An open letter in support of Debbie Almontaser.


Open Letter to Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein from Educators in Support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy and Principal Debbie Almontaser.

In 2007 the New York City Public Schools approved the establishment of the first-ever NY public school focusing on Arabic language and culture. This new small dual-language school, Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), addressed a need and dream of many in New York’s Arab communities. Leading the campaign for this specialty academy was Debbie Almontaser, a respected educator and community leader, who was selected to become the school’s founding principal.

Before the school ever opened its doors, Almontaser was forced to resign. When Debbie Almontaser was forced out as principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a blow was struck against the rights and academic freedom of educators everywhere. Principal Almontaser was the guiding light and the pioneer behind the founding of the new school, which was envisioned as part of a vibrant small-schools movement fostering personalization, autonomy, and the empowerment of teachers.

A campaign of lies, racial fear, and anti-Arab prejudice, emanating from a conservative media group including the New York Post and supported by Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, forced Almontaser from her post. Prior to and during the first semester of the school’s existence, Almontaser was replaced by two principals, neither of whom possesses her exceptional academic qualifications, her leadership capabilities, her relationship with the school community, nor her knowledge of Arabic language and culture.

KGIA was attacked by a small group of fear-mongering bigots. It was labeled a “terrorist school” and a “madrassa.” But this campaign of slander has been met by a broad coalition supporting the school and its intended principal, including leading organizations spanning the many diverse communities in New York. This coalition is pursuing every channel to restore Almontaser to her rightful position and to clear her name and her reputation.

Debbie Almontaser did nothing wrong. She committed no crime. She violated no rules nor any terms of her contract. She was forced to resign after doing nothing more than answering a reporter’s question about the root meaning of the word intifada.

For those of us working in the field of education, the treatment of Debbie Almontaser represents a threat not only to our rights as educators and citizens in a democratic society; it is also an attack on the small-schools movement and on the push for diversity and equity within our system of public education. Will bigotry be allowed to decide which public schools can exist and who can lead them?

We the undersigned insist that Debbie Almontaser be returned to her post as founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy.

Bernadette Anand, Bank Street Graduate School of Education

Gary Anderson, Steinhardt School of Education, N.Y.U.

Bill Armaline, Bowling Green State University

Rick Ayers, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education

William Ayers, University of Illinois at Chicago

Carmen Colon, Association of NYC’s Educated Communities

Kathleen Cushman, education writer

Lisa Delpit, Center for Urban Education and Innovation, Florida International U.

Michelle Fine, The Graduate Center—City University of New York

Ofelia Garcia, Teachers College, Columbia University

Maxine Greene, Teachers College, Columbia University

Kris D. Gutierrez, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA

Paula Hajar, Bronx Charter School for Better Learning

Annette Henry, Education Program, University of Washington, Tacoma

Jay P. Heubert, Teachers College, Columbia University

Fred Klonsky, President, Park Ridge (Illinois) Education Association

Mike Klonsky, Small Schools Workshop

Susan Klonsky, Small Schools Workshop

Kevin Kumashiro, University of Illinois at Chicago

Gloria Ladson-Billings, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Carol Lee, Northwestern University

Sally Lee, Teachers Unite

Linda Levine, Bank Street Graduate School of Education

Tara Mack, Education for Liberation Network

Edwin Mayorga, New York Collective of Radical Educators

Deborah W. Meier, Steinhardt School of Education, N.Y.U.

Jon Moscow, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol

Arwa Nasser, United Nations International School

Donna Nevel, Center for Immigrant Families

Pedro A. Noguera, Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, N.Y.U.

Gary Orfield, Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, UCLA

Granville Leo Stevens, Independent Parents Organizations

*affilitations listed for identification purposes

To endorse this statement, please email denevel@gmail.com with your name and affiliation and put “Debbie Almontaser” in the subject line.

Death toll rises.

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Simeon Career Academy, Chicago. Not Baghdad.

This past week has seen an explosion of casualties in the city.

Not Baghdad. Although Baghdad too.

I’m talking about Chicago.

After returning home from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, Maria Rodriguez waited for her husband to call with updates of her son’s condition. But when the phone rang, it was someone from her son’s school who wanted to tell her how saddened they were about his death.

No, she told them. Francisco was going to live. It was another boy who was killed Monday night.

“There is so much violence now, it’s difficult for the schools to keep track of who lives and who dies,” Maria Rodriguez said in a telephone interview.

CPS boss Arne Duncan, Mayor Daley and the political leadership appear clueless. In a city that has one of the toughest gun control laws in the country they have nothing new to say. As if there own policies of school closings and the shipping of students across town from one school to another has had no role in the increased violence.

Senator Barack Obama: The Cost of War.

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Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting to give every American a quality education. We could be fighting for the young men and women all across this country who dream big dreams but aren’t getting the kind of education they need to reach for those dreams. For a fraction of what we’re spending each year in Iraq, we could be giving our teachers more pay and more support, rebuilding our crumbling schools, and offering a tax credit to put a college degree within reach for anyone who wants one.

West Virginia, March 20.

Random thoughts from Brooklynjak.

“Let me tell you something. When it comes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit,” said Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is comparing herself to Rocky. Well, it is true that Rocky didn’t quit, but he also didn’t win.

The charter school dilemma.

This past week we have been posting on the Ohio charter operator White Hat Management. The Ohio Federation of Teachers and the Columbus Education Association have done a good job of flushing out these scam artists. It has created a lot of interest in what is the muck and mire of Ohio charter schools.

But if you are ideologically chained to the single solution of charter schools as a panacea for what ails public schools then Ohio and White Hat present a dilemma.

You can’t just say that the OFT is right and White Hat is a crummy excuse for charter operator. Instead you have to say, “Oh yeh? Well anyway, the union really isn’t interested in quality schools, so even if White House runs a bad operation, to expose them is just a union ploy.” And the students be damned.

Pathetic really.

People who are truly interested in charters as a part of valuable educational experimentation, as a hot-house for school innovation or as part of a wide range of school reform options, would be out in front going after the scam artists.

Where are the Reading First indictments? Fuhget about it.

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It has been a while since we visited the issue of Reading First, the ED’s major scam that erupted last year when it was learned that millions of federal education dollars had been channeled to Bush’s favored folks.

Writes the WaPo:

A 2006 report from the Education Department’s inspector general, John P. Higgins Jr., said some program officials steered states to certain tests and textbooks. Congressional testimony last year also revealed that some of those people benefited financially.

I thought there would be, and was hoping for, federal indictments.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the District, Channing Phillips, said last week that the matter remains “under review.”

But a Justice Department that doesn’t think waterboarding is torture isn’t going to be bothered by a bunch of million dollars in kickbacks that should have gone to schools and kids.

So, last year the Congress chopped the Reading First budget by sixty percent.

But the dog won’t die.

ED Secretary Margaret Spellings wants it and wants it bad. Says the Post:

Now the Bush administration is making what amounts to an end run around Congress, coaching states on how to find other sources of federal money to preserve what had been a $1 billion-a-year program. The administration calls the program central to the No Child Left Behind law’s goal of helping disadvantaged students close the achievement gap.

Oh right. The achievement gap. Bush is interested in closing the achievement gap.

Can you guys just get a room?

Russo and Rotherham go at it at AERA and on their blogs. No need to take sides.

Says Rotherham:

You can’t trust Alexander Russo to report on a school bake sale and give an accurate account of the price of brownies.

Well. That would be true.

But you know it is pretty lame when you write on your blog, as Rotherham does:

One point I didn’t make on the panel but wish I had is…

Hey, man. He was there. You were there. You two should just get a room.

First National Monument in honor of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Today at 1PM at the Embarcadero in San Francisco the first national monument in honor of the volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade will be dedicated.

In 1936, and for three years after, Spain was the center of the anti-fascist struggle in the world. General Francisco Franco, with the backing of Hitler and Mussolini, organized a rebellion of generals to overthrow the democratically elected Republican government.

No governments came to Spain’s aid. Volunteers, including 3,000 Americans, went to the aid of the Spanish Republic.The San Francisco monument designed by Ann Chambelain and Walter Hood “recognizes their everlasting moral courage,” says the organizers.

Sunday links.

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One of the country’s foremost collectors of contemporary art, Mr. Fisher, 79, and his wife, Doris, 76, say they long for a permanent place to put it all. Mr. Fisher, a San Francisco native who is no stranger to controversy, believes he has found the perfect spot: the historic heart of the Presidio, a national park and National Historic Landmark district. Mr. Fisher said recently of an alternate proposal, by a nonprofit history association, for a more modest museum on the site: “Other people have ideas for it. But they don’t have any money.” The NY Times

We have a choice. We can choose to accept the Illinois we have now with the broken funding system, woeful pension funding, and year to year budget crises. We can allow the cynicism and defeats of the past dissuade us from seeking the change we need and deserve. OR, we can seize this opportunity and make the most of it. IEA Prez Ken Swanson.

Raising teacher compensation is not simply a matter of concern for teachers. It is a critical component in any strategy to improve the quality of American education. No effort in this vein will succeed if schools can not recruit and retain a higher quality teacher workforce. Policies that solely focus on rearranging the distribution of the current compensation package, such as individual merit pay, will not be effective because they do not address the teacher compensation disadvantage in the labor market. Leo Casey

Here’s my favorite quote (from Nathan Lowell) from all of the comments at Will Richardson’s post regarding 21st century skills for educators: We’ve spent millions of dollars to equip and wire schools and now that we’re discovering just how much we can learn with them, we’re spending millions more to prevent the intellectual capitalization that our investment represents. Dangerously Irrelevant

Reverend Wright suggested in one of his sermons that AIDS was intentionally allowed to infect people because it would probably do most of its damage in the black community. White Americans see this view point as racist paranoia. But black Americans remember the Tuskegee experiment when black men who had syphilis were left untreated intentionally so the progress of the disease could be studied by government doctors. This actually happened and its memory has caused a collective distrust of doctors in the black community for which white Americans can not see any rational basis. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“He was always for equality and justice and the right and fair thing to do,” Denise said. “He just felt girls and women should have opportunities that reached beyond what people at that point thought they should have.”

All I know is I still have my varsity letter. And I know every other girl on our basketball team does as well.

Exactly 29 years ago Saturday, we stood at midcourt at Illinois’ Assembly Hall as Mannos, a member of the IHSA board, presented us with the trophy as the newly crowned girls’ state basketball champions.

A bigger smile I had never seen on our principal’s face. We were proud we had won a state title for him.

Little did we know he had won it for us. Melissa Isaacson