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Gibran finds a new home

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Parents at a Vinegar Hill elementary school say the city has “bamboozled” them with its decision to cram the first Arabic-language academy into their building without extensive discussion.

“Everyone was stunned by the decision,” said Edgardo Rivera, the head of the Parent-Teacher Association at PS 287, on Navy Street near Flushing Avenue.

The city informed the school leadership on Feb. 4 of its proposal to place the controversial Khalil Gibran International Academy, a middle school that will ultimately encompass grades 6-12, into the struggling elementary school. A PTA forum with city officials was held a few weeks later, and then, on March 24, the city revealed its decision to go ahead with the plan.

“The city originally told stakeholders that it was just thinking about placing Khalil Gibran there, and then they come back and say it’s a done deal,” complained Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene).

The feeling of deja vu here is understandable.

The Gibran Academy has been plagued by controversy since the Department of Education announced its creation last year. At first, cultural conservatives claimed the school would foster anti-American sentiment. But later, first at Park Slope’s PS 282 elementary school and then at a middle- and high-school complex in Boerum Hill, parents complained that city officials were trying to cram the academy into existing school buildings with little discussion.

The city was ultimately successful in squeezing the academy into the Dean Street building after assuaging angry parents with long-promised capital improvements.

But now, parents at Vinegar Hill’s PS 287 — which has space for the Gibran Academy because the Urban Assembly School of Law and Justice is moving to a renovated courthouse on Adams Street, say the city missed a big opportunity to keep elementary school kids from being exposed to wilder older kids.

“All along, we’ve had little kids exposed to high school students smoking in the bathrooms and making out,” said Rivera, referring to the Urban Assembly high school students. “But we were tolerant, because we were told it was only a temporary situation. … If a school must come now, let it be another elementary school or middle school.”

James added that city officials failed to “inform all stakeholders” of the Gibran decision, but Melody Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, claimed, “The parent leaders have been a part of the process from the beginning.”

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Reader Feedback

Anthony Vassallo from Park Slope says:
Again, the Brooklyn Papers shows its bias against the Khalil Gibran International Academy, by submitting yet another negative-toned article about the the school ("Gibran Finds A New Home" - April 5, 2008). Indeed, the first paragraph states not the story at hand, that the DOE has located a permanent building for KGIA, but that parents are "bamboozled" by the decision, and continues in the same vein into the second paragraph, and the rest of the article.

On your website, click on any of the "Similar Stories" links related to any KGIA article, and you will see that not a single report is positive, let alone neutral, in its assessment of KGIA, and the potential opportunities it brings to NYC children in a country that knows little if anything about Arab-Americans or the Arab world, not to mention the future skilled Arabic speakers we so need in our government and other areas.

Moreover, since the announcement of the school's opening in March of 2007, I have failed to see one feature story from your paper on the school, and since January of this year, not one feature interview with the new KGIA principal, Holly Ann Reichert, or with any KGIA students, parents, or partner organizations, which include Columbia University, the Arab-American Family Support Center, the Brooklyn Museum, Alwan for the Arts, and the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, among others, in order to get a full and balanced picture of the school.

As I have written here previously, I believe your articles have contributed to - and even helped to contrive - the actual controversy surrounding what you dub the "controversial Khalil Gibran International Academy." Are you aware that not one, but two dual-language French-English NYC public schools opened this past fall, and yet we have not heard a peep from the media about these schools. Where's the controversy there? Your anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias is not so hidden in a newspaper that represents a borough with the second largest Arab population in the country, representative of all three monotheistic faiths.

No one would expect the Brooklyn Papers to be the standard-bearer in quality journalism, but your New York Post-style tabloid rhetoric is reminiscent of...well...The New York Post.

Sincerely,
April 9, 2008, 3:25 am

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