off contact with ADASA, and stop paying or taking orders from members of the group.
“ADASA is not your employer,” they were told.
Ruskin Pimentel, a spokesman for Bronx State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda, said his office is in touch with the DOE on its efforts to resolve the distressing problems.
“We are happy the DOE is addressing this situation. Our main concern is the well-being of the teachers, and we are confident that, so, far, the DOE is taking the right steps,” Pimentel said.
Last week, the teachers faced another threat. On Monday, Marianne Mason, executive director of the Cordell Hull Foundation, which sponsors the exchange program, informed the teachers that their visas would be terminated if they did not provide the organization with updated addresses and phone numbers.
The email came after The Post reported that the teachers’ cell phones, which were provided by ADASA for $60 per month, had been inexplicably turned off the previous week.
Representatives from the UFT, the teachers’ union, stated at the Dec. 4 meeting that they would provide the recruits with legal aid if any problems arose while they sought other accommodations. On Tuesday, they met with attorneys.
UFT president Michael Mulgrew, at a Zoom town hall on Wednesday, briefly mentioned the Dominican “scandal.”
“We’re there for those teachers,” he said, “but the city allowed that to happen and acts like they had nothing to do with it.”