November 14, 2007
Dear Mr. Hughes and New Visions Board of Directors:
We, the steering committee of Communities In Support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (CISKGIA), are writing to express our great dismay about the role New Visions has played with respect to Debbie Almontaser’s forced resignation from her position as founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA).
As educators, parents, and community advocates, we understand that New Visions’ role is to support newly created schools and their founding principals in myriad ways. Therefore, we do not understand why New Visions –as the school’s intermediary organization and as the school’s Partnership Support Organization– did not support Debbie Almontaser and KGIA after she was attacked as part of an ongoing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim campaign in the New York Post, the Sun, and by right wing-bloggers and groups like Stop the Madrassa. We do not understand why Debbie’s New Visions colleagues did not speak out publicly against those defaming her and the school. We do not understand why you, Mr. Hughes, demanded her resignation and told her you would not open the school if she did not resign.
Should progressive and committed educators know that, when there are attacks against them because of their race, ethnicity, or religion…they will be given the choice between resigning their job or seeing the end of the school they helped bring into existence?
Had New Visions, the Mayor, the DOE, and the UFT President responded to the racist and unfounded attacks and defended Ms. Almontaser and the school, she would still be principal. The New Visions role in forcing Ms. Almontaser’s resignation and your failure to confront those attacks by strongly speaking out in support of her allowed those attacks to go unchallenged by the city’s educational power-brokers. The most important losers are the students who attend the school, parents who chose to send their children to it because they were excited by its vision, and staff who applied to be part of a creative and unique new school. But others have lost as well, including concerned community members and all those committed to the equitable and high-quality public education that New Visions identifies as –but, in this instance, has failed to make–its priority.
What kind of a message does caving in to these right-wing pressures send to educators across New York City who are interested in establishing small schools with innovative themes? Should progressive and committed educators know that, when there are attacks against them because of their race, ethnicity, or religion– or because they see mention of a controversial word or idea as a teachable moment rather than cause for a knee-jerk, uninformed response– they will be given the choice between resigning their job or seeing the end of the school they helped bring into existence?
Though we appreciate the support that New Visions offers the Khalil Gibran International Academy, we strongly believe that the role your organization has played in forcing Debbie Almontaser’s resignation has been a tremendous disappointment to the educational community and undermines the small school movement and the struggle for justice, equity, and innovation in public education.
We urge you both to publicly support the reinstatement of Debbie Almontaser to her position as acting interim principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy and to call for the Department of Education to consider her unmatched qualifications as an applicant in the C-30 process for appointment as permanent principal. As you know, she will be filing a lawsuit in the near future. The public will want to see if New Visions will take the high road by supporting this brave and innovative educator.
COMMUNITIES IN SUPPORT OF KHALIL GIBRAN INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY
For more information about CISKGIA, visit https://kgia.wordpress.com.