The city is searching for a new principal to head its controversial Arabic language and culture academy, posting the “help wanted” ad on the Department of Education Web site.
The goal is to find a permanent leader for a school that’s been mired in a controversy that led to last month’s forced resignation of its Yemeni-American, Arabic-speaking founding principal after she defended an “Intifada NYC” T-shirt.
The controversy continued after the principal, Debbie Almontaser, was replaced with a Jewish interim principal who speaks no Arabic.
As with all principal positions, applicants for the job must be certified by New York State. Applicants are also required to respond to a series of questions about their leadership abilities. The salary ranges from $117,073 to $119,650.
The acting principal, Danielle Salzberg, did not respond to requests for comment as to whether she intended to apply for the job.
She might not get it this time: An Education spokeswoman said that this time around, knowledge of Arabic would be considered an asset.
“Fluency in Arabic would be a benefit,” said the spokeswoman, Melody Meyer. “But it’s not a requirement.”
Lou Cristillo, assistant professor of Anthropology and Education at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Education, said it makes sense to have an Arabic speaker at the helm of an Arabic language academy.
“You’d want someone to be the head of the school who can be a communicator as well as a leader and certainly someone who can be sensitive to the linguistic nuances of a very diverse community,” said Cristillo, who has advised some of the key players behind the founding of the school.
Cristillo added that potential Arabic-speaking candidates do exist within the New York City school system.
“There are Arabic-speaking assistant principals in New York City — I know of at least two, and there are also classroom teachers,” said Cristillo.
The Boerum Hill middle school — the city’s first Arabic language and culture academy — managed to open its doors to nearly 60 sixth graders on Sept. 4, despite controversy surrounding the very nature of the school and the politics of founder Almontaser.
Almontaser was criticized for defending an “Intifada NYC” T-shirt, which is sold by Arab Women Active in Arts and Media, an organization that shares office space with an organization led by Almontaser.
She said the word “Intifada” means “shaking off,” and that the T-shirt was intended to promote female empowerment.
After Almontaser resigned, the controversy continued when the Department of Education summoned the inside player Salzberg to be the Gibran Academy interim principal.
Former Mayor Ed Koch called the move akin to “spitting in the eye” of the Arabic-speaking community.
The recent job posting did little to mollify Almontaser supporters, who staged a rally last Thursday calling for her reinstatement.
“Debbie [Almontaser] should be the principal of the school,” said Mona Eldahry, founding director of group behind the inflammatory T-shirt.
“She didn’t do anything wrong.”
She was forced to resign at the height of an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim smear campaign, because unfortunately she wasn’t supported by the Department of Education.”
©2007 Community News Group
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