LETTER FROM KGIA PARENTS TO COMMUNITY AND TO CHANCELLOR AND MAYOR

6/19/08

For those concerned, as we are, with the future of the Khalil Gibran International Academy….

THESE ARE THE LEAFLETS WE (KGIA PARENTS) WERE GOING TO HAND OUT IN FRONT OF THE KGIA FUND-RAISER BEFORE IT GOT CANCELED AT THE LAST MINUTE:

We are writing you now because you are participating in a one-year anniversary celebration for KGIA. We wish we could be celebrating with you but the letter below, which has already been signed by many KGIA parents and which we will be sending to the Chancellor and Mayor, will explain why we cannot. We believe it is important for you to know what is really happening at KGIA and why it is a cause for great concern, rather than celebration. We hope that, after reading his letter, you will come to the school and learn for yourself what is really happening inside our school. We believe that, if you do that, you will understand why it is inappropriate and insulting to those of us who have had to endure the realities of this past year at KGIA to have such a celebration right now.

In addition to the reasons explained in the letter below, there are a few additional things that have happened that you may not be aware of:

In a closed meeting last month, Department of Education officials decided to make KGIA a 6-8th grade school rather than 6-12th. That is a very significant and detrimental change for a dual language school, which cannot achieve its goals within 3 years. KGIA administration did not discuss this with parents or inform them of the decision.

For the past several months, a substitute teacher has been teaching our children literacy out of license.

Our highly-regarded science teacher, who has been the most outspoken about the problems at the school, was removed from KGIA. KGIA administration has refused to give parents any information about his status as a KGIA teacher and claims falsely that he continues to grade students’ work.

Our children with special needs have been neglected this year.

Though the school’s original teachers are excellent and highly-skilled, the administration has not created an environment at the school that is conducive to teaching and learning. There are an unusually high number of discipline problems on a regular basis because the Department of Education has not provided the school with the leadership and resources it needs to succeed.

Please do not hesitate to contact us (347-445-0733) if you would like additional information. We send this to you with very heavy hearts.

Sincerely,

Pamposa Pena, PTA President Muhammed Fakir Shahada, KGIA Parent Susan O’Grady KGIA Parent

THIS IS THE LETTER (SIGNED BY 16 PARENTS AND FAMILY MEMBERS) THAT WE SENT TO THE MAYOR AND CHANCELLOR:

Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein:

We are parents and family members at the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn. We came to KGIA because we hoped for an excellent education for our children. We also wanted our children to attend a school that taught Arabic language and culture.

We are pleased that the New York Times has brought to the public’s attention what has happened to our school and its founding principal.

We would like to correct two points from the article:

1. The current principal is quoted as saying that the media attention has led to a “chaotic experience” for students. She is quoted as saying that “adults have created this, and children are the ones who have had to endure.” This is a false statement. The problems we have experienced are completely a result of what has been going on inside the school, the lack of resources and leadership, and the lack of support from the Department of Education.

2. The article says that, in recent weeks, conditions have improved. What the reporter may have been told is that we now have 3 classes, rather than 2, which is an improvement. As the rest of this letter will show, most things are not improving at the school.

In fact, we are very disappointed with how things have turned out at the school, and many of us are already pulling our children out of the school or are thinking of not returning next year. We hope it won’t come to that. One of the reasons we are thinking about leaving is that our school is moving to a neighborhood that is not easy to travel to and not near an Arab community, which is important for an Arabic language Dual Language program.

But, more than that, we are disturbed by the fact that the school has not had many of the resources it has needed since the beginning of the school year. Our children with special needs have not had proper instruction. Our social worker, whom students loved, was let go, though she has now been replaced with a guidance counselor. Students learning English as a Second Language went for seven months without proper language instruction. The walls that divide classrooms do not nearly reach the ceiling, creating a noisy environment that is difficult for teachers and students. Additionally, there have been numerous discipline problems, which continue to go unaddressed.

Most significantly, we worry about the school losing its identity as an Arabic dual langue program. In addition to the plan to move the school far from an Arab community, our Arabic language instruction has decreased to a little over two hours a week. We have seen little appreciation of Arabic language or culture within the school. There has not been a single cultural event where parents were invited to participate, and there are very few opportunities for our children to receive instruction about the culture.

As parents of KGIA students we believed we would be sending our children to a school that welcomed parent participation in the school community. We want and deserve a voice in our children’s education. However, the current leadership does not welcome us into the school or our children’s classrooms. Although we were told we would be included in discussions about whether and where the school should move before a decision was made, that did not happen. We ended up learning about the decision to move after the fact. Further, our children made and were circulating a petition to bring back the social worker that was fired. The principal took the petition from the children and ripped it up, showing no respect for their attempt to express their views and leadership on an issue that was important to them.

We believe the current leadership is not exhibiting a commitment to the mission of the school nor any ability to run the school effectively on a day-to-day basis. Under the current leadership, we have little faith that this will ever be the school we want for our children.

We are calling on the Department of Education to provide our school with better resources and leadership to educate our children. We want the school we were promised—the one envisioned and created by founding principal Debbie Almontaser. Our children deserve no less than that.

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