(Gulfnews) New York: The founding principal of a Brooklyn Arabic school who resigned after a furore over an interview she gave said that she wants her old job back.
Debbie Almontaser said education officials forced her to leave her post as head of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, and she was reapplying to be principal again.
"As ... the person who envisioned the school, I believe I am the person most qualified to be its educational leader," she said on Tuesday in her first public comments since resigning.
The academy, named for the Lebanese poet and peace advocate, is the city's first to teach Arabic and Arab culture. Protests arose almost immediately after education officials announced plans in February to open it. Almontaser left in August after she was criticised for not explicitly condemning the use of the word "intifada" on T-shirts made by a youth organisation. Intifada is an Arabic term commonly used to refer to the Palestinian uprising against Israel.
Education officials disputed Almontaser's claims on Tuesday, and said could re-apply, but she would not get the job back. "In August, Almontaser said she resigned as principal ... to protect the stability of the school and give it 'the full opportunity to flourish'," Department of Education spokesman David Cantor said in a statement. "Chancellor [Joel Klein] agreed with her decision, accepted her resignation, and now considers the matter closed."
Almontaser, a longtime New York City educator and a Muslim of Yemeni descent, said at a news conference that her "American dream" to help establish the school "turned into an American nightmare". She said a New York Post reporter "aggressively" tried to get comment from her in August about T-shirts with "Intifada NYC" written on them made by Arab Women in the Arts and Media.
The reporter asked her about the origin of the word "intifada", and she told him that the root word means "shake off", Almontaser said. She said she explained to the reporter that "intifada" has different meanings for different people, but that given the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the word implied violence.
In an August 6 story, the Post said Almontaser "downplayed the significance of the T-shirts", which were "apparently a call for a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple". She said the Post story accurately reflected her nonviolent views, but it "distorted" her comments. Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan said through a spokesman: "We stand by our story."