Several parents of an East Harlem school are demanding the ouster of an Indian-American principal on grounds she does not understand the diverse nature of the school and its progressive agenda. They staged a sit-in April 6 night and demanded Mayor Bill de Blasio hear their concerns. The Mayor during a WNYC call-in show said he would look into the matter.
Principal Monica Garg, who was appointed to head Central Park East 1, in mid-2015, has been criticized by numerous parents just a few months into her term, alleging she lacked experience and did not understand the goals of the school.
This April 6 and 7, more than 100 people gathered for a meeting which reportedly saw parents shouting to be heard and calling on Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina to act.
Police had to move the meeting to the larger auditorium where the simmering discontent turned into an overnight occupation of the CPE 1 auditorium. According to the website classsizematters.org, ten to twenty police were present inside and outside the meeting place.
Garg, who was present at the meeting, said she was not going anywhere. According to a New York Times report, Garg responded saying her critics were a minority of parents who are using hyperbole and acting in bad faith. At an April 6 meeting with parents
One post about the school on savecpe1.org from a year ago (July 2, 2016), claims, “Because of Monika Garg’s actions at least 6 families have left the school and 5 teachers have either chosen to retire or leave the school. She lies, bullies and abuses her power. One of the best schools in the district destroyed in less than a year.
Her support comes from the district office; they claim they cannot remove her or reassign her. Lies.”
Garg, who served previously as assistant principal at PanAmerican International High School from 2013-2015, was appointed principal of CPE1 in the summer of 2015, by District Superintendent Alexander Estrella. The parent community began complaining it had not been consulted on the appointment of the new principal; they also claim Garg changed the goals of the “Comprehensive Education Plan” without consulting the School Leadership Team; that Garg “In a newsletter to parents … promoted the idea that progressive education is harmful to children of color.” Attempts to discuss matters with Garg, they say, failed, and when she met them, did not offer explanations about changes. Some of their children, as young as 7, parents say, were interviewed without the presence of a counselor, to investigate matters in the school. Their litany of complaints includes Garg trying to “subvert” the DOE-mandated body for parent representation and participation in school activities, and numerous other alleged violations.
“How can we possibly expect to teach our children to be kind while ourselves modeling such immature and reprehensible behavior?” she reportedly said at the April 6 meeting with the school’s leadership team, the Times reported.
However, the principal of CPEII Bennett Lieberman, the sister school of CPE1, said the school that Garg now heads, had problems even before the Indian-American principal took office. “We witnessed high levels of dysfunction in the building prior to Monika being hired. I witnessed it firsthand. Never once did I hear anybody speak out in similar fashion, not once,” Lieberman is quoted saying in the Times. On April 7 morning, New York City Education Department officials met the parents occupying the school auditorium, and assured them a group of experts would be convened to “chart the path ahead.”