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Hundreds Rally For Removal of 'Divisive' Principal at Harlem School

 Fifth-grader Diego Delmont, 11, reads a letter he wrote at the protest calling for the removal of CPE 1 principal Monika Garg.
Fifth-grader Diego Delmont, 11, reads a letter he wrote at the protest calling for the removal of CPE 1 principal Monika Garg. "Maybe she's good at another job, but not at CPE," he said.
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Dartunorro Clark/DNAInfo

LOWER MANHATTAN — A fight to remove the principal of an East Harlem School continued with a protest of hundreds of teachers, students and parents outside Tweed Courthouse.

The gathering on Tuesday demanded the ouster of a "divisive" principal at Central Park East 1 who those present said has shown a "widespread abuse of power."

“Hey-Hey, Ho-Ho, Monika Garg has got to go,” protesters chanted on the steps of 52 Chamber St., the headquarters of the city’s Department of Education.

“This is about the fact that the department has ignored us, so this is our response,” said Pam White, a CPE 1 parent.

Garg, who arrived at the 200-student school on Madison Avenue and East 106th Street last summer, has repeatedly frustrated many parents and teachers at the school who claim she has been slowly dismantling the school’s tradition of progressive teaching.

However, some parents have praised Garg’s efforts, saying her insistence on "holding teachers accountable" has ruffled feathers.

The controversy comes as one of the school's teachers is under investigation for allegedly using corporal punishment in the classroom, according to Education Department officials. No charges have been brought and the investigation is still ongoing.

During a chanting intermission at the protest, two parents playing the part of faceless administrators — sporting white masks and dark colored suits and clip boards — kicking down blocks with the school’s name written on them on the steps.

“She undermines our work with children,” said James Shoaf, a special education teacher at the school. “We need to tell them to be progressive not oppressive.”

Shoaf also said a group of non-tenured teachers didn't come to the protest because they feared retaliation.

The demonstration Tuesday has been one of many showings of disapproval by a coalition of Center Park East 1 supporters.

Earlier this month, parents delivered testimonies in support of a teacher currently under investigation by the department and who they believed was unfairly targeted by Garg.

Last month, protesters from the school handed Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña a petition to remove Garg and more than 2,500 people have signed an online petition calling for her ouster since it was created in April.

Kenya Dilday, who has a second-grader at the school, said the breaking point could be traced back to when some students were covertly subjected to interviews after one of the school's teachers was accused of corporal punishment against a student.

"That was really the straw that broke the camel's back," said Dilday, who is also the co-president of the parent's association.Garg has previously declined to comment after being reached by DNAinfo New York on multiple occasions. She could not be reached for comment for this story.

DOE officials told DNAinfo Tuesday evening that representatives from the superintendent's office have been working to mediate the situation.

“The senior superintendent and community superintendent have begun meeting with staff and parents at the school and will continue to provide support and work collaboratively with the principal and school community to build mutual trust,” said Devora Kaye, a DOE spokesperson.