The Removal of Debbie Almontaser?

The Department of Education is sticking to its claim that the principal who resigned from the Khalil Gibran International Academy, Debbie Almontaser, did so of her own accord and was not forced out.

The former principal lodged a very public complaint about her treatment during a press conference yesterday on the City Hall steps.

In a statement, she said,

“In early August of this year, under pressure from The New York Post, The New York Sun, and right-wing bloggers, representatives of the mayor, the chancellor, and New Visions demanded that I resign as KGIA’s principal. They threatened to close down KGIA if I refused.”

The department of education initially released this statement in response to the press conference:

"In August, Ms. Almontaser said she resigned as principal from Khalil
Gibran International Academy to protect the stability of the school and
give it ‘the full opportunity to flourish.’ The Chancellor agreed with
her decision, accepted her resignation, and now considers the matter
closed."

Then, reacting to reporters’ questions after the press conference, the DOE sent out a second, more strongly worded statement, from DOE spokesman David Cantor: "Neither the mayor’s office nor the DOE threatened to close the school unless Ms. Almontaser agreed to resigned. Preserving the school has been our priority throughout. Ms. Almonstaser was never forced to speak to reporters, make statements, or otherwise act against her will."

The DOE took objection my characterization of Almontaser’s departure as a “removal,” when I wrote about it earlier this year, emailing me after the fact to ask for a correction.

Their argument now is that Almonstaser was in a union and could have refused to resign if she wanted to, which implies a level of freedom in her decision making. The DOE has also pointed reporters to Almontaser’s statements at the time she left the school, when she said, "This morning I tendered my resignation to Chancellor Klein, which he accepted."

Almontaser’s lawyer Alan Levine said, "Nobody at the time asked her if she was forced to resign."