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Parents Stage Sit-In at Harlem School in Latest Attempt to Oust Principal

By Dartunorro Clark | April 7, 2017 5:19pm | Updated on April 9, 2017 10:08pm
 A group parents at CPE 1 protesting in the auditorium.
A group parents at CPE 1 protesting in the auditorium.
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Jennifer Roesch

EAST HARLEM — A group of parents staged an overnight sit-in at a local elementary school in the latest attempt to oust the principal they say is ruining the school.

Seven parents occupied the auditorium at Central Park East 1, at 1573 Madison Ave., from about 6:30 p.m. Thursday night following the school’s School Leadership Team meeting until 8:45 a.m. Friday morning. Dozens of others also stayed late into the night.

The seven refused to leave during that time until the city Department of Education removed the school’s principal, Monika Garg, who they claim has created a culture of fear and run afoul of the school progressive legacy.

NYPD officers at the school did not try to remove the parents or make any arrests.

"This is an unusually strong response from parents and I will be looking into it," Mayor Bill de Blasio told WNYC Friday morning.

Jennifer Roesch, who stayed in the auditorium overnight and has a third-grader at the school, claimed Garg has “harassed and manipulated” parents.

“It has led to a complete lack of trust that makes it impossible for our community to move forward,” she said. “It makes many of us feel that this is not a safe place for us to bring us our children.”

At CPE1's School Leadership Team meeting Thursday night, some members publicly called for the resignation of Garg, who was in attendance. 

In a statement read by Kenya Dilday, co-president of the parents’ association at the school, Garg was called “the worst principal in New York City” and asked to step down.

“I’m not going anywhere, I’m here for the children,” Garg shot back, noting that she will not leave “until my bosses” say so. 

“The adults in the building have to feel safe around the other adults in the building,” she added, alluding to a fear she says that has been induced by many of the parents pushing for her ouster.

Some at the meeting showed support for Garg, including one parent who said he was “grateful” for her leadership, adding that the school previously operated “like a gated community.”

Kerry Calamari, a teacher at the school, also said she "fully supports" Garg.

Department of Education officials, including District 4 Superintendent Alexandra Estrella and Senior Superintendent Laura Feijoo, met with the parents who staged the sit-in to create a plan to get the school back on track.

“Parents are part of every process at CPE I,” said DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness. “Superintendent Estrella is an instructional and community leader with years of experience managing schools and District 4, and she ensures that every District 4 school has the right leader.

“Feijoo met with parents again this morning to discuss specific concerns, challenges and solutions to move the school forward. Our focus is on what’s best for students, and we have heard a range of perspectives on how to reunite the school community.

“We’re convening a team of department experts from the instructional, supervisory, family engagement and school climate divisions to meet with and advise the school and chart the path ahead.”