New York: Protesters Seek Leader's Return to Arabic School

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Aug 21 15:04:38 UTC 2007

August 21, 2007

Protesters Seek Leader's Return to Arabic School

About 200 demonstrators gathered in front of the headquarters of the
city's Department of Education last evening, voicing their support for the
beleaguered Khalil Gibran International Academy. Many of them called for
the reinstatement of the schools founding principal, who resigned under
pressure this month after she defended the word intifada as a T-shirt
slogan. The group a mix of students, parents, teachers and activists from
a wide range of organizations blamed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and
Chancellor Joel I. Klein for the schools struggles, saying they did not do
enough to help the founding principal, Debbie Almontaser.

Ms. Almontaser, an immigrant from Yemen who had worked in the school
system for many years and was known for her work with groups that promote
interfaith religious dialogue, was repeatedly portrayed by some in the
news media as an extremist. This is nothing more than demonizing and
vilifying a woman and an entire group of people, said Deborah Howard, a
speaker at the protest and a parent who had worked with Ms. Almontaser on
the plans to open the middle school in Brooklyn. Anyone who knows Debbie
knows that she is a woman of peace. I am furious that the Department of
Education did not support her.

To that, people in the audience began chanting bring Debbie back, as they
did several times during the hour-long protest, which brought several
school officials out of their offices at Tweed Courthouse headquarters.
Danielle Salzberg, an educator who is Jewish and speaks no Arabic, was
appointed last week as the interim principal. A department spokeswoman
said officials were focused only on opening the school in the fall.


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