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Embattled East Harlem Principal Steps Down Amid Protests for Her Removal

 Monika Garg, center, speaks at a School Leadership Team meeting in April at Central Park East 1, where parents called for her removal.
Monika Garg, center, speaks at a School Leadership Team meeting in April at Central Park East 1, where parents called for her removal.
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DNAinfo/Dartunorro Clark

EAST HARLEM— A controversial principal at a well-known progressive elementary school has stepped aside following an escalating campaign to oust her by a group of parents who claimed she was ruining the school’s legacy, Department of Education officials said.

Monika Garg, who has been at the helm of Central Park East 1 since summer 2015, agreed to leave the school and take a new, but unspecified, position in the DOE, officials said.

The administrative shake-up comes as a group of parents has ramped up their year-long effort to remove Garg, including occupying the school’s auditorium and calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio and DOE Chancellor Carmen Farina find a new school leader.

The school has been hailed as one of the most diverse schools in the city that focuses on collaboration with teachers and parents, small classes and inquiry-based, child-centered learning. It was founded 41 years ago by educator Deborah Meier.

Some parents charged that Garg had no background in progressive education and wanted to put in place more “traditional” practices because she believed the school was falling behind on state test scores because of the lack of a focused curriculum. The parents also claimed that Garg targeted certain teachers and questioned children about corporal punishment without parents being present.

Her defenders said she was just implementing DOE structure in what had been a parent-run school.

Garg previously told her critics in person at a School Leadership Team meeting in April, “I’m not going anywhere, I’m here for the children.”  

The DOE has supported Garg at the school. Farina, in a statement to DNAinfo New York on Tuesday, lauded Garg for her work at the school.

“I thank Principal Garg for her leadership and dedication to serving the CPE 1 community,” said Farina.

Acting Superintendent Dolores Esposito will oversee the school in the interim and spearhead the search for an interim and permanent replacement, officials said.

Those who were a part of the movement to remove Garg, said the news was a relief.

“We're relieved that we no longer have to raise a stink,” said Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, the co-president of the parents’ association. “Now we can focus on rebuilding.”

Salas-Ramirez was one of the parents who were banned from the school by Garg, who accused her of creating a security risk by bringing unauthorized press into the school.

Garg previously said her critics and their tactics have induced fear among the school community. Other parents, who have supported Garg, have echoed those same fear concerns.

Salas-Ramirez said she and other parents are ready to work with Esposito because “at least she’s speaking a language that we understand, so we have to be hopeful.”