July-August Issue, 2011
by Debbie Almontaser and Donna Nevel
Debbie Almontaser who founded and was principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy, was a teacher and administrator in New York City’s public school system for twenty years. Currently she is a doctoral candidate at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education. Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, has been involved with a wide range of organizing efforts for justice. She is coordinator of the Participatory Action Research Center for Education Organizing (PARCEO) in partnership with the Educational Leadership Program at Steinhardt-NYU, where she teaches PAR.
This article appears in two parts. The first tells the story of what happened to New York’s Khalil Gibran International Academy and its founder, and the second describes the organizing campaign that followed.
The Story of Khalil Gibran International Academy
by Debbie Almontaser
In 2005, I was immersed in working with the Mayor’s Office on the inauguration of Arab Heritage week. In the midst of this, New Visions for Public Schools, a school reform organization, decided to begin the development of an Arabic/Hebrew-language high school with a co-existence theme. After months of searching for an Arab-American educator to work on such a school, Adam Rubin contacted me after the recommendations from the Department of Education (DOE), the Mayor’s office of Immigrant Affairs, and lastly, even from an Arab-American woman at a Brooklyn falafel stand.