By Peter Lamphere, Chapter Leader, Gregory Luperon HS
Parental anger boiled over at a Harlem elementary school as parents, demanding the resignation of a principal who has targeted tenured teachers and lied to parents repeatedly, occupied the school auditorium and remained overnight despite a massive police presence inside and outside the school. The action was preceded by a four hour SLT meeting attended by over 100 families, teachers and local politicians where they presented their demands and then proceeded with the sit-in when principal Monika Garg replied that she answers only to her superiors, to her superintendent and to the chancellor. Supporters rallied outside the school for hours. The parent activists at CPE 1 have blamed mayoral control for leading to continuous examples of ignoring the stakeholders.
Sixty percent of families at Central Park East 1 signed a letter stating no-confidence in the leadership of Garg.
Garg took over administration of the school a year and a half ago and swiftly alienated staff and parents. With little background in the progressive, child-centered pedagogy on which the school has been based since its founding over 40 years ago, she began disciplinary investigations on every experienced teacher at the school, culminating in the removal of the school’s delegate, and later the chapter leader, Marilyn Martinez.
Parents and rank-file-teachers defended the chapter leader, packing four successive disciplinary hearings with up to one hundred supporters.
MORE and New Action members of the UFT executive board urged solidarity. Arguing that “it is crucial that the rank and file members of our union see that the UFT is at the front lines fighting to defend members publicly at every available opportunity,” and citing the incoming attacks from the Trump administration, they wrote a letter asking UFT leaders to join the parents in attending the chapter leader’s disciplinary hearings. While MORE and New Action retirees were present, no union leaders showed up. A resolution raised at the executive board to support the CPE1 rally was tabled without action despite teachers from CPE1 who spoke to the Board to tell their stories in two successive meetings. The UFT’s Leroy Barr did attend the SLT meeting and committed the union to support the school, causing skeptics to ask, “Where have you guys been for the past year and a half?”
Garg is the lowest rated principal in the DOE school survey with 65% of parents saying she is not effective manager and teachers unanimously stating they do not trust her.
Too often authoritarian principals are given free rein. Only a concerted struggle can win back democracy in our schools – and parents and teachers at CPE 1 have led the way. To be an effective union the UFT must be at the forefront of the these fights as well, taking official actions and mobilizing rank and filers.
Supporters can go to SaveCPE1.org to sign the petition and participate in future actions.