NYC parents want to oust principal they say ‘sullied’ school’s reputation
A group of Upper West Side families are renewing a years-long campaign to oust the principal of their children’s public school, saying her administration has driven out dozens of teachers and students.
More than 100 parents signed onto a letter this summer to replace embattled Manhattan School for Children principal Claire Lowenstein, who The Post reported in November was hit with her second no-confidence vote in just two years.
“We are a large coalition of concerned P.S. 333/MSC parents who are working to make sure our school is once again a warm, supportive environment,” reads the letter, obtained by The Post.
“We do not think this is possible with the current principal.”
The families allege that Lowenstein has “sullied” the school’s reputation in the neighborhood and among prospective staff. They accuse her administration of “actively hostile” relationships with parents of special education students, and of “documented racism.”
Dozens of teachers have left the school, serving grades K-8, since the principal’s arrival in fall 2014, according to the parents’ letter. The Department of Education ignored multiple requests for the precise figure.
Student enrollment has also dropped by the hundreds — from 760 students in 2014-15, the under-fire principal’s first year, to 501, according to city data. The DOE projects it will lose another 94 students next school year.
Mom Kate Dominus, who signed the letter, told The Post she transferred one of her children out of PS 333 for middle school, and wishes she moved the other kid, too. Dominus said her son was bullied and received little support from Lowenstein.
“This is a woman who told me this was a public education — and what was I expecting?” said Dominus, who noted, “I’m a product of a New York City public education!”
Fellow parent Jonathan Goldman said a suspected conflict with the principal led his child’s first-grade teacher to quit with just 24-hours notice.
Students in his kid’s class were moved to other homerooms, which ballooned to rosters of around 30 students each, angering parents, he recalled.
“The first grade parents were on fire this year,” Goldman said. “As a group, they are furious.”
Adams Pinckney, another of the letter’s signatories, said his son’s special education teacher was suddenly pulled from the classroom in September with no more than a weekend’s notice.
“That was the start of one bombshell after another, when there was no opportunity for response or dialogue,” Pinckney said. “The ‘conversation’ was either so unresponsive, or so cursory to be almost insulting. Like come on, we don’t need a platitude.”
Pinckney’s son has an individualized education plan (IEP) for classes that were co-taught by general and special education teachers. The rising second grader — nicknamed the “mayor of the school,” because he often shakes hands — loves going to class but started to fall nearly a year behind in math, the dad said.
“We tried to be patient and understanding — we’re coming out of the pandemic,” Pinckney said. But after waiting almost a full school year to replace the special education teacher, “We decided we’ve been too patient for too long.”
Another father, who asked for anonymity as he navigates a contentious custody battle, accused the school of switching his son’s address in its records at the mother’s request.
But the change, which placed the son as living in New Jersey, temporarily shut him out of the city’s Summer Rising program that the parents were relying on for child care.
“I was begging her just to make things fair,” he said of the principal. “I wasn’t asking for more — just follow the rules until this is done.”
“I’m not some deadbeat dad who’s not part of his life,” said the parent, who is black and Hispanic, and believes the incident was racially tinged. “She was treating me like I had no rights as a father.”
Lowenstein’s union denied the allegations made in the letter.
“As we have stated in the past, Principal Lowenstein is a highly effective and dedicated school leader, and PS 333 has performed well under her tenure,” said Craig DiFalco, a spokesperson for the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.
Chyann Tull, a spokesperson for the DOE, said in a statement that the department is working with families and school staff.
“Our new district superintendent actively engages with families and the rest of the school community to implement interventions that best serve everyone,” she said. “We will continue to collaborate with staff and families to ensure that all students are receiving the high quality care and education that they deserve, while keeping them at the center of planning.
“Every student deserves a supportive and trustworthy learning environment,” the statement added.