Letter to Sent to Mayor Bloomberg

September 17, 2009

The following letter was sent to Mayor Bloomberg by organizations from the Arab community and other diverse communities across NYC.

Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

We the undersigned write to request a meeting with you and the Department of Education (DOE) to discuss concerns about the current conditions of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), New York’s first Arabic dual language school.

For two years now, diverse communities across the city have called on you to provide KGIA with the leadership it needs to succeed. Not only has the administration neglected to support KGIA with adequate leadership to enable it to flourish, but, even as a new school year begins, it has left our communities with a number of very serious questions:

Why did the DOE not actively seek the assistance of the Arab community organizations in Brooklyn to find a more appropriate site for the school?

In 2008, with no input from parents, the school was moved from a location with a largely Arabic speaking community to a location with few or no Arabic speaking families and no access by subway.

What steps will the school leadership take both to fill all of KGIA’s seats and to fill the proposed requirement of 50% Arabic speaking students?

In the 2008-09 school year, the majority of the school’s 120 seats remained empty, with only 52 students enrolled (KGIA website).

Students and parents report that, in both its first- and second-year of operation, no more than 10% of the students enrolled in the school were Arabic-speaking students.  Many of Brooklyn’s Arab community organizations say that school leaders have made no efforts to recruit students through their groups.

What changes will the DOE make so that KGIA can function as an Arabic dual language program?

New Visions’ best practices for dual language learning recommends 50% non-English instruction at a “high frequency” and cites the need for teachers to be proficient in both languages.[1] KGIA started out with Arabic language classes taught only three times per week for one hour each.  All instruction in history, math, science, and other content area classes was in English.  According to the KGIA’s 2008-09 School Survey, 15% of the students surveyed stated that they were not offered Arabic language instruction at all. [2] Parents and students have also reported that Arabic language instruction was provided by a substitute teacher who was not permanently certified to teach and not permanently certified to teach Arabic.

Without both 50% of the students having Arabic as their first language and teachers who are proficient in both languages, a school cannot implement a dual language program.

How do the school leaders plan to incorporate the teaching of Arabic culture into the curriculum as was originally planned?

Parents and students report no Arabic cultural instruction.

How have the school leaders begun to address serious problems related to its staff/faculty-turnover rate?

In the 2007-2008 school year, all but two of the school’s faculty and staff were terminated, forced to resign, or resigned of their own will; two of these have filed lawsuits against the DOE; the NYCLU is representing one of these former staff members. The past school year had additional turnover. A qualified principal would develop a strong faculty and staff.

Mr. Mayor, we, communities across NYC, call on you to demonstrate the DOE’s commitment to KGIA by reopening the application process for principal in order to provide it with the leadership it needs to develop into a thriving school that, as intended, is a fully enrolled Arabic language dual language program that will add a grade each year until it serves grades 6-12. It is important that the original vision for the school be given a chance—and that this important project is shared more effectively with Arab community leaders and families.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,

Arab American Association of NY
Arab Muslim American Federation
Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media
Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence
Brooklyn for Peace
Center for Immigrant Families
Council on American-Islamic Relations-NY
Domestic Workers United
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Independent Parents Organizations
It is Time
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
La Union
Muslim Consultative Network
New York Collective of Radical Educators
Time Out

[1] New Visions, Center for School Success Best Practices Series, Dual Language Instruction http://www.newvisions.org/dls/DualLang.pdf

[2] NYC Department of Education. NYC School Survey 2008-2009 Report, Khalil Gibran International Academy


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