The Department of Education (DOE) is proposing to transform the city's first Arabic-themed school from a middle school in Fort Greene to a high school in Downtown Brooklyn.
If the proposal is approved, the Khalil Gibran Academy, a long-beleaguered public middle school with a history of controversy, will move from 50 Navy St. and "co-locate" inside a building at 362 Schermerhorn St. near Flatbush Avenue, which presently houses two other schools. One of these, the Metropolitan Corporate Academy, is being phased out. The other, the Brooklyn School for Career Development, serves emotionally disturbed high schoolers.
Although Khalil Gibran was originally approved to serve students in grades six through 12, DOE says that there has been low demand and declining enrollment in the middle-school grades.
The school was founded with high hopes of increasing the understanding of Middle Eastern culture, but was soon derailed in an unending onslaught of criticism from right-leaning groups claiming the school would be a "madrassa," a "jihad school" and a "breeding ground for terrorists."
The DOE sacked founding principal Debbie Almontaser in 2007 after a New York Post article claimed she had defended terrorists by correctly defining the Arabic term "intifada (as "shaking off" rather than a reference to Gaza-style uprising)," which was used on T-shirts created by an unrelated group of teenaged girls. This claim was later debunked, and a federal commission ruled that the city had discriminated against her, but the DOE refused to rehire Almontaser as principal.
Beshir Abdellatif is Khalil Gibran's fourth principal since the school's founding in 2007.