Overwhelming Support for Debbie Almontasser and KGIA on the NY Times Blog

Check out the blog in full! Here are a few quotes:

Finally, after eight months the truth about Debbie Almontaser and the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) comes out! My only question is, what took so long?

Debbie’s staff stood by helplessly, in tears, while someone we all came to care about, and develop great respect for, was forced, yes FORCED, out.

I had the privilege of being Debbie Almontaser’s administrative intern during in July and August of 2007. Together with a carefully chosen, fully committed, extremely hardworking “Dream Staff”, I worked in small ways to help Debbie create a school I knew as a New Yorker, educator and citizen I would be proud to be part of. I had recently resigned my position as a teacher with the D.O.E., in part, like many others, because of the frustration with “the system”. Being at KGIA that summer reenergized me, and my belief that the education system could make a difference…

— Denise Harding, Brooklyn, NY

As a teacher at KGIA I have to say things have barely improved since Holly Reichert’s appointment. This week alone we have 6 students out on Suspension, one for carrying a knife to school. We have a teacher on a medical leave of absence after a student threatened to beat her, this caused her blood pressure to spike to a very unhealthy level. Ms. Reichert has threatened to fire this teacher, who is on medical leave, for missing work. She has given a new teacher, from Egypt, absolutely no support, which he has asked for on multiple occasions, but has rated him unsatisfactorily, grounds for termination at the end of the year. She has given another teacher an unsatisfactory rating after he followed her advice on how to teach a lesson. She speaks to the Arab-American teachers in a most disgusting manner saying things like, “You’ll do it cause I’m the principal” and “This isn’t a discussion.” She has zero ability to work with staff members. She makes policy up behind our backs and imposes them upon us without addressing any of our concerns.

KGIA is a mess and we believe that this was the city’s intention all along, open the controversial school so they don’t get tied up in a Constitutional Lawsuit and then do everything they can to close it down. We have been denied supplies. Daniel Pipes is curious what text we use to teach Arabic, we don’t have text. The administration will not supply a text or a curriculum. We have no proper science materials: microscopes, beakers, goggles, gloves, etc etc. We have a map that we can’t use. We don’t even have looseleaf paper.

You may not like the idea of a school teaching Arabic, but the only ones being hurt here are the kids. Given the current culture of the school, a culture of fear, the staff is afraid; afraid we may not have jobs next year because a political anti-Arab agenda, afraid we may get hurt: multiple staff members have been threatened, harassed, and hit by objects.

All we want is to do our jobs and do them well. Help us. We need materials that the Administration and DOE are denying us: looseleaf paper, folders, art supplies, science supplies, maps, atlases, the list goes on and on. So put your money where your mouth is, don’t just type your thoughts help us challenge what is being done. If the Mayor sees that ordinary citizens are providing us our materials they will be forced to take notice.

— A Teacher, Brooklyn

One last thing, if I may. KGIA does not, will not, nor was ever planned to teach an “Islamic Curriculum.” We teach the same curriculum as every other school in NYC. In fact the only thing we teach that differs is a language. That’s it. A language. People are up in arms over language. Yes, we want to include culture, which we haven’t, just like when I took Spanish in high school I learned about Spanish holidays such as Dia De Los Muertos or when I took Latin in high school and went on a trip to Italy.

Language. That’s what this is all about.

— A Teacher, Brooklyn


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